Lewis Hamilton will line up on pole position for Sunday’s Chinese Formula One Grand Prix after putting in a storming lap in treacherous conditions to maintain Mercedes’ qualifying stranglehold. The Briton’s best time of one minute 53.860 seconds through rain and spray was a hefty 0.595 of a second quicker than Red Bull’s Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who joined him on the front row.
It was Hamilton’s third pole in four races this season and 34th of his F1 career, pushing the 29-year-old past the late Jim Clark’s British record that he equalled in Malaysia last month. He is now fourth on the all-time pole list led by Michael Schumacher with 68.
Red Bull’s quadruple Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel was third fastest, but more than a second slower than Hamilton and outqualified by team mate Ricciardo for the third time in four races. Championship leader Nico Rosberg, who had been on pole in the previous Bahrain Grand Prix, completed the second row for Mercedes after running wide on his second lap and then spinning on his final flying lap.
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The German will have his work cut out on Sunday if he is to win at the scene of his maiden grand prix triumph in 2012. Ricciardo, whose team lost their appeal earlier in the week against his exclusion from second place in Australia, bounced back in Red Bull’s best combined qualifying effort of a difficult season so far.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, last year’s winner in China, qualified fifth with new team boss Marco Mattiacci looking on from the pit wall after watching Friday’s sessions from the garage.
However, it was a day of mixed fortunes for the sport’s glamour team with Kimi Raikkonen failing to make it through to the top 10 shootout after struggling for grip all session long. Former Ferrari driver Felipe Massa qualified sixth for Williams, who had Valtteri Bottas seventh with both hoping to move up in the race. Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg lines up eighth.
The grid: 1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), 2. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull), 3. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), 4. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), 5. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), 6. Felipe Massa (Williams), 7. Valtteri Bottas (Williams), 8. Nico Hulkenberg (Force India), 9. Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso), 10. Romain Grosjean (Lotus), 16. Sergio Perez (Force India).
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