Reigning World Champion and defending Chinese Grand Prix winner Lewis Hamilton has once again come up trumps in a tight qualifying session to claim his third pole position in a row.

The Englishman beat Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg to top spot by a scant four-hundredths of a second in the final reckoning at the Shanghai International Circuit as the Silver Arrows once again triumphed for one-lap pace; Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel claimed ‘best of the rest’ honours, almost a second slower.

Hamilton, already a three-time winner at this venue, shot out of the gates early in Q3, posting a 1:35.782 to provisionally claim top spot. He failed to improve on his second run, giving Rosberg a shot at snatching pole position from the championship leader. Ultimately, however, a strong final sector wasn’t quite enough to do it, but it still gave Mercedes its 22nd front row lockout. It was the fourteenth consecutive pole position for the Brackley-based squad.

Malaysian Grand Prix winner Sebastian Vettel had to be content with the third-fastest, with his Ferrari SF15-T simply unable to compete with the works Mercedes’ in sheer one-lap pace. His teammate Kimi Räikkönen had an untidy final flying lap and fell to sixth in the final reckoning, behind the Williams duo of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas.

Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo was the fastest of the Renault-powered runners in seventh, with Lotus’ Romain Grosjean and the two Saubers of Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson rounding out the top ten.

Pastor Maldonado and Daniil Kvyat were both left to rue mistakes that ultimately cost them a Q3 berth, consigning them to the sixth row of the grid. Maldonado made a mistake at Turn 8, while Kvyat’s running was well below his usual standards.

The seventh row was claimed by Toro Rosso rookies Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr, who both surprisingly failed to threaten the top-ten reckoning. Verstappen did well to outqualify his teammate, overcoming a heavy lock-up under braking for the Turn 6 hairpin.

Force India’s Sergio Pérez opted for one timed lap in Q2, rounding out as the slowest of the session’s runners. Teammate Nico Hülkenberg failed to make it beyond Q1; leaving the pair on the third-last row of the grid.

Despite some evidence of improved pace, neither of the McLaren Hondas threatened to break out of Q1. Jenson Button just pipped Fernando Alonso on the stop watch by 0.004 seconds.

Both Marussias predictably claimed the final row of the grid and were well off the pace of even the McLarens, let alone anyone who lapped quicker in Q1. Will Stevens at last had his first qualifying laps in the MR03 and again comfortably outpaced Roberto Merhi. Importantly, both drivers lapped well within the 107% cut-off.

Sunday afternoon’s 56-lap Chinese Grand Prix gets underway at 3:00pm local time (GMT +8).

2015 Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix – Qualifying Results
Pos Q3 Qualifiers Team / Entry Time Gap Laps
1. Lewis Hamilton uk Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid 1:35.782 12
2. Nico Rosberg de Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid 1:35.824 + 0.042 12
3. Sebastian Vettel de Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T 1:36.687 + 0.905 17
4. Felipe Massa br Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37 1:36.954 + 1.172 15
5. Valtteri Bottas fi Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37 1:37.143 + 1.361 15
6. Kimi Räikkönen fi Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T 1:37.232 + 1.450 17
7. Daniel Ricciardo au Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11 1:37.540 + 1.758 18
8. Romain Grosjean fr Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid 1:37.905 + 2.123 20
9. Felipe Nasr br Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34 1:38.067 + 2.285 16
10. Marcus Ericsson se Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34 1:38.158 + 2.376 15
Pos Q2 Qualifiers Team / Entry Time Gap* Laps
11. Pastor Maldonado ve Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid 1:38.134 + 1.711 13
12. Daniil Kvyat ru Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11 1:38.209 + 1.786 13
13. Max Verstappen nl Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10 1:38.393 + 1.970 14
14. Carlos Sainz Jr. es Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10 1:38.538 + 2.115 14
15. Sergio Pérez mx Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08 1:39.290 + 2.867 10
Pos Q1 Qualifiers Team / Entry Time Gap** Laps
16. Nico Hülkenberg de Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08 1:39.216 + 1.714 6
17. Jenson Button uk McLaren Honda MP4-30 1:39.276 + 1.774 6
18. Fernando Alonso es McLaren Honda MP4-30 1:39.280 + 1.778 8
19. Will Stevens uk Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03 1:42.091 + 4.589 6
20. Roberto Merhi es Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03 1:44.327 + 6.825 8

* Denotes gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:36.423 posted by Lewis Hamilton
** Denotes gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:37.502 posted by Sebastian Vettel.

Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team

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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.