Lewis Hamilton takes pole position for Mercedes while Vettel starts ninth and Webber is forced to the back of the grid.
SHANGHAI, CHINA (APRIL 13, 2013) (FOM) - Lewis Hamilton swept to his first pole position for Mercedes at the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix on Saturday (April 13) with Kimi Raikkonenalongside for Lotus.
In only his third race for the team he joined at the end of last season from McLaren, 2008 world champion Hamilton celebrated the 27th pole of his career at a circuit where he has twice won before.
"An incredible feeling, so happy," said Hamilton. "To have our first pole for some time and I am just ecstatic really. The lap was great, and the team performed well all weekend so far and I really hope we can carry it on to tomorrow."
Teams preserved their tyres for most of the ten minute final qualifying session, with Kimi Raikkonen the first to set a competitive lap time after the clock had reached zero. Others followed but Jenson Button set a very slow time andSebastian Vettel and Nico Huelkenberg set no time at all in the session.
"Second is not too bad, I think it is the best that I have been with the team ever," Raikkonen said afterwards. "Of course we would rather be in first place. But as I said we don't have the speed so I think we are missing the downforce in the middle sector a bit but we will see what we can do tomorrow."
Mercedes, uncompetitive for most of last season, were last on pole a year ago at the same race with eventual winner Nico Rosberg. The German - whose pole was the first by a Mercedes works driver since 1955 - qualified fourth this time.
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso will start third, ahead of Felipe Massa for the first time this season and denying the Brazilian the honour of being the first team mate to out-qualify the Spaniard five races in a row.
Massa will start fifth with Romain Grosjean sixth for Lotus.
"This morning we make some changes and the car is responding well," said Alonso. "I think we have a good set-up for the race as well which is more important than qualifying always. I think tomorrow, if all goes well, I think we should be able to fight for the podium and hopefully with both cars so this is good news so far for the team."
Red Bull's championship leader Sebastian Vettel will line up ninth on the grid after opting to start on the slower but longer-lasting medium tyres, identified by white lettering on the side, rather than the new soft compound, with yellow lettering, used by Hamilton.
Vettel did not set a time in the final session after locking a wheel under braking.
The Australian was 14th fastest but was then sent to the back of the grid as there was insufficient fuel in the car for the mandatory sample to be taken.
McLaren's Jenson Button, whose car was off the pace in the first two races, found himself in the unexpected position of starting ahead of both Red Bulls in eighth place.
There were few thrills in the session as a whole, with the quick-wearing soft tyres creating a situation where drivers opted to preserve their sets for Sunday's race.
The crowd saw no cars at all on the track for the first eight and a half minutes while teams kept the number of laps to the bare minimum.
Starting grid from the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix at Shanghai International Circuit on Sunday
1. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes
8. Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren
16. Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams - Renault
19. Max Chilton (Britain) Marussia - Cosworth
20. Charles Pic (France) Caterham - Renault
21. Giedo van der Garde (Netherlands) Caterham - Renault