Hamilton on pole in Shanghai

Mercedes driver storms to first pole position in qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix in a day to forget for Red Bull.

    Hamilton on pole in Shanghai
    Hamilton left it late in the final session to grab pole ahead of Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso [Reuters]

    Lewis Hamilton swept to his first pole position for Mercedes at the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix on Saturday with Kimi Raikkonen alongside for Lotus.

    In only his third race for the team he joined at the end of last season from McLaren, 2008 world champion Hamilton celebrated the 27th pole of his career at a circuit where he has twice won before.

    "Today is such a blessing to be here up front because it (the move to Mercedes) was such a change for me," Hamilton, last on pole with McLaren at the 2012 Brazilian season-ender, told reporters.

    "It's just an incredible feeling. I'm so happy to have our first pole for some time. I'm just ecstatic really. The lap was great."

    Mercedes, uncompetitive for most of last season, were last on pole a year ago at the same race with eventual winner Nico Rosberg. The German - whose pole was the first by a Mercedes works driver since 1955 - qualified fourth this time.

    Ferrari's Fernando Alonso will start third, ahead of Felipe Massa for the first time this season and denying the Brazilian the honour of being the first team mate to out-qualify the Spaniard five races in a row.

    Massa will start fifth with Romain Grosjean sixth for Lotus.

    Vettel ninth

    Red Bull's championship leader Sebastian Vettel will line up ninth on the grid after opting to start on the slower but longer-lasting medium tyres rather than the new soft compound used by Hamilton.

    Vettel did not set a time in the final session after locking a wheel under braking.

    Red Bull's Mark Webber, barely speaking to the German after Vettel defied team orders in Malaysia and passed him to win, was sidelined by a fuel problem during the second phase of qualifying.

    The Australian was 14th fastest but could end up at the back of the grid if there is insufficient fuel in the car for the mandatory sample.

    "We had a lack of fuel pressure so I couldn't get back. My qualifying was over before it started," said Webber.

    "We'll have to see what the rules are. Double-whammy, maybe," he added when asked whether he had enough fuel in the car.

    McLaren's Jenson Button, whose car was off the pace in the first two races, found himself in the unexpected position of starting ahead of both Red Bulls in eighth place.

    There were few thrills in the session as a whole, with the quick-wearing soft tyres creating a situation where drivers opted to preserve their sets for Sunday's race.

    The crowd saw no cars at all on the track for the first eight and a half minutes while teams kept the number of laps to the bare minimum.

    "These tyres are very tricky this weekend," said Hamilton.

    "Making the option tyre last is almost impossible, so it's probably going to be a short stint at the start apart from for this guy (Raikkonen), who seems to be able to look after tyres better than most people.

    "But we have good race pace. I expect a tough race but I hope we can maintain position." 

    SOURCE: Reuters


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