Cautioning however that the season is in its infancy, Hamilton said that he hopes to beat the Ferraris of Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel fair and square, rather than hope they suffer some kind of mechanical problem.
During the race, Leclerc ignored a team order to stay behind Vettel.
"You're trying to be nice but everybody's just f****** it up".
The Chinese race will be the 1,000th F1 grand prix since the inaugural race was held at the United Kingdom's Silverstone Circuit in May of 1950.
Valtteri Bottas claimed pole position ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton, with Mercedes ruling qualifying for the 1000th Formula One race. "At the beginning I tried not to drop too much with the soft tyres behind the top five on the mediums and tried to take care of it".
They are by no means a certainty to challenge at the front, but if the race does become fragmented, they are in a good position to pounce and a 13/1 shot for Red Bull to provide the victor looks like a valuable punt - and a clever hedge against Hamilton's chances.
"Something we have agreed with both drivers is, in a few races' time, things may change for whatever reason", Binotto said.
Binotto added: "He won four championships and certainly for us he's the driver who has most probability to challenge for the title".
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Drivers are normally only allowed to change their helmet design once per season, but to commemorate the landmark race being reached by the sport, the rules have been relaxed. The Finn was on hard tires and immediately spun at Turn 1 when exiting the pits, while Hamilton was on mediums when he got a little further and swapped ends at Turn 2 in a sign of how lower tire blanket temperatures can affect grip.
Vettel's £36m-a-year contract with the Prancing Horse expires at the end of next season.
But they are double-edged swords which also expose any shortcomings in terms of engine power and should prove once and for all which power unit can command supremacy after a ding-dong battle at the front of the grid in the opening two races. "I expect it to be very close tomorrow and also on Sunday, so it will be key to keep working to improve the feeling with the auto".
At the conclusion of qualifying in Shanghai, Verstappen voiced his anger after at least three cars overtook him, meaning he failed to get one last, flying lap in.
Speaking after practice on Friday, Vettel said "this is a topic which is cooked much hotter than eaten", regarding the news he would remain Ferrari's No. 1.
"I'm looking forward to hopefully having an exciting race there".
Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari will start third, while teammate Charles Leclerc is fourth.
Red Bull's Pierre Gasly rounded out the top 10.