First-ever pole for Rosberg

by Michelle Fortune , 14 April 2012

Nico Rosberg will start on pole position for Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix after posting a sensational 1:35.121 at the Shanghai International Circuit.

Mercedes have never started from pole since the team returned to Formula 1 in 2010 but they have a clean sweep of the front row due to Lewis Hamilton's five-place grid penalty.

Hamilton posted the second fastest time of the day but he drops down to seventh with Michael Schumacher moving up to second to ensure an all-Mercedes front row for the first time since the 1950s.

Mercedes had been tipped to enjoy a spectacular qualifying session and the predictions proved to be correct with Rosberg posting a sensational time with his first lap in Q3.

It was enough to see him take a maiden Formula 1 pole position and the German confidently got out of his car with just under five minutes remaining of the session.

His rivals tried hard to close the gap but they could get nowhere near the pace of the Mercedes with Hamilton going second, almost half-a-second slower, but he will be hit with a penalty due to his gearbox change.

Schumacher was third fastest with Kamui Kobayashi coming through in the final seconds to claim fourth in his Sauber.

Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen qualified in fifth just ahead of Jenson Button's McLaren with Mark Webber seventh in his Red Bull. Sergio Perez posted the eighth-fastest time of the afternoon in his Sauber, while Fernando Alonso and Romain Grosjean ninth and tenth for Ferrari and Lotus.

Rosberg had led a Mercedes one-two in Q2 but the shock news from the second part of qualifying centred around Sebastian Vettel, who failed to make it into the top-ten shootout for the first time since Brazil in 2009.

The reigning world champion never looked comfortable in his RB8 and he finished just outside the top ten with Felipe Massa behind him in the Ferrari.

It was a relatively uneventful day in Shanghai with Caterham led Marussia and HRT all going out in Q3 but all 24 drivers are comfortably inside the 107 per cent margin.

Chinese Grand Prix Qualifying Result:
Pos  Driver                Team                 Time          Gap  
1.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1m35.121s         
2.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m35.626s  + 0.505
3.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes             1m35.691s  + 0.570
4.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       1m35.784s  + 0.663
5.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault        1m35.898s  + 0.777
6.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m36.191s  + 1.070
7.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m36.290s  + 1.169
8.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       1m36.524s  + 1.403
9.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m36.622s  + 1.501
10. Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault        No time
Q2 cut-off time: 1m35.831s                                
11.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m36.031s  + 0.331
12.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m36.255s  + 0.555
13.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault     1m36.283s  + 0.583
14.  Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault     1m36.289s  + 0.589
15.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes 1m36.317s  + 0.617
16.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes 1m36.745s  + 1.045
17.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m36.956s  + 1.256
Q1 cut-off time: 1m36.933s                                   
18.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m37.714s  + 1.516
19.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault     1m38.463s  + 2.265
20.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault     1m38.677s  + 2.479
21.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth    1m39.282s  + 3.084
22.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth    1m39.717s  + 3.519
23.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth         1m40.411s  + 4.213
24.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth         1m41.000s  + 4.802

Hamilton has a five-place grid penalty.

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