Date: 13th April 2013 at 5:35pm
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Lewis Hamilton has stormed to his first career pole for Mercedes and his 27th overall after a frenetic and slightly bizarre qualifying session for the Chinese Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton has stormed to his first career pole for Mercedes and his 27th overall after a frenetic and slightly bizarre qualifying session for the Chinese Grand Prix, which consisted of much tyre preservation. The Briton will start the race alongside Kimi Raikkonen, with a second row consisting of Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg.

The all-important qualifying session got underway in glorious sunshine around the Shanghai International Circuit, however once the session got underway the drivers were reluctant to take to the track. It was well over five minutes into the session before Jules Bianchi eventually became the first driver to take to the track, leading out a small flurry of drivers. The Frenchman set the first timed lap of the session with a 01:39.025, however his time was immediately obliterated by Nico Rosberg who stormed to a 01:35.959 on the soft tyre.

With only five minutes remaining in the session, the entire field finally took to the track in a bid to progress through to the second qualifying segment. Lewis Hamilton stormed to the top of the timing sheets with a 01:35.793, whereas further down the order Jules Bianchi was momentarily ahead of the Toro Rosso duo. However, as the session drew to a conclusion, both Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo progressed through to Q2 whereas Jules Bianchi was eventually eliminated along with Valtteri Bottas, Esteban Gutierrez, Max Chilton, Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde.

After the excruciatingly long wait for track action at the start of Q1, Sebastian Vettel was the first driver to take to the track at the start of Q2. The reigning World Champion therefore set the first timed lap of the session with a 01:36.260, before the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso rose to the top with a 01:36.186. Utter disbelief then ensued when the Red Bull of Mark Webber parked his Red Bull machine at the side of the track at Turn 14, with the Australian driver allegedly out of fuel. Whilst Mark Webber?s car was cleared by the marshals, the time at the top continued to tumble as Kimi Raikkonen and then Nico Rosberg rose to the top.

Lewis Hamilton then once again rose to the top for Mercedes, setting another superlative 01:35.078, as Fernando Alonso slotted into 2nd position behind the Briton. Mark Webber gradually fell down the order as the session progressed, with the Australian driver unable to return to the track after his issue. Daniel Ricciardo greatly impressed many by progressing through to the top ten shootout, as Paul di Resta, Sergio Perez, Adrian Sutil, Mark Webber, Pastor Maldonado and Jean-Eric Vergne were eliminated.

The frenetic proceedings during Q2 led many to believe that the all-important top ten shootout would be equally as exciting, however once again there was a long wait until a driver completed the first timed lap. Sebastian Vettel was initially the first driver to take to the track, however he was instructed to return to the pits after an installation lap. This tactic by Red Bull was to ensure that the German would qualify ahead of any drivers who did not elect to complete a timed lap.

Eventually the majority of the field finally took to the track, in what became a mad dash to the finish. Kimi Raikkonen set the first timed lap of the session with a 01:34.762, as Nico Rosberg ruined his timed lap by running wide at Turn 16. Sebastian Vettel also ran extensively wide at Turn 14, and therefore elected to abort his timed lap altogether. Lewis Hamilton once again produced an absolutely stunning lap for Mercedes, and stormed to his first career pole for the German marque with a 01:34.484. Fernando Alonso managed to slot into 3rd position for Ferrari, with Sebastian Vettel all the way down in 9th position on the grid.

Although the majority of the qualifying session was centralized around tyre preservation, there is no denying that tomorrow?s 56-lap Chinese Grand Prix will be an intriguing combination of tactics and pure excitement. Will pole position prove to be an asset to Lewis Hamilton, or will the shrewd thinking of Red Bull allow Sebastian Vettel to rise through the order?

Author: Andy Young

TWITTER: @AndyYoungF1


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