Rosberg capitalizes on Hamilton’s early exit to take Chinese GP pole

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Nico Rosberg will start Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix from pole position after finishing half a second clear of the field in qualifying in Shanghai.

After seeing Mercedes teammate and title rival Lewis Hamilton drop out in Q1 thanks to an engine issue, Rosberg capitalized by taking his first pole position of the season.

Rosberg’s biggest challenge came from Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who sat on provisional pole after the first set of runs in Q3.

However, the Finn failed to make much of an improvement on his second lap, dropping him to third behind Rosberg and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo in second place.

A mistake from Sebastian Vettel on his only Q3 lap left the German to settle for fourth place on the grid ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Daniil Kvyat.

Sergio Perez led Force India’s charge in seventh ahead of teammate Nico Hulkenberg in P10, with the Toro Rosso pair of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Max Verstappen splitting them in eighth and ninth respectively.

A loose wheel on Hulkenberg’s car at the end of Q2 brought out the red flag, preventing from any of the drivers sitting in the dropzone from improving their times late on.

Felipe Massa was the biggest loser, narrowly missing out on a Q3 berth in P11, while the McLaren duo of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button were also left disappointed in 12th and 13th respectively.

Romain Grosjean failed to reach Q3 once again for Haas, finishing 14th ahead of the Saubers of Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson, both of whom improved late on in Q1 to avoid being eliminated at the first hurdle.

The biggest shock of qualifying came in Q1 when four-time Chinese Grand Prix winner Hamilton was forced to pit without setting a lap time due to an ERS issue on his Mercedes W07 Hybrid car.

The Briton had reported early in qualifying that he had an issue on his power unit, and in spite of Mercedes’ best efforts to rectify it during a red flag period, the team could not get him out for a full power lap. Combined with his grid penalty, Hamilton will start tomorrow’s race from the back of the grid.

Haas’ Esteban Gutierrez’s miserable weekend continued as he was knocked out in Q1, splitting the Renaults of Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer in the dropzone. Manor’s Rio Haryanto followed in P20 ahead of teammate Pascal Wehrlein, who like Hamilton failed to post a time after crashing on the main straight early on and causing a lengthy red flag stoppage.

The Chinese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 1:30am ET on Sunday.