The only driver who could deny him was Vettel and, sure enough, the German pulled a lap out of the bag when he had to, crossing the start-finish line and leapfrogging Raikkonen by less than a tenth of a second.
Ferrari, flummoxed after losing the lead, did not pull Raikkonen in, but rather left him on track in the hope that he could help Vettel get back past Bottas. "It is disappointing. We were giving everything we had and it kind of felt like we deserved victory. but not today".
"It's not going to be easy to beat Kimi and Sebastian tomorrow", he said. "Somehow they've found a turbo button on the straight because they are really quick and still in the corners they are reasonably quick".
Vettel, who claimed the 52nd pole of his career on Saturday, is off to a tremendous start as he chases his fifth title.
The forecast is for a warmer race today and that should be better suited to Hamilton's Mercedes auto, but the Briton, who will have the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo occupying his mirrors, fears he will be looking over his shoulder rather than hunting down Vettel.
Vettel looked likely to finish seventh, but was overtaken by McLaren's Fernando Alonso on the penultimate lap to finish even further down the order. "I'll say my side, but also us as a team".More news: Arab summit opens in Saudi Arabia
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The Formula 1 Series continues its 2018 season early on Sunday morning with the running of the Chinese Grand Prix.
In the opening stages of the race, Vettel seemed to comfortably control the pace, keeping Bottas about 2.5 seconds behind.
Several other drivers spun or went off the track as they tested the limits, with the cool and blustery conditions catching them out. "I don't think so", he said.
SHANGHAI, China, Apr 15- Lewis Hamilton has billed his Chinese GP weekend as a "disaster", saying he needs to rectify it before he loses more points. However, he might still be viewed as a favourite on Sunday despite missing pole position.
The third row will be made up of the two Red Bull cars, showing the dominance over the last several seasons of Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull. Hamilton's win here last year marked his third in four years, his fifth overall, and Mercedes' fifth in the last six China Grand Prix races.
Max Verstappen will start from the No. 5 spot and teammate Daniel Ricciardo in the sixth position. "We definitely were not doing that for the cameras", said a clearly relieved Ricciardo.