Nico Rosberg takes landmark first pole in China for Mercedes

Mercedes' Nico Rosberg took his first pole position as he beat Lewis Hamilton in Chinese Grand Prix qualifying.

The German was a blistering half a second faster than Hamilton, who will start seventh following a grid penalty.

DID YOU KNOW?

Since 2004, the eight races in China have been won by seven different drivers; only Hamilton has won twice (in 2008 and 2011)

The big surprise was world champion Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the top 10 shoot-out. He starts 11th, with team-mate Mark Webber sixth.

It is Mercedes' first pole since the 1955 Italian Grand Prix with Juan Manuel Fangio.

The team pulled out of F1 at the end of that season following a second consecutive world title for the legendary Argentine, not returning as a constructor until 2010 when they bought the Brawn team.

Michael Schumacher - 0.57 secs slower than Rosberg - completes an all-Mercedes front row following Hamilton's demotion for a gearbox change.

Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn said: "It is a fantastic achievement but we've obviously got in the back of our minds that we have to put a race together tomorrow. It was an exceptional lap by Nico."

Rosberg said: "It's a very special feeling. I got a perfect lap.

Nico Rosberg's pole lap

China Grand Prix: Watch Nico Rosberg's first ever pole lap

"In the race we have been not as good as in qualifying. It's not something you can improve quickly, but we are doing our best. I don't know how it's going to go, but I'm going to work hard tonight and make the most of it."

Hamilton, a team-mate of Rosberg in the junior categories, said: "Congratulations to him. We grew up racing together and we both dreamed of racing in F1."

Schumacher said: "I said well done [on the radio]. That was a phenomenal lap time. It's a bit of a surprise, but he is known to be a good qualifier.

"It's a question mark whether we can keep our position in the race, but one thing is for sure - we will try our best to do so."

Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi was a stunning fourth fastest - third on the grid - ahead of Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren's Jenson Button and Mark Webber.

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It's a very special feeling. I got a perfect lap

Nico Rosberg - Mercedes

Sauber's Sergio Perez, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Lotus's Romain Grosjean completed the top 10.

Vettel is running a different specification car from Webber and it appears from this evidence to have been a mistake to use it.

Vettel's car has a different exhaust design that is almost identical to the one with which it was launched back in early February. Webber has stuck with the design that was introduced as an upgrade at the final pre-season test.

While Mercedes have so far gone backwards in races, Red Bull have been stronger on Sundays than in qualifying.

With Hamilton trying to progress from an artificially low grid position, the race promises much.

Chinese Grand Prix 2012, day two

  • Saturday 14 April: Third practice 0355-0505 BBC Red Button and BBC Radio 5 live sports extra; Qualifying 0630-0800 BBC1, BBC Radio 5 live and live text commentary on BBC Sport website; Qualifying replay 1300-1430 BBC Two and Red Button.

Chinese Grand Prix 2012, day three

  • Sunday 15 April: Race 0700-1030 BBC One HD, BBC Radio 5 live and live text commentary on BBC Sport website; Race replay 1400-1600 BBC One HD.