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Lewis Hamilton has claimed pole position for the 2014 Chinese Grand Prix, his third pole position of the season. He out-qualified Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel, with Nico Rosberg making mistakes in the final session to take 4th.

Q1:

Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber, Shanghai International Circuit, 2014A wet circuit greeted the drivers at the start of qualifying for the 3rd time in the first 4 races this season. The track had been wet for the Free Practice session earlier in the day, with Daniel Ricciardo topping the session for Red Bull.

The drivers began the session on the wet tyres, with Sebastian Vettel initially setting the pace before Hamilton displaced him from the top of the time-sheets.

Toward the end of the session, the track dried sufficiently for the drivers to make the switch on to the intermediate tyre. Adrian Sutil used this to good effect, as he had previously been in the drop-zone before improving on the faster tyre. Jean-Eric Vergne was briefly pushed down into the drop-zone, before elevating himself into the next session. This left Esteban Gutierrez to be eliminated, along with the usual suspects of the Marussias and the Caterhams.

Pastor Maldonado was not able to emerge in the session. The Venezuelan had suffered a tricky weekend so far, which continued in final practice when he suffered a mechanical problem. The repair job was too much for Lotus to complete, which meant that Maldonado, who would have had a place grid penalty for his collision with Gutierrez in Bahrain, will start from last in tomorrow’s race.

Out of Q1:

POSDriverTeamTime
17Esteban GutierrezSauber1’58.988
18Kamui KobayashiCaterham1’59.260
19Jules BianchiMarussia1’59.326
20Marcus EricssonCaterham2’00.646
21Max ChiltonMarussia2’00.865
22Pastor MaldonadoLotusNo time

Q2:

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, Shanghai International Circuit, 2014The weather continued to fluctuate from better to worse during the second qualifying session. Adrian Sutil was one of the first to set a time, before Hamilton blasted through, a full four seconds faster than the Sauber driver. Lewis ended the session as the fastest man, with Vettel a mere few tenths behind; evidently closer in the wet conditions.

Nico Hulkenburg was on the edge of being eliminated in the session, with the Force India driver in the last place to advance into Q3. It looked as though he would be beaten, until last minute rain caused the lap times to lengthen, with Nico being safe.

The rain also helped Romain Grosjean, who managed to secure Lotus their first Q3 qualification of the season after a torrid start to the season. Grosjean’s surprise advancement put pay to any mistakes from other drivers, with Kimi Raikkonen failing to advance after a down-shift problem in his Ferrari. The two McLaren drivers failed to advance also, with both Button and Magnussen complaining of a lack of grip on the Intermediate tyres.

Out of Q2:

POSDriverTeamTime
11Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’56.860
12Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’56.963
13Daniil KvyatToro Rosso1’57.289
14Adrian SutilSauber1’57.393
15Kevin MagnussenMcLaren1’57.675
16Sergio PerezForce India1’58.264

Q3:

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Shanghai International Circuit, 2014The rain eased slightly for the start of the top 10 shoot-out, with some drivers still choosing to head out on the wet tyres after the sudden down-pore at the end of Q3. Bottas, Vergne and Hulkenburg all emerged at the start of the session on the slower tyre, before moving to the intermediate compound.

Vettel once again set the initial benchmark, with Hamilton following soon after to go 6 tenths faster than the Red Bull driver. Rosberg soon followed his team-mate to go into second at the end of the first run.

The track seemed to have gotten faster for the drivers in the closing minutes of the session, with most opting for two flying laps to end the session. Ricciardo, Vettel and others started to set faster sector times than Hamilton, but the Mercedes driver put pay to any thought of someone beating him by producing a 1’53.860. Ricciardo could only manage to be within 6 tenths of the Mercedes driver, with Vettel another 4 tenths back.

Rosberg had tried to cause an upset and steal pole position, as he had done in Bahrain two weeks ago, but on his first attempt he ran deep into the hairpin, causing him to loose to much time. He had one more lap, of which he was making gains on his team-mate, but he made a mistake at the final turn which saw him spin round. He couldn’t improve and had to settle for 4th behind the two Red Bull cars.

Alonso took 5th place, 1.5 seconds off of the pole time set by Hamilton, with the two Williams taking 6th and 7th; an improvement on their previous wet qualifying performances. Hulkenburg and Vergne will line up 8th and 9th on the grid, with Grosjean getting Lotuses best start of the season in 10th place.

2014 Chinese Grand Prix grid:

POSDriverTeamTime
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’53.860
2Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1’54.455
3Sebastian VettelRed Bull1’54.960
4Nico RosbergMercedes1’55.143
5Fernando AlonsoFerrari1’55.637
6Felipe MassaWilliams1’56.147
7Valtteri BottasWilliams1’56.282
8Nico HulkenburgForce India1’56.366
9Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso1’56.773
10Romain GrosjeanLotus1’57.079
11Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’56.860
12Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’56.963
13Daniil KvyatToro Rosso1’57.289
14Adrian SutilSauber1’57.393
15Kevin MagnussenMcLaren1’57.675
16Sergio PerezForce India1’58.264
17Esteban GutierrezSauber1’58.988
18Kamui KobayashiCaterham1’59.260
19Jules BianchiMarussia1’59.326
20Marcus EricssonCaterham2’00.646
21Max ChiltonMarussia2’00.865
22Pastor MaldonadoLotusNo time

Daniel Ricciardo, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Shanghai International Circuit, 2014Lewis Hamilton, who will start on pole:”Definitely the most satisfaction is getting this result when it is raining. It was so slippery out there, trying to find the grip and not make mistakes. It was a tough session, but the car was feeling great. There are some things that can be improved on but it has put us in a good position for the race.”

“I was told it was going to be a good day tomorrow. It is always hazy here so you don’t know what will happen with the weather. I hope it is a dry race, I’d see these guys [Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel] a little closer in the wet.”

Daniel Ricciardo, who will start in second: “I think that was very pleasing to do it at the end. To be honest, I struggled a bit throughout the session, at least personally I didn’t feel like I was getting on top of the conditions but then the last set of inters right at the end of Q3 we managed to get a bit more out of it and I put a good lap together, so pretty pleased to be on the front row.”

Sebastian Vettel, who will start from third on the grid: “In wet conditions I think we have a bit more of a chance. In dry conditions they are still quite quick and a little bit too far away. But let’s see what happens tomorrow, I think the weather forecast is dry so for sure we’ll try. I think we are in the best positions to try to give them a very hard time tomorrow.”

By Jordan Groves
Formula 1 correspondent for RTR Sports Marketing
Follow Jordan on twitter at www.twitter.com/jgroves1996
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