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Hamilton takes pole for Mercedes in China

NEWS STORY
13/04/2013

Ahead of today's qualifying session the air temperature is 28 degrees C, while the track temperature is 40 degrees. It remains sunny but smoggy.

Fernando Alonso was quickest this morning however, it is unclear whether yesterday's pace-setter, Ferrari teammate, Felipe Massa would have beaten him, the Brazilian having lost time behind Adrian Sutil.

Lewis Hamilton was third quickest this morning, a repeat of Mercedes strong form in yesterday's opening session, though the German team's mood was somewhat dampened by a hydraulics issue which meant teammate Nico Rosberg didn't get to set a time on the option (soft) rubber.

Sebastian Vettel was fourth, ahead of teammate Mark Webber and Adrian Sutil, who continues to impress, while Kimi Raikkonen out-paced the two McLarens.

However, when looking at the combined times from all three sessions the picture is slightly different, for Massa heads Alonso, Raikkonen, the Mercedes and Red Bulls.

On the whole, this would back up what a majority of the pundits here feel, that Ferrari has the edge over Mercedes with Red Bull third. Despite Raikkonen's clear pace, the Lotus looks worryingly unstable here, while McLaren still has aero issues.

As ever, tyres continue to dominate proceedings - though much of the media would have you believe that driver management at Red Bull is the most important topic in F1 this weekend - with some drivers finding the option tyres don't last a full lap. Consequently, we may well see a surprising number of drivers opt not to run in Q3 today, once making it through Q2, while we will also see drivers want to dump the options as soon as humanly possible tomorrow.

Behind the big guns - and we continue to include McLaren - Force India continues to impress, particularly as far as Adrian Sutil is concerned, even if Pitpass sources insist that all is not as it appears.

Sauber is clearly struggling here, with Toro Rosso edging out Williams, which, like McLaren, has much work to do.

Marussia, clearly benefitting from KERS this year, has a number of important updates here this weekend, Jules Bianchi making the very most of them.

Thinking back twelve months, when many were wondering when, rather than if, Felipe Massa might be dropped by Ferrari, it's amazing to think that not only is he being tipped for pole, and even the win here, but some are already wondering whether his return to form is unsettling his illustrious teammate.

In all honesty, pole isn't as vital here as it is at some tracks though it never hurts to be at the front especially with the combination of corners that follows Turn 1.

The lights go green and the while nobody seems eager to get to work there's a marvellous example of Product Placement in the Force India garage as Adrian Sutil waits patiently.

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