Sebastian Vettel stormed to pole position for the Chinese Grand Prix, setting the fastest lap time ever seen in Shanghai.
Jenson Button was second, ahead of his McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton, while Mark Webber dropped out in the first qualifying session as Red Bull made a strategic error with tyres. The team got everything right with its number one car though, as Vettel set the new lap record to take pole by over seven tenths of a second.
Nico Rosberg lines up fourth on the grid ahead of both Ferraris, while Toro Rosso managed to get both drivers in to the top 10. Paul Di Resta delivered another impressive performance in his Force India as he again outqualified his team-mate Adrian Sutil to take eighth.
Only Vettel and Button went out early in the final session, with Button setting a good time with a 1.34:421, before Vettel eclipsed it with a 1:33.706. Hamilton waited to do one run, but was 0.1s slower than Button, allowing the front two to abort their last laps and return to the pits. Behind them, Rosberg followed Fernando Alonso over the line to take fourth spot as Mercedes showed some improved pace.
In Q2, Paul Di Resta and both Toro Rosso's had put themselves in good positions behind Vettel and the two McLarens when Vitaly Petrov suffered a hydraulic problem and came to a halt out on track, causing a red flag with two minutes left.
The result was a queue of eleven cars waiting to go out at the end of the session, and the only man to benefit was Nico Rosberg who managed to get in to the top 10. Nick Heidfeld and Michael Schumacher were unable to improve, while Petrov's time was enough to put him through to Q3, although he could not participate and had to settle for 10th.
In the first session Force India and Toro Rosso both sent their drivers out on soft tyres, which triggered the need for many other teams to do the same as the lap time gain is around one second. Ferrari, Renault and Mercedes also went out on the option tyre, leading to a very close field ahead of Lotus, Virgin and HRT.
With so many drivers setting quick times on soft tyres Webber was left with a late lap to try and get through. Red Bull made a big error in sending him out on hard tyres though, and despite only being 1.1s off the fastest time, it left him 16th, and then Schumacher and Maldonado came through on soft tyres to knock him down to 18th and out.