sport

Hamilton secures record 34th pole

Lewis Hamilton cemented his place in British Formula One history by claiming the 34th pole position of his career ahead of Sunday's Chinese GP.

In miserable conditions at the Shanghai International Circuit as rain and leaden skies dominated, and with temperatures at only 14 degrees centigrade, Hamilton sizzled in his Mercedes and left his rivals standing.

It is the 29-year-old's third pole in four races this season, and now makes him the most successful Briton over one lap in F1, taking him past the legendary Jim Clark.

The rain at least provided more of a level playing field for Red Bull as they have so far fared well in such conditions, as was the case in qualifying in Australia and Malaysia when they ran Mercedes close.

Behind Hamilton will be Red Bull duo Daniel Ricciardo and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, the pair 0.6secs and 1.1secs adrift respectively, such was the former's dominance.

Championship leader Nico Rosberg, who has an 11-point cushion over Hamilton in the standings, could only manage fourth on the grid, finishing 1.3secs adrift of his team-mate.

Behind the leading quartet come Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and his former team-mate Felipe Massa, now with Williams.

Valtteri Bottas lines up seventh in his Williams, followed by Force India's Nico Hulkenberg, the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne and, in a return to form, Romain Grosjean grabbed a top-10 spot for Lotus for the first time in what has so far been a troubled season.

Although setting a personal best in the first two sectors, worsening conditions over the final part of the track thwarted Kimi Raikkonen's bid to clinch a place in the top 10.

The Finn missed out by 0.013secs from reaching the final qualifying session and will line up in 11th ahead of McLaren's Jenson Button.

The Woking-based marque failed to get either of their cars into the top 10 as Kevin Magnussen starts 15th, his worst grid slot in his debut campaign.

The rookie Dane is behind Toro Rosso's Daniel Kvyat and Adrian Sutil in his Sauber, with Force India's Sergio Perez 16th.

Struggling in the conditions, Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez finished half a second outside of the top 16, and almost nine tenths of a second adrift of team-mate Sutil.

The Mexican will start 17th ahead of the usual Q1 departees, with Caterham's Kamui Kobayashi up next followed by Jules Bianchi in his Marussia.

They are followed by their respective team-mates in Marcus Ericcson and Max Chilton, with Lotus' Pastor Maldonado lining up at the back of the grid.

Maldonado was due to be hit with a five-place penalty but, with his car suffering further technical woes with an oil leak, the Venezuelan failed to even make it out of the garage and set a time.

With only Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna and Vettel ahead of him in terms of pole positions secured, Hamilton was naturally happy enough with his latest performance.

"It was about not making mistakes, really putting it together," said Hamilton.

"Overall it was a tough session, but I really enjoyed it, and although we always have stuff we can improve on, the team have done a great job this weekend."

With a dry race forecast, that will be to Mercedes' advantage, with Hamilton adding: "I'm told it's going to be a good day.

"I hope it's a dry race because these guys (Red Bull) are a little bit closer in the wet."

Ricciardo, equalling the best qualifying performance of his career in F1, grabbed second spot with a superb final lap.

"That was very pleasing to do it at the end," he said.

"To be honest I struggled throughout the session, and although I didn't feel like I was getting on top of things, we put a new set of inters (intermediate tyres) on, so I'm pretty pleased to get on the front row."

Vettel appreciates a wet race would offer him and Ricciardo "more of a chance" of beating Hamilton and Rosberg.

The German added: "In the dry it's tough, but let's see the weather forecast, and let's hope we can give them a good race."