The 52nd career pole for the German comes on the back of a strong run in Bahrain, where the team had the quickest auto over the weekend and they will be further buoyed by this performance It is their first pole in China since Rubens Barrichello was quickest in 2004 and the first time Mercedes have been beaten to the front of this grid here since 2012.
After years of qualifying inadequacies and under-performing on a Saturday, the Scuderia have finally made a vehicle that can beat the Mercs. With Renault unable to supply a pre-made replacement power unit for qualifying, the team worked relentlessly to get the Australian out.
It was a display the Mercedes multi championship-winning class of 2014-2017 would have been proud of, and Sky F1's Damon Hill even saw enough to proclaim that Saturday was the turning point in this top-two battle. Now comes China. Another track, but Ferrari still looks dominant. But more pertinently he will have begun the season with a remarkable advantage.
Vettel's time was a new track record at the Shanghai International Circuit but the four-time champion will be more pleased with the gap to title rivals Mercedes.
Lose, and this would be their longest winless streak since 2013.
Verstappen spun after damaging his vehicle in the opening race in Australia and then retired after contact with Lewis Hamilton in Bahrain, and after a third disrupted race says he will try and learn from the hard start to the season. Haas driver Romain Grosjean rounded out the top 10.
Can Ferrari convert pole into victory?
Crimson Bull'smax Verstappen acknowledged attribute for an Chinese grandprix crash with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel on Sunday however rejected a suggestion he may need to calm down his driving mode. He's done so many races. He was upto third position after the first pit stops, only to lose the position to a charging Daniel Ricciardo. And it's their first Chinese GP pole in 14 years! We'd tailwinds down which directly the race. Inside the vehicle, judgements are very hard to make.
Fernando Alonso led teammate Stoffel Vandoorne in 13th and 14th, with McLaren again qualifying slowest of all the Renault-powered cars, this week by around 0.3 seconds. It's an under-performing Saturday package, but the MCL33 already boasts impressive race pace.
He was then asked if the incident was proof he needed to calm down and focus on the bigger picture in races, he said: "It's easy to comment that". Lights out on Sunday morning at 7.10am.