It was the world champion’s third successive pole position to start the season, and his fifth overall in Shanghai.
As expected, Ferrari were the Silver Arrows’ closest rivals with Sebastian Vettel stealing third place from Williams’ Felipe Massa in the dying moments, but the Italian team offered no significant challenge to the Silver Arrows this time.
Ferrari had been fastest in Q1, with Vettel on 1m 37.502s from team mate Kimi Raikkonen on 1m 37.790s, but they used the soft tyres as Hamilton, fifth on 1m 38.285s, stayed with the medium compound rubber.
Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat just made it through to Q2 with 1m 39.051s, leaving Nico Hulkenberg as the first faller, with 1m 39.216s in his Force India. Neither of the McLarens got through; Jenson Button was 17th on 1m 39.276s and Fernando Alonso 18th on 1m 39.280s.
Will Stevens was Marussia’s quicker runner on 1m 42.091s as Roberto Merhi managed 1m 42.842s. That left them both comfortably inside the 1m 44.327s 107 percent lap time requirement.
As Hamilton set the Q2 pace with 1m 36.423s from Rosberg and Vettel on 1m 36.747s and 1m 36.957s, all on the softs, there was a dramatic shoot-out at the end of the segment which saw the Williams and Saubers jump up at the expense of Pastor Maldonado’s Lotus, Kvyat’s Red Bull and the Toro Rosso duo.
Maldonado's 1m 38.134s missed the cut by just seven-thousandths of a second, leaving him 11th ahead of Kvyat on 1m 38.209s. Rookies Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz were 13th and 14th on 1m 38.393s and 1m 38.538s respectively, with Sergio Perez rounding out the Q2 runners with 15th for Force India with 1m 39.290s.
Once again, Hamilton got the job done on his first run in Q3, setting a scorching benchmark of 1m 35.782s. Rosberg’s initial lap failed to get close, occupying 1m 36.062s, but as Hamilton then failed to improve on his second run Rosberg closed the gap dramatically with 1m 35.824s. Unsurprisingly the German was extremely disappointed to miss out by such a small margin.
Neither Ferrari driver broke 1m 37s on their first runs, but Vettel’s second yielded 1m 36.687s to displace Massa from third overall. The Brazilian had posted 1m 36.954s in his Mercedes-powered FW37, which left him clear of team mate Valtteri Bottas who was fifth on 1m 37.143s.
Raikkonen ended up a disappointing sixth on 1m 37.232s, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo who took seventh for Red Bull on 1m 37.540s to head Romain Grosjean’s Lotus on 1m 37.905s. Sauber wrapped up the fifth row of the grid, Brazilian rookie Felipe Nasr just heading team mate Marcus Ericsson, 1m 38.067s to 1m 38.158s.
Thus the provisional grid will line up: Hamilton, Rosberg; Vettel, Massa; Bottas, Raikkonen; Ricciardo, Grosjean; Nasr, Ericsson; Maldonado, Kvyat; Verstappen, Sainz; Perez, Hulkenberg; Button, Alonso; Stevens, Merhi.