Kimi Raikkonen unsure how he lost pole to Sebastian Vettel

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Lewis Hamilton led Kimi Raikkonen through both of Friday's practice sessions ahead of the 2018 Formula One Chinese Grand Prix.

Vettel has won the opening two races of the season, giving Ferrari victory in rounds one and two for the first time since Michael Schumacher did so in 2004.

It was a odd session, with a slight distortion of the competitive order that had been established in the first two races, perhaps because of low track temperatures in the cool weather in Shanghai.

Team-mate Valtteri Bottas is also expecting a close fight.

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Raikkonen had been on provisional pole and looked set to improve on his final lap time, but it was Vettel who emerged ahead after finding enough to swap places with the Finn at the top of the order. We were half a second behind today so honestly I can't tell if we can challenge.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff admitted he was surprised by the pace of the red cars, but was at least able to put his finger on the struggles of the defending Constructors' champions.

"We're lacking grip. You can fall out of the window by the tyres getting too hot or being too cold".

Red Bull had been expected to be part of a three-way tussle for the championship this season, but they have yet to really hit the ground running, with reliability issues having dogged their race in Bahrain last week. They are two extremes like we had in Bahrain and I think this is what happened.

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Fernando Alonso quickly succeeded him at the the top of the timesheet, before Raikkonen and then Daniel Ricciardo-who each started the session with medium tyres-traded places with him.

"The auto felt OK but I don't have an answer for it".

"I think Ferrari [will be our biggest rival]", he said.

That meant Red Bull had a race against time to get the vehicle ready for qualifying and Ricciardo had only one lap in the first session to progress into Q2.

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Tire manufacturers Pirelli is eagerly awaiting Sunday's race Work in free practice is essential for formulating race strategy, particularly when there's a gap between the compounds like there is here. "Hopefully [we can make] another step for tomorrow".

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