Hamilton claims maiden Mercedes pole in Shanghai

Lewis Hamilton in action at the Shanghai International Circuit during Saturday's qualifying session.

Story highlights

  • The 2008 world champion takes his first pole since moving to Mercedes at China GP
  • Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso finish second and third respectively
  • Sebastian Vettel down in ninth place; Mark Webber will start from back of the grid
  • Australian incurs penalty for running out of fuel during Q2

Lewis Hamilton's promising start at Mercedes continued on Saturday as he claimed his first pole for the team at qualifying for the Shanghai Grand Prix.

The Englishman's time of one minute 34.484 seconds was 0.3 seconds quicker than Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen who joins him on the front row of the grid. Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was third quickest with Hamilton's teammate Nico Rosberg finishing fourth.

"I'm just ecstatic really. The lap was great. The team has performed well all weekend so far and I really hope we can carry that into tomorrow," Hamilton said.

"I had really good pace in Q1 and Q2 but that last lap (in Q3) is so difficult to get ... you've got to do the perfect out lap and then the perfect lap to get yourself up there and I really can't complain. I'm really happy."

Hamilton's team boss, Ross Brawn was also delighted.

"It takes a little bit of time to settle into a team but I saw this weekend that Lewis is beginning to gel with his engineers and understanding the car. I think we've seen the result of that today," Brawn told BBC Sport.

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As the 2008 world champion's fortunes improve, his former McLaren teammate Jenson Button continued his lackluster start to the 2013 season. After picking up just two points in the opening two races, Button will start Sunday's race from eighth.

Unlike the drivers higher up the grid, who used Pirelli's "soft" compound tires during final qualifying, Button opted for the "medium" compound.

Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel also adopted the same tire strategy but didn't complete a timed lap in Q3 to end up one place behind Button in ninth.

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"Generally I think we saw yesterday on soft tyres everyone was struggling, so were we. I had to make them last so we decided to do something different," the Red Bull driver said.

Both Vettel and Button will look to make up places in the opening third of the race as other drivers pit early to replace the quicker wearing "soft" tires.

Australia's Mark Webber, who was controversially overtaken by teammate Vettel in Malaysia three weeks ago, will start from the back of the grid on Sunday after incurring a penalty for running out of fuel during Q2.

It was a happier qualifying session for Webber's compatriot, Daniel Ricciardo who steered his Toro Rosso to a highly creditable seventh.

One place ahead of him is Lotus' Romain Grosjean with Ferrari's Felipe Massa, who set the pace in practice on Friday, in fifth.