Date: 15th April 2013 at 10:13am
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With Nico Rosberg taking pole position and going on to win last seasons Chinese Grand Prix, many wondered if Mercedes could repeat the feat this season.

While there has been minimal changes in regulations between last year and this, there are unfortunately to many variables in Formula One to suggest that because Mercedes were strong last year they would repeat that performance twelve months later.

The Pirelli tyres have of course changes dramatically, while the benefit of Mercedes double-DRS system has also gone.

However once the cars were out on track for practice on Friday, there was a familiar feel to proceedings with Rosberg topping the timing charts ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

Free practice two saw Ferrari’s Felipe Massa go quickest with a time over a second faster than Hamilton.

By Saturday though Mercedes edge on a one lap stint returned, Ferrari topped the table in FP3, but when it mattered Hamilton set the fastest time to claim his first pole position for Mercedes in only his third race.

‘Pole position is a great result for us today and to achieve it in my third race for the team is such a good feeling. I had to make sure the radio was off after my engineer told me I had pole because I was so excited! None of us expected this level of performance at this stage of the season and it’s a real bonus. The guys have just been working away, pushing really hard, and I’m so pleased for everyone back at the factories and here at the track that I’ve been able to deliver my first pole in a Silver Arrow. It would be great to convert the position in the race tomorrow but it’s going to be a challenge and we’re realistic about how tough the race will be. The soft tyres don’t last for very long, and with a couple of quick guys starting on the mediums, it’ll be interesting to see how the race plays out. I’m looking forward to it and will give it my all.’ he told formula1.com after qualifying.

As Hamilton alluded too despite the speed advantage over a single lap on the softer tyre, no-one really knew just how the race would develop. With McLaren’s Jenson Button and Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel opting to start the race on the harder Pirelli compound tyre from eighth and ninth on the grid.

Hamilton enjoyed a good start away from the grid, with the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen who had started alongside him slipping down behind the Ferrari’s of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa.

As the soft tyres began to come to the end of their natural life after four laps, Hamilton struggled to fend off the Ferrari’s and he dropped two positions going into the first turn on lap five under the DRS zone.

The Mercedes of Hamilton slowly lost performance throughout the race as the different tyre strategies played themselves out and following a pit-stop on lap 38 Hamilton lost track position to Raikkonen which near enough ended his hopes of finishing any higher than third.

With five laps remaining Sebastian Vettel pitted for the final time and due to his out of sequence pit strategy he would be putting the soft tyres on for the final stint of the Grand Prix.

So much so was the superiority of this tyre over old and worn medium tyres that Vettel was able to catch Hamilton and Raikkonen at a rate of four seconds a lap at times and this brought him right onto the gear box of Hamilton coming into the final turn.

A final tyre lock up going into the last corner was enough for Hamilton to hold on to his second consecutive podium finish.

?It was a good race for me today and whilst I would have loved the win, I’m really happy with third place and being on the podium for the second race in a row. Fernando and Kimi were just a little bit too fast for us during the race and my tyres were shot at the end trying to keep ahead of Sebastian. I could see his car getting bigger and bigger in my mirrors so it was nice to be able to hang on for the third place. The guys did a great job this weekend to get us where we were; on pole and finishing third. We got the absolute most out of the car we had and that’s very satisfying. We’re not quite there yet in terms of overall pace but everyone is working so hard and I know we can do it.?