Lewis Hamilton has carried on his good form in China with pole position by just four hundredths of a second from Mercedes AMG Petronas team mate Nico Rosberg.
Hamilton set the marker down early in Q3 with a 1:35.782 the time to beat for the rest of the pack, but even Rosberg couldn’t match that time, a 1:35.824 clearly exasperating the German who desperately wants to finish a session this weekend on top.
Behind them both is Sebastian Vettel, the Ferarri driver clocked a 1:36.687 – not exactly on the pace but close enough that he could make something happen come race day.
In fourth and fifth were the two Williams cars with Felipe Massa leading Valtteri Bottas over the line. Their pace – especially compared to the Ferraris – is very favourable so they could be the dark horse come the race and if their earlier mechanical niggles are overcome, expect them to be challenge for the podium.
Sixth, disappointingly, was Kimi Raikkonen. You could see the car sliding over the track and the Finn was having to fight the car all across the track.
Having a mixed day was Red Bull Racing, Daniel Ricciardo will start seventh after a lap best described as ‘average’ but his team mate Daniil Kvyat will have work to do after failing to get out of Q2 and lining up in 12th place.
Their loss was Sauber’s gain with both the cars getting into Q3 for the first time since the 2013 USA Grand Prix with Felipe Nasr starting ninth and Marcus Ericsson starting the race in tenth.
Another team having a disappointing qualifying was McLaren-Honda. After a weekend so far where Q2 must surely have been the aim of both drivers, small mistakes on the laps of both Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso saw them relegated to 17th and 18th.
Finally to the back of the grid lock out for Manor-Marussia, while the start position alone doesn’t look good they did both achieve the 107% time to automatically qualify for the race with Will Stevens eight tenths faster in 19th than team mate Roberto Merhi who lines up in 20th.