Motor racing: Lewis Hamilton takes pole for Chinese GP, ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton (centre) of Britain reacts after setting pole position in qualifying alongside team mate Valtteri Bottas (right) of Finland and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel of Germany at the Shanghai International Circuit.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton (centre) of Britain reacts after setting pole position in qualifying alongside team mate Valtteri Bottas (right) of Finland and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel of Germany at the Shanghai International Circuit.PHOTO: REUTERS

SHANGHAI (REUTERS) - Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton will start the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix from pole position, after setting the fastest time in qualifying on Saturday.

Sebastian Vettel, who won the season opener in Melbourne a fortnight ago, will start second in his Ferrari, just 0.186 of a second slower than the three-time world champion's benchmark, with the Briton's Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas third a mere one-thousandth of a second further adrift.

Last season's overall runner-up Hamilton's time of 1min 31.678sec was the fastest time set at the Shanghai circuit.

Kimi Raikkonen, in the second Ferrari, is fourth on the grid, with Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) and Felipe Massa (Williams) making up the third row.

Rounding out the top 10 are Nico Hulkenberg (Renault), Sergio Perez (Force India), Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) and Williams' Canadian rookie Lance Stroll.

Hamilton's record-setting lap bettered Michael Schumacher's 2004 timing by over half a second. It also gave the Briton his 63rd pole, and a record sixth in China. He is now only five behind the German legend's record 68 poles.