Rosberg finally achieves pole
Nico Rosberg found himself in the bizarre situation of onlooker after posting a "perfect" lap to win his first pole in 111 races in China.
Questions have consistently been asked of Rosberg as to whether he genuinely has the talent to truly succeed in F1, and he went some way to answering them on Saturday.
With Mercedes clearly threatening the front row, Rosberg pulled out half a second on his nearest challengers in the top-10 shoot-out in qualifying for tomorrow's Chinese Grand Prix.
It was his one and only hot lap in the session which continued without him as Mercedes felt he had done a solid enough job, and it also enabled them to save a set of Pirelli tyres.
At one stage Rosberg was caught walking down the pit lane as the clock counted down to what would become a moment of destiny for the 26-year-old German.
Naturally describing his time in the spotlight as a "very special feeling", Rosberg, however, was unable to put a finger on why he had destroyed his rivals, headed by McLaren's Lewis Hamilton.
"The lap time was very, very strange, but it was also a perfect lap," said Rosberg.
"I had no idea if the track got a lot better, or what was going on out there.
"Then I found myself standing there on my own and everybody else was still going round, but I couldn't do anything any more, so that was also strange.
"I was just hoping and thinking 'come on, let that be enough, please'.
"Then slowly but surely I saw the sector times and I saw that it was definitely going to be enough. It was fantastic, I was very excited."
Hamilton's five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change executed this morning due to a fault discovered earlier in the week means the 27-year-old drops to seventh for tomorrow's start.
That in turn means Michael Schumacher joins team-mate Rosberg on the front row, the first time the seven-times champion has been as high on the grid since the 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix.
Schumacher said: "To get the Mercedes up front, to achieve this, with all the effort Mercedes has put in, the team has put in, is just great.
"It's the first front row for the Silver Arrows for I don't know how many years (since the 1955 Italian Grand Prix).
"Looking at what Nico did, it's a little surprise for all of us, but let's hope we can keep it that way.
"Obviously the further forward we are, the better the prospects are for tomorrow."
Therein lies the rub because whilst Mercedes have so far shown exceptional one-lap pace, assisted by their double-DRS device, they have gone backwards in the two races so far.
Collecting just one point between them in Australia and Malaysia has been an embarrassment, with Rosberg uncertain as to how the race will play out, despite his lofty position.
"This is the start of the season for me because the first two haven't gone too well," said Rosberg, who has finished 12th and 13th.
"It's fantastic to start first, but it's pretty clear in the race we've not been quite as good as in qualifying.
"We've worked very hard to improve, but it's not something you can change in a few weeks. It's going to take some time.
"So it's difficult to know exactly where we're going to be tomorrow. I don't really know how it's going to go."
In dropping to seventh, Hamilton admits he faces an uphill task to make it a hat trick of victories in Shanghai.
Ahead of him are Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi, his best grid slot by three places, Kimi Raikkonen in his Lotus, McLaren team-mate Jenson Button and Red Bull's Mark Webber.
"I have a lot of work ahead of me," said Hamilton, the only two-time winner in China.
"Just moving forward is what I'll be aiming for and obviously to finish the race. Then we'll just see what happens from there.
"But to win is a tall order, so tomorrow the target is simply to get as many points as possible. If we happen to be in a position to win, even better, a bonus."
World champion Sebastian Vettel could only qualify 11th in his Red Bull, the first time in 42 races he has failed to make the top 10, whilst Force India's Paul di Resta starts 15th.