sport

Wolff hails historic Hamilton pole

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff hailed Lewis Hamilton as "mega" and "in a league of his own" on the day he made British F1 history.

On a dank, grey day in Shanghai, Hamilton at least shone by dominating every qualifying session to claim the 34th pole position of his career.

The 29-year-old is now the most successful Briton over one lap in the sport's 64-year-history, moving ahead of legendary three-time champion Jim Clark, as well as France's four-times king Alain Prost.

Only Michael Schumacher (68), Ayrton Senna (65) and Sebastian Vettel (45) now stand ahead of Mercedes star Hamilton in the pecking order.

After finishing six tenths of a second clear of Daniel Ricciardo in his Red Bull, Hamilton said: "I definitely feel very blessed I've had the chance to work with great people and to have had such good cars to be able to put in such good laps, even more so with this team.

"To have had so much success already at such an early stage with them, it's an incredible feeling.

"And to be up there amongst the greats, I'm very proud of that. To have passed Jim Clark's record, it's unbelievable, so I'm very grateful for that."

After clinching back-to-back wins for the first time in four years with his recent successes in Malaysia and Bahrain, Hamilton is now poised to claim three victories in a row for the first time in his career.

Doing so would allow him to close the 11-point gap to team-mate and championship leader Nico Rosberg, who starts fourth behind Red Bull duo Ricciardo and reigning four-times champion Vettel.

Ideally, Hamilton could do with the Red Bulls maintaining the buffer between himself and Rosberg, although he chose his words carefully.

"On one side of it I want my team-mate to finish - preferably behind me - for points for the team," added Hamilton.

"Of course, I started the season with a big deficit after the first race (won by Rosberg in Australia with Hamilton retiring), and I don't know how long that will take to close.

"But every point counts, although I obviously don't wish anything bad on my team-mate.

"I want us to to get as many points as we can for the team because that's what we're hired to do, to win the championship for them."

The momentum would clearly appear to be with Hamilton, in particular after his brilliant defensive performance in Bahrain a fortnight ago when he kept Rosberg at bay for the final 10 laps with the German on quicker tyres.

Rosberg, though, refused to accept that as he said: "I turn things around positively rather than being negative, so in my head I'm the one who has the momentum.

"That's the positive, optimistic, strong outlook I need to have to go forward, to push flat out.

"The way I see things is that I was the quicker one in Bahrain, but I didn't make it work, so I have momentum in terms of pace, race speed, and I expect to have that again tomorrow.

"Okay, my start position is not great, and I'm not happy with how the day went, but I have momentum behind me.

"Of course, I have the Red Bulls ahead of me, which is not very helpful, but with the top speed I have (with his car) hopefully I'll get by them somehow."

With Mercedes continuing to dominate the season, on this occasion Wolff could not help but praise Hamilton as he comfortably mastered the wet to leave his rivals trailing.

"Today we saw a mega Lewis Hamilton," said Wolff.

"It doesn't get any better than being on top throughout qualifying, in a league of his own.

"Nico wasn't as lucky. He was caught on the wrong foot as he had problems with the dash (the readout on his steering wheel), and with his brakes. It could have panned out in a different direction."

Although the Red Bulls have proven they are more competitive in the wet, with a dry race forecast it should be another battle for the win between the Mercedes duo.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was the best of the rest in fifth behind the leading two marques, whilst Jenson Button could only manage 12th in his McLaren due to issues trying to heat up the front tyres in the cold conditions.

Marussia's Max Chilton, aiming for his 23rd consecutive finish since he started in F1, lines up 21st ahead of Lotus' Pastor Maldonado, who failed to take part in qualifying due to an oil leak from his Lotus.