Hamilton pips Rosberg for China GP pole; Vettel third (dpa German Press Agency)

Shanghai (dpa) – World champion Lewis Hamilton on Saturday survived a late challenge from team-mate Nico Rosberg to get pole position for the Chinese Grand Prix where the two Mercedes drivers seek to restore the Formula One pecking order.

Hamilton’s best time set midway through the final round of qualifying came under threat but Rosberg missed first place on Sunday’s grid by a mere four hundredth of a second.

Sebastian Vettel, who had upset Mercedes for victory ahead of Hamilton and Rosberg at the last race in Malaysia, trailed by almost a second in third place.

Hamilton maintained his 100 per cent qualifying record this season and now has five poles in Shanghai where he also has a record three race victories.

Vettel has also tasted success in China, in 2009, and Rosberg got his first career win there, in 2012.

Hamilton posted 1 minute 35.782 seconds on the 5.451-kilometres Shanghai course for his 41st career pole, with Rosberg on 1:35.824, and they hope to be back in front on Sunday as well after the unexpected Malaysia defeat.

“China is continuing to be generally a good circuit for me. The car is handling fantastically well this weekend, a lot better compared to how it was in Malaysia,” Hamilton said.

But after being beaten by Vettel in Malaysia despite pole, the Briton is taking nothing for granted.

“We’ve still a tough race ahead because the Ferraris are good on long-run pace, so it’s not over by any means,” Hamilton said.

Vettel admitted that Mercedes were faster than Ferrari expected but remained confident.

“Hopefully tomorrow will be closer. We are looking forward to going racing, it’s not far to turn one. And it’s a track where tyres are important,” he said.

Ferrari had better tyre management than Mercedes in Malaysia although Vettel had one stop less than Hamilton and Rosberg.

Vettel closed within three points of Hamilton early in the championship, 43 to 40 points, with Rosberg third on 33.

The German Rosberg readily admitted he was “frustrated” by missing pole so narrowly and yet again finding himself behind Hamilton.

The Williams of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, Romain Grosjean of Lotus and the surprisingly fast Saubers of Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson completed the top 10.

McLaren meanwhile failed yet again to survive Q1, with ex-champions Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso 17th and 18th, respectively – amid hopes to be more competitive Sunday.

“Progress has been made but there’s still a lot of work to do,” McLaren tweeted.