Lewis Hamilton answered his critics by claiming pole position for Sunday’s Chinese GP in only his third race for new team Mercedes. Hamilton, set a time of one minute 34.484 nearly three-tenths of a second quicker than Kimi Raikkonen with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso setting the third fastest time, less than a tenth shy of the Lotus.
Hamilton faced heavy criticism for leaving a winning team and moving to Mercedes, a team that has largely struggled since their return to the sport as a works squad in 2010. But the Silver Arrows set some blistering times towards the end of pre-season testing and have put in some strong performances over the first two races of the year.
“Yeah, well you can’t really answer it (the criticism) in one result but definitely, bit by bit, the more and more we impress and improve they have to stand to be corrected,” Hamilton, who scored his first podium for Mercedes — albeit in controversial circumstances — at the last race in Malaysia, said. “Of course, people have an opinion, but I’m just really grateful that I’m here and in the fight. Today is such a blessing to be here, because it was such a big change for me and a big step for me. I think I made the right choice,” the 2008 world champion said.
Red Bull’s Vettel will start from ninth after aborting his flying lap due to a mistake, while Webber qualified 14th fastest but will start from the back of the grid after stewards found there wasn’t enough fuel in his car for the mandatory fuel sample. Unusually for qualifying, most drivers used the fast-degrading but quicker soft compound tyres during the first session of qualifying so as to save a set of the preferred medium compound tyres for the race. With drivers having to start the race on the same tyres which they use to set their fastest time, the Top 10 shootout saw split strategies.
Button and Vettel opted for the medium compound tyres while the rest of the field including Hamilton used softs. “I think everyone was really saving their tyres for the race. The option is the one that we don’t really want to use and there was no point in saving options or using a prime considering everyone will probably want to use them tomorrow. Everyone, no matter what strategy you’re on, will struggle on the option tyre, whether it’s high or low fuel,” Hamilton said.