Hat-trick of pole positions for Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton stormed to his third successive pole position of the season in qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix, edging team-mate Nico Rosberg in a dominant front-row lock out for Mercedes.

Hamilton, unbeaten in qualifying so far this season, lapped the 5.451 kilometer-long Shanghai International Circuit in one minute, 35.782 seconds to take his 41st career pole just four-hundredths of a second clear of Rosberg much to the German's frustration.

Lewis Hamilton

"Yeah, I think China's continuing to be generally a good circuit for me, and a very, very positive vibe here," said Hamilton, who won here last year and heads into today's race hunting for a record-extending fourth victory at the Shanghai International Circuit.

"The car's handling fantastically well this weekend, a lot better, in terms of the whole weekend, compared to how it was in Malaysia," he added.

Sebastian Vettel kept Ferrari in the hunt by taking third. Vettel and Ferrari, benefitting from a bold strategy gamble and searing temperatures, had dealt the dominant Mercedes team a shock defeat in the last race in Malaysia.

But while the Italian marque continued to lead the chasing pack, they were unable to match Mercedes' formidable one-lap pace in the cooler conditions in China with Vettel's best nearly a second off Hamilton's benchmark.

"Obviously these guys were a bit quicker than we expected to be honest, but yeah, I think P3 was our maximum today," Vettel said.

"Tomorrow we should be a bit closer. How close? We will find out," the German on the cusp of equaling Ayrton Senna's haul of 41 wins said.

Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas -- seeking to re-establish their Williams team as Mercedes' closest challengers after being leapfrogged by Ferrari -- split the two scarlet cars slotting in into fourth and fifth.

Kimi Raikkonen could only manage sixth despite showing great promise throughout practice.

Red Bull, who had looked on course to be the third-best team after the final practice session, appeared to have dropped back with Daniel Ricciardo only seventh. His team-mate Daniil Kvyat was 12th, failing to make it through to the top ten.

McLaren remained mired near the back of the field after an encouraging start to their weekend.

Both Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso had hoped to make it into the second part of qualifying but in the end the pair missed the cut by just over two tenths of a second. They will start 17th and 18th, respectively, ahead only of the back-marking Manor Marussia cars.

Hamilton, who won the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, currently leads the championship standings by three points from Vettel. Rosberg lies third, a further seven points adrift.



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