Lewis Hamilton has claimed his first pole position as a Mercedes driver

Lewis Hamilton has dominated qualifying at the Chinese Grand Prix, managing rapidly wearing tyres to perfection by going quickest in all three sessions to claim pole position for tomorrow’s race at Shanghai International Circuit.

The Englishman shares the front row with Lotus’ Kimi Räikkönen, who retained his starting position despite allegations from Adrian Sutil that he had ruined the German’s flying lap earlier on.

Track and ambient temperatures continued to rise over the course of the day, and the abrasive surface took its toll as drivers opted to run as few laps as possible in order to save tyre sets for tomorrow’s race.

For those who made it into Q3, the decision was difficult: post a flying lap and squander a set of tyres, or wait it out and take the gamble on an alternative strategy. Those at the front of the final grid took the gamble on a single flying lap, with Hamilton and Räikkönen coming out on top, separated by just over a quarter of a second.

Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg will start from the second row of the grid, with defending racewinner Rosberg costing himself a shot of pole position with a wild slide at the final corner. He separated Alonso and Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa, who missed out on a chance of outqualifying the Spaniard for the fifth race on the trot.

While he may have made the top-ten shootout for pole, Romain Grosjean’s struggles in the Lotus E21 continue, finishing six-tenths of a second slower than his Finnish teammate, although his time was still good enough for sixth-fastest.

Toro Rosso driver Daniel Ricciardo was undoubtedly the surprise performer in qualifying, posting a brilliant Q2 effort to get into the final phase of the day and ultimately land up seventh-fastest, his best performance since last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

The likes of Sebastian Vettel and Nico Hülkenberg opted not post a time at all and are likely to start the race on the more durable Medium-compound Pirelli tyres, while Jenson Button trundled around the track on the Medium rubber to give himself a fourth row berth in the heavily updated McLaren.

Mark Webber ran out of fuel in Q2 and will start 14th

The biggest qualifying upset came in Q2, when Mark Webber had a sudden loss of fuel pressure and was forced to pull off the circuit, consigning himself to a 14th-placed starting position and the prospect of replicating his 2011 charge to finish third at the same circuit.

Despite showing solid pace in all three practice sessions, neither Force India driver made it into the final stage of the day. Paul di Resta missed out on a Q3 promotion by a few hundredths of a second and will line up eleventh, two places ahead of teammate Adrian Sutil. The pair sandwich the second McLaren of Sergio Pérez. Pastor Maldonado and Jean-Éric Vergne were the slowest runners in Q2.

As usual, the Marussia and Caterham runners form a Noah’s Ark line-up on the back two rows of the grid, while F1 rookies Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Gutiérrez were unable to get their Soft tyre runs to deliver the lap times necessary to keep them in the qualifying game.

2013 Chinese Formula 1 Grand Prix – Qualifying Session Times:

Driver Team Time Gap
1. Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04 1:34.484  
2. Kimi Räikkönen FIN Lotus F1 Renault E21 1:34.761 + 0.277
3. Fernando Alonso ESP Scuderia Ferrari F138 1:34.788 + 0.304
4. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04 1:34.861 + 0.377
5. Felipe Massa BRA Scuderia Ferrari F138 1:34.933 + 0.449
6. Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus F1 Renault E21 1:35.364 + 0.880
7. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8 1:35.998 + 1.514
8. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-28 2:05.673 + 31.189
9. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Racing Renault RB9 no time  
10. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Sauber Ferrari C32 no time  
Q3 Cut-Off – 1:36.261   Time Gap*
11. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM06 1:36.287 + 1.209
12. Sergio Pérez MEX McLaren Mercedes MP4-28 1:36.314 + 1.236
13. Adrian Sutil DEU Force India Mercedes VJM06 1:36.405 + 1.327
14. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing Renault RB9 1:36.679 + 1.601
15. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Renault FW35 1:37.139 + 2.061
16. Jean-Éric Vergne FRA Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8 1:37.199 + 2.121
Q2 Cut-Off – 1:37.508   Time Gap**
17. Valtteri Bottas FIN Williams Renault FW35 1:37.769 + 1.976
18. Esteban Gutiérrez MEX Sauber Ferrari C32 1:37.990 + 2.197
19. Jules Bianchi FRA Marussia Racing Cosworth MR02 1:38.780 + 2.987
20. Max Chilton GBR Marussia Racing Cosworth MR02 1:39.537 + 3.744
21. Charles Pic FRA Caterham Renault CT03 1:39.614 + 3.821
22. Giedo van der Garde NED Caterham Renault CT03 1:39.660 + 3.867

* Gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:35.078 by Lewis Hamilton 
** Gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:35.793 by Lewis Hamilton

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.