Lewis Hamilton turned in a masterclass in the rain to comfortably beat Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel to pole for the Chinese Grand Prix, with Nico Rosberg only managing fourth.
Hamilton went quickest in the first and third sectors as he posted a 1:53.860, over a second faster than Rosberg and ultimately far quicker than anything anyone would manage. Behind him Ricciardo was unable to get within half a second of Hamilton but, notably, out-qualified Vettel with a blistering penultimate lap. Ricciardo had seemed to struggle throughout the session compared to his team-mate but everything came together on his final runs as he sent another huge message of intent to Vettel. Rosberg may well have locked out the front row with Hamilton but he ran wide at Turn 14 on his penultimate run, before spinning out of the final corner at the end of his last flying lap.
Fernando Alonso took fifth, keeping him well placed to build on his impressive practice form in the race, but team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was the highest profile casualty of Q2 as he could only manage to come home in 11th, with Jenson Button also failing to make it into the final qualifying session. Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas ended a trend of Williams struggling in the wet this season by qualifying sixth and seventh respectively, while Nico Hulkenberg could only manage eighth. Team-mate Sergio Perez, who claimed a podium in Bahrain, was another who failed to emerge from Q2.
Jean-Eric Vergne took a very impressive ninth for Toro Rosso while Romain Grosjean claimed the result of the season for Lotus so far as he made it into Q3 for the first time in 2014, and though he was unable to improve on 10th the team will be confident of challenging for points on Sunday. Team-mate Pastor Maldonado did not make it out of the garage due to a sensor issue from FP3 and will start the race at the discretion of the stewards due to the 107% rule.
After terrible visibility in the morning, conditions had improved slightly for Q2 as most opted for the change to intermediates but grip was still a huge issue, with Perez, Alonso and Vettel all having a moment early on coming through Turn 1. Hamilton set the benchmark early, over a second quicker than Rosberg, but all the action took place at the other end of the timesheets at the end of the session.
Grosjean put Lotus through to Q3 with an impressive lap in the closing minutes, causing Button and Magnussen to fall into the drop zone where they would remain, ending up 12th and 15th respectively. It looked like a Hulkenberg mistake at the final corner would see him miss out on Q3 as well but Raikkonen was unable to improve on 11th as the rain intensified in the final two minutes, meaning his frustrating weekend continued. Vergne took a big personal victory by jumping into Q3 and out-qualifying the Daniil Kvyat, who could only manage 13th, while Perez also dropped out in 16th.
Most drivers started Q1 on wet tyres but as the session went on it became apparent intermediates would be more favourable. This made the final few minutes rather hairy for Raikkonen as he slipped towards the drop zone having been unable to change from wets to intermediates after Adrian Sutil jumped into Q2. But Esteban Gutierrez made a mistake into the final corner which may have cost him a place in Q2, as he could only manage 17th, meaning Raikkonen lived to fight another day.
Kamui Kobayashi led the battle between the Caterham and Marussia cars in 18th, ahead of Jules Bianchi, Marcus Ericsson and Max Chilton. It could have been a memorable Q2 for Bianchi as he was on an absolutely flying lap on the intermediates in the closing stages but he ran well wide at the final turn, managing to avoid making contact with the wall but ultimately missing the chance of beating Grosjean into 16th.