Nico Rosberg has taken the first pole position of his career for the Chinese Grand Prix. The Mercedes driver only needed one flying lap to set the fastest time, half a second faster than Lewis Hamilton and six tenths ahead of team-mate Michael Schumacher. Hamilton will start seventh after a five-place grid penalty for changing his gearbox, which means Michael Schumacher will start second to complete an all-Mercedes front row.
Mercedes have looked quick in qualifying all season, and this result underlines that pace. The car has been lacking speed in race trim, and the team will be hoping to show some improvement tomorrow.
The first Mercedes pole since 1955 was not the only unusual feature of the qualifying session. World Champion Sebastian Vettel fell out in Q2, after 11th on the grid was the best he could manage. It is a mark of how close the field is that Vettel was only three tenths off the fastest time in Q2, set by Mark Webber in the other Red Bull.
Kamui Kobayashi qualified fourth (to start third) in the Sauber, followed by Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus, both teams showing impressive form with two cars each in the top 10. Button could only manage sixth in the second McLaren, and Red Bull once again lacked pace in qualifying, with Webber only seventh. Ferrari’s dismal qualifying pace continued, with Alonso ninth and Massa 12th.
The race promises to be enthralling. McLarens starting fifth and seventh should come through the field, while the two Mercedes cars may struggle to stay ahead unless they have significantly improved their tyre usage. The fast-starting and aggressive Kamui Kobayashi will be one to watch from third on the grid, as will Kimi Raikkonen in fourth.
Can Mercedes convert their first pole, and first front-row lock-out, into a win? A podium, at the very least, will be the aim of the Silver Arrows.