Hamilton storms to Shanghai pole

Lewis Hamilton has his first pole position as a Mercedes driver after blitzing the field in qualifying for tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix.

Hamilton topped all three sessions in Shanghai, and his time of 1:34.484 in the final shoot-out was enough to secure top spot by three tenths of a second.

Kimi Raikkonen will start second after a stunning lap in Q3, which gives the Lotus driver his first front row start in nearly four years.

Fernando Alonso completed the top three after going fastest in practice this morning, and with Ferrari’s pace on the longer runs looking ominous this weekend, he will be right on the top two’s heels tomorrow.

The other Mercedes of Nico Rosberg starts fourth, a mistake in the final corner of his hot lap potentially costing him the chance to join his teammate on the front row, while Felipe Massa qualified fifth and missed out on the chance to outqualify Alonso for a record fifth race on the bounce.

Romain Grosjean will line up sixth, ahead of the Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo, who produced a stunning lap to give the Australian his highest grid position since Bahrain last year.

Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel and Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the top ten, although none of them made a serious attempt to challenge for pole and the trio will start the race on the medium tyre, a gamble that may well see them rise through the field in the opening stages tomorrow.

It hasn’t been the happiest three weeks of Mark Webber’s Formula One career, and that trend continued during qualifying as the Australian’s Red Bull ran out of fuel partway through Q2. Webber had qualified 14th, but his misery was compounded by being sent to the back of the grid for not providing a big enough fuel sample to the FIA.

Paul di Resta qualified 11th, and shares the sixth row of the grid with Sergio Perez, whose already difficult weekend didn’t get any better. Adrian Sutil will start 13th, with Maldonado the first beneficiary of Webber’s penalty as he moves up to 14th. Jean-Eric Vergne completes the runners who made it through the first part of qualifying and will line up 15th.

Q1 was a hurdle that Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Gutierrez failed to clear, with both being knocked out at the first stage for the second time this season. The ever impressive Jules Bianchi starts 18th, seven tenths ahead of his teammate Max Chilton, while the Caterhams of Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde, and the luckless Webber complete the grid.

The Grid
1) Lewis Hamilton (GB) Mercedes – 1:34.484
2) Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Lotus-Renault – 1:34.761
3) Fernando Alonso (Esp) Ferrari – 1:34.788
4) Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes – 1:34.861
5) Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari – 1:34.933
6) Romain Grosjean (Fra) Lotus-Renault – 1:35.364
7) Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1:35.988
8) Jenson Button (GB) McLaren-Mercedes – 2:05.673
9) Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull-Renault – no time set (Q3)
10) Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Sauber-Ferrari – no time set (Q3)
11) Paul di Resta (GB) Force India-Mercedes – 1:36.287 (Q2)
12) Sergio Perez (Mex) McLaren-Mercedes – 1:36.314 (Q2)
13) Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India-Mercedes – 1:36.405 (Q2)
14) Pastor Maldonado (Ven) Williams-Renault – 1:37.139 (Q2)
15) Jean-Eric Vergne (Fra) Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 1:37.199 (Q2)
16) Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Williams-Renault – 1:37.769 (Q1)
17) Esteban Gutierrez (Mex) Sauber-Ferrari – 1:37.990 (Q1)
18) Jules Bianchi (Fra) Marussia-Cosworth – 1:38.780 (Q1)
19) Max Chilton (GB) Marussia-Cosworth – 1:39.537 (Q1)
20) Charles Pic (Fra) Caterham-Renault – 1:39.614 (Q1)
21) Giedo van der Garde (Ned) Caterham-Renault – 1:39.660 (Q1)
EX) Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull-Renault

Stephen D’Albiac

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