SHANGHAI – Lewis Hamilton put himself in line Saturday to win a third race in a row for the first time in his career when he convincingly took pole position for Sunday’s Chinese grand prix.
Under steady rain, the British Mercedes driver was untouchable as he powered to 1min 53.860sec, his third pole position in four races this season and more than half-a-second ahead of Daniel Ricciardo.
Australian driver Ricciardo again out-qualified his Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel, the four-time defending world champion, who was third in 1:54.960.
Hamilton’s teammate and championship leader Nico Rosberg could only manage fourth place in the slippery conditions as he ran wide on the last bend of his final flying lap and spun spectacularly.
It was the 34th pole position of Hamilton’s F1 career, eclipsing the record set by the legendary Scot Jim Clark back in the 1960s, and provided more evidence that he could dominate this season.
“It’s so slippery out there,” Hamilton told reporters. “It was a tough session but I really enjoyed it. The car is in great condition and I really hope we can follow through tomorrow.”
Despite winning the last two races, Hamilton still trails Rosberg by 11 points in the drivers’ championship but the German will now have to start behind both Red Bulls as well as his team-mate.
“Cool, alrighty,” exclaimed Ricciardo, when told over team radio he was on the front row for just the second time in his career. “There wasn’t anything left in that.”
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso will be fifth on the grid but his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, struggling with mechanical problems which severely limited his practice runs, will be down in 11th place after being eliminated in Q2.
Brazil’s Felipe Massa showed that his rapidly improving Williams can conquer a wet track, after impressive pace in the dry on Friday, by putting himself on the third row alongside his former Ferrari team-mate Alonso.
Just behind Massa will be the second Williams driven by Finland’s Valtteri Bottas and Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, who had grip problems grip and only scraped into Q3 late in the second session.
Completing the top 10 were the French duo of Jean-Eric Vergne for Toro Rosso and Romain Grosjean for Lotus.
There was a major shock in Q2 when in addition to Raikkonen, both McLarens failed to make the final top-10 shoot-out despite being powered by 2014’s all-conquering Mercedes engine.
Jenson Button complained over team radio that his McLaren had no grip on the rain-sodden surface.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” he told media after being eliminated in Q2. “It’s tough in these conditions. I just hope it’s dry tomorrow.
“It’s a pity. Normally being P12 you get a benefit from having new sets of tyres you didn’t use in qualifying, but we don’t as it’s wets we’ve been running on.”