Lewis Hamilton takes stunning pole for Mercedes in China

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Highlights: Hamilton storms to China pole

Lewis Hamilton took his third pole position in four races this season with a stunning performance in qualifying at the Chinese Grand Prix.

Hamilton was more than half a second clear of Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo in treacherous wet conditions.

Chinese Grand Prix: Watch Lewis Hamilton's pole lap

Sebastian Vettel was third as Nico Rosberg took fourth after spinning his Mercedes in a vain attempt to close the 1.2-second margin to his team-mate.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso took fifth from the Williams of Felipe Massa.

Hamilton was in irresistible form throughout qualifying, fastest in all three parts, and each time by about the same margin.

"Definitely the most satisfaction is getting this result when it is raining," said Hamilton. "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."

Vettel was the quickest Red Bull in the first two knock-out sections, but Ricciardo beat the four-time champion when it counted and by an impressive 0.505secs.

"I think we are in the best position we have been all season to give Mercedes a hard time tomorrow, because we managed to split them up," said Vettel.

Rosberg, who seemed unsettled by Hamilton's pace, ran off the track early in the final session and then spun after getting too wide at the final corner on his last lap.

Lewis Hamilton driving

As it happened, the spin may have prevented Alonso from knocking the German down to fifth.

The Spaniard was the next car through and had been just under a second off Hamilton's time at the second split point.

But the yellow caution flags demanding a driver slow down were already waving as he entered the final corner after Rosberg's spin. Although the Ferrari driver improved his time he was just under 0.5secs down on the German and a similar margin clear of Massa.

The Brazilian's Williams team-mate Valtteri Bottas was seventh, as Force India's Nico Hulkenberg, Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne and Lotus's Romain Grosjean completed the top 10.

It was the first time Lotus have been in the top 10 on the grid and marked a major step forward after a difficult start to the season.

Alonso's team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was knocked out in the second session, when he was 1.1 seconds slower than his team-mate, and will start 11th. Ferrari said the Finn suffered a problem with his downshift.

Lewis Hamilton unfazed by China weather

It was also a difficult day for McLaren, with Jenson Button taking 12th and team-mate Kevin Magnussen only 15th, 0.7secs adrift.

"In these conditions it's very tricky for us," said Button. "We struggle with front [tyre] temperatures.

"I think it will be a fun race, it's further back than we would like but there have been some pretty good results from this far back this season."

Chinese Grand prix qualifying results

Full Chinese Grand prix coverage details