Championship leader Lewis Hamilton scored his third successive pole position this season after fending off his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg by four hundredths of a second to take P1 at the Shanghai International Circuit.
Hamilton had been the favourite for the top spot after setting the quickest lap in all three practice sessions plus Q2.
His first Q3 run with a time of one minute, 35.782 seconds underlined his status as number one. Rosberg was unable to compete and was three tenths behind.
The gap between the Silver Arrows was reduced to 0.042 seconds in the final Q3 run, set by Rosberg but last season’s runner-up was left feeling frustrated on missing out on P1.
Malaysian Grand Prix winner Sebastian Vettel was nearly a second off Hamilton’s pole time in third position for Ferrari.
That denied the Williams pair of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, which were top-three contenders but ultimately found themselves three tenths and half a second down on Vettel respectively.
They still managed to beat Kimi Raikkonen, who was sixth ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
His Red Bull team-mate Daniil Kvyat failed to reach Q3 and will start the race in P12.
Romain Grosjean was eighth for Lotus, while Pastor Maldonado missed out on Q3 by just 0.007 seconds and will line up in P11.
The most improved team in qualifying was Sauber. Both Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson will the start the Chinese Grand Prix on row five ahead of Toro Rosso.
After scoring his first championship point in the last race, Max Verstappen made a mistake when locking up heavily on his final run. His team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr will share row seven.
McLaren’s encouraging practice times proved deceptive as Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso found themselves out in Q1 and on row nine, just 0.004 seconds apart.
At least McLaren-Honda was within a tenth of the Force Indias. Nico Hulkenberg only got ahead of Button with a final Q1 effort, while Sergio Perez scraped through into Q2 then languished seven tenths off the Toro Rossos.
The Manor-run Marussias were three seconds off the tail of the field but made the 107 per cent target in Q1 so are both clear to start the Chinese Grand Prix, Will Stevens ahead of Roberto Merhi.
So pole position number 41 for Lewis Hamilton. The reigning world champion has serious speed and confidence in the Mercedes this season.
It’s going to be fascinating if his team-mate Nico Rosberg can challenge for race victory but will Sebastian Vettel spoil the party once again, just like Malaysia? We shall find on on race day in China.
Qualifying positions, Chinese Grand Prix:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m35.782s
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m35.824s
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m36.687s
4 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1m36.954s
5 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1m37.143s
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m37.232s
7 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault 1m37.540s
8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Mercedes 1m37.905s
9 Felipe Nasr Sauber-Ferrari 1m38.067s
10 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1m38.158s
11 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Mercedes 1m38.134s
12 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull-Renault 1m38.209s
13 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso-Renault 1m38.393s
14 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso-Renault 1m38.538s
15 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m39.290s
16 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m39.216s
17 Jenson Button McLaren-Honda 1m39.276s
18 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Honda 1m39.280s
19 Will Stevens Manor-Ferrari 1m42.091s
20 Roberto Merhi Manor-Ferrari 1m42.842s