The 52nd career pole for the German comes on the back of a strong run in Bahrain, where the team had the quickest vehicle 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.
This wasn't a high-downforce circuit, such as Monaco or Singapore, which favours Ferrari's package and leaves Mercedes struggling.
After years of qualifying inadequacies and under-performing on a Saturday, the Scuderia have finally made a vehicle that can beat the Mercs. Mercedes couldn't fall back on the overheating problems they said hampered them in Bahrain; Ferrari romped qualifying here in conditions more befitting a gloomy Silverstone.
Vettel now leads the championship by 9 points with 54 points.
It's like empires rising and falling and maybe Mercedes are on the wane and the new Ferrari era is about to come back. But more pertinently he will have begun the season with a remarkable advantage.
Nineteen victories from 19 starts?
Following his brief chat with Vettel, when asked about his race - which Ricciardo went on to win - Verstappen replied: "After that last pit stop when the team did everything right, everything worked out well, I made some mistakes so it's of course not the result you want".More news: Tech Thursday: 6 things you need to know about the Facebook hearing
The Dutch youngster later apologised in person to Vettel and to his Red Bull team on social media.
Ricciardo had an engine failure in the final practice session on Saturday, and it was a race against time to get his auto ready for qualifying. With long straights and plenty of DRS zones, opportunities are there. We'd tailwinds down which directly the race.
The midfield battle is as tight as ever. And don't forget McLaren... "The judgements are very hard to make inside the vehicle". Despite a management reshuffle and an emergency debrief following a lack of pace in Bahrain, both Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne once again failed to progress to the top-10 qualifying shootout, lining up 13th and 14th on the grid. It's an under-performing Saturday package, but the MCL33 already boasts impressive race pace.
But pushed on whether he needed to turn the aggression down, Verstappen said: "It is easy to comment".