Lewis Hamilton storms to record 34th pole position
Mercedes driver eclipses British mark set by legendary Scot Jim Clark in the 1960s
Lewis Hamilton convincingly snared pole position for Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix as he put himself in line to win three races in a row for the first time and seize control of the Formula One championship.
In steady rain on Saturday, the British Mercedes driver was untouchable as he powered to one minute, 53.86 seconds, his third pole position in four races this season and more than half a second ahead of Daniel Ricciardo.
Australian driver Ricciardo again outqualified his Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel, the four-time defending world champion, who was third in 1:54.960.
Hamilton's teammate and championship leader Nico Rosberg could manage only fourth place in the slippery conditions as he ran wide on the last bend of his final flying lap and spun out spectacularly.
It was the 34th pole position of Hamilton's F1 career, eclipsing the record set by the legendary Scot Jim Clark in the 1960s, and provided more evidence that he could dominate this season.
"It's definitely more satisfying when it's wet. It's so slippery out there," Hamilton said, revealing that he might have gone even quicker but for a small mistake.
"Our car is great. The lap could have been faster because I lost a bit of time through turn 10 and I was like, 'How are the times looking?' So I'm ecstatic, really happy."
Despite winning the last two races, Hamilton still trails Rosberg by 11 points in the drivers' championship, but the German will now have to start behind both Red Bulls as well as his teammate.
"Cool, all righty," exclaimed Ricciardo, when told over team radio he was on the front row for just the second time in his career.
"Right at the end of Q3 [third qualifying session] I managed to pull something out," he explained later.
"I wasn't really comfortable, so we made a couple of changes for that last run and, yeah, I put everything out there on that last lap."
Rosberg complained of being off the pace throughout qualifying. "I was generally not quick enough today. I've been struggling with braking," he said.
"I was trying a little too hard in the end. I had to give it a go in the last corner and it didn't quite work out. But it didn't really change much."
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso will be fifth on the grid, but teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who had mechanical problems which severely limited his practice runs, will be down in 11th place after being eliminated in the second qualifying session.
"The car felt better than Bahrain," said Alonso, who had shown improved pace all week. "We are starting fifth which I think is a good result."