Hamilton claims first pole for Mercedes
13 April 2013 – Lewis Hamilton secured his first pole position for new team Mercedes at Shanghai on Saturday afternoon, producing a late time of 1:34.484 on the Soft tyres. The Mercedes driver will share the front row with Kimi Räikkönen, while fellow Q3 runners Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel opted to make use of the Medium rubber.
Increasing temperatures and clear skies carried over from the third and final practice session, with all eyes on how Pirelli's Medium and Soft tyre allocation would be used in the top ten phase of qualifying. With Vettel running a different strategy, Räikkönen was the first driver to post a time and took provisional pole with his 1:34.761 flying lap.
As the remaining cars filtered through after the chequered flag, Hamilton delivered an impressive personal best effort to eclipse his Lotus rival by 0.277 seconds. Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg, who endured a less-than-ideal build up to qualifying with his final practice technical issue, split the Ferrari duo of Fernando Alonos and Felipe Massa in fourth place.
Romain Grosjean's struggles relative to team-mate Räikkönen continued this afternoon, clocking a time six tenths slower than the Finn. It was a different story for Daniel Ricciardo, who put in one of the standout performances to make the cut for Q3 and finish seventh. The Toro Rosso driver wound up just ahead of Prime tyre runners Button and Vettel plus Sauber driver Nico Hülkenberg. Having opted not to set times in Q3, Vettel and Hülkenberg will both have free choice over tyres for the start of the race.
In the second Red Bull, Mark Webber's day came to a premature end when a suspected fuel pressure problem forced him to stop at the final hairpin in the second qualifying session. The Australian will start Sunday afternoon's Grand Prix from 14th on the grid, but may be given a penalty by governing body the FIA if his car does not hold the required fuel sample.
Force India drivers Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil were split by Sergio Pérez in 11th and 13th respectively, while Pastor Maldonado and Jean-Éric Vergne wound up just behind the sidelined Webber. From Q1, Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Gutiérrez were the biggest names to fall, having endured troublesome laps on the Soft compound tyre.
At the back of the grid, Jules Bianchi's dominance over his key rivals continued. The Marussia driver outpaced team-mate Max Chilton who was restricted to just one run, while Caterham duo Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde completed the order.
Sunday afternoon's 56-lap Grand Prix at Shanghai gets underway at 3pm local time (GMT +8) and can be tracked via the GPUpdate.net Live Report