Paul di Resta secured pole position for the crucial DTM season finale in Shanghai after a chaotic qualifiying session. Mercedes teammate and title outsider Gary Paffett will start second on the grid, while points leader Bruno Spengler crashed out and will start down in 17th.

All four segments of qualifying featured red flags due to crashes around the street circuit. Spengler, who had earlier crashed during free practice, was running fifth towards the end of Q1 when he ran wide and hit the wall at Turn 2. The session was red-flagged and all drivers were allowed to progress to Q2, with Spengler returning to the pits to repair the damage.

Q2 was then stopped early when series debutant Darryl O'Young crashed his Audi at Turn 6, with all other drivers being allowed to progress to Q3, including Spengler whose car was still under repair.

Spengler made it back out on track toward the end of Q3, but his first proper flying lap was ruined when Timo Scheider crashed heavily in the dying moments. This left the Canadian down in 17th, while Scheider ended the session fourth behind Di Resta, Paffett and Jamie Green.

With Scheider sidelined due to his accident, only the three Mercedes drivers progressed to Q4. Green was the first to try to set a lap, but Green slid into the tyre wall at Turn 1 on his flying lap. With the session stopped, the positions from Q3 were used to determine the starting grid, handing Di Resta pole from Paffett, Green and Scheider.

Markus Winkelhock will start fifth, ahead of David Coulthard with his best starting position in the DTM in sixth. The Audis of Miguel Molina, Martin Tomczyk, Mattias Ekstrom and Oliver Jarvis rounded out the top ten.

Di Resta entered the Shanghai weekend three points behind teammate Spengler. If he converts his pole position into victory tomorrow, he will the title unless Spengler can climb to second place. “This morning, I was fastest in free practice; this afternoon I took pole position – a great result,” said di Resta. “Now I have the best chance to win the race and the title. However, qualifying showed that a lot of things can happen on this track.”

Di Resta wrestles his Mercedes around the streets of Shanghai

Paffett is currently nine points behind Spengler in the standings. “I thank my team; my C-Class was top class again today,” he said. “Pole was possible, but also from second on the grid everything will be possible tomorrow. I want to win and keep my championship hopes alive.”

Green said: “I am happy that I made it to the single-lap qualifying. Unfortunately, the track offered not much grip and so I hit the tyre barrier. But third on the grid is a good basis for Sunday's race.”

Coulthard was pleased to have qualified sixth. “What a crazy qualifying,” he said. “On a street circuit, it is even more important to find a clear lap to be fast and I managed it. Sixth place is a great result for me and tomorrow I want to score my first DTM points.”

Spengler was obviously disappointed with how his qualifying went. “I tried to brake a little later than in practice, but then I was just a little bit too late,” he explained. “This was clearly my mistake and I apologize to my team, because my guys had a lot of work this weekend. They made it possible that I could do a few laps in Q3; however, after the quick repairs the steering didn't work correctly so I was not able to move up.”

Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug said: “The circuit in Shanghai is a big challenge for drivers and cars – which has been demonstrated today by many interruptions. Paul Di Resta, Gary Paffett and Jamie Green were the best to manage this task and will therefore start from first to third places on the grid. It's a shame for Bruno who hit the wall and has to start 17th tomorrow.”