In just his third race in a Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton will start on pole position for the Chinese Grand Prix, ahead of fellow former world champions Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso.

The Mercedes backed up their impressive, and surprising, pace at the start of the season as well as during practice in Shanghai as Hamilton recorded a time a full 0.3 seconds ahead of Raikkonen’s Lotus. Hamilton’s teammate Nico Rosberg is also handily placed in fourth place, ahead of Felipe Massa’s Ferrari, with the Lotus of Romain Grosjean rounding out the top six.

After a tumultuous few weeks for Red Bull, the team encountered further problems in qualifying. Sebastian Vettel, who defied team orders to overtake his teammate Mark Webber to win in Malaysia last time out, will start from ninth on the grid with the Australian forced to start from the back of the pack after being penalized for running out of fuel on the circuit.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Webber, according to the official Formula One website.

“We need a bit of luck now; it's not the optimum starting position, but we still have to try to get something from there,” he added.

There was nothing to be disappointed about, though, for Hamilton, who admitted that even he is surprised by the Mercedes’ performance.

“Pole position is a great result for us today and to achieve it in my third race for the team is such a good feeling,” he said. “None of us expected this level of performance at this stage of the season and it's a real bonus.

“It would be great to convert the position in the race tomorrow but it's going to be a challenge and we're realistic about how tough the race will be,” he added.

Hamilton’s former teammate at McLaren, Jenson Button, qualified in eighth, one place behind Daniel Ricciardo in the Toro Rosso. Like Vettel, though, Button will start on the “medium” compound of tires, while those ahead of them will all be on the “soft” tires and will have to pit earlier.

The other McLaren of Sergio Perez will start from 12th on the grid behind Paul di Resta’s Force India and the Sauber of Nico Hulkenberg. 

Where to watch: The Formula one Chinese Grand Prix will get underway in Shanghai at 3 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the NBC Sports Network, with a live stream available on and NBC Sports Live Extra.