Lewis Hamilton put himself in line yesterday to win a third race in a row for the first time in his career when he convincingly took pole position for today’s Chinese Grand Prix.
Under steady rain, the British Mercedes driver was untouchable as he powered to 1 minute, 53.860 seconds, his third pole position in four races this season and more than half-a-second ahead of Daniel Ricciardo.
Australian driver Ricciardo again outqualified 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 past 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 teammate.
“Cool, alrighty,” said 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,” he added.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso is to be fifth on the grid, but his teammate Kimi Raikkonen, struggling with mechanical problems which severely limited his practice runs, is down in 11th place after being eliminated in second qualifying.
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 teammate Alonso.
Just behind Massa is the second Williams, driven by Finland’s Valtteri Bottas, and Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, who had grip problems and only scraped into third qualifying 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 second qualifying when, in addition to Raikkonen, both McLarens failed to make the final top-10 shootout despite being powered by this season’s all-conquering Mercedes engine.
Jenson Button complained over the team radio that his McLaren had no grip on the rain-sodden surface.