Schumacher second; Vettel qualifies in lowly 11th
Nico Rosberg of Mercedes stormed to a career-first pole position for Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, edging out McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and teammate Michael Schumacher.
It was Rosberg's first pole in Formula One racing, with a time of one minute 35.121sec. Hamilton clocked 1:35.626, but will be back in seventh on the grid after earning a penalty for changing his gearbox.
It means the two Germans and two Mercedes of Rosberg and Schumacher, the seven-time World champion, will line up on the front grid together.
There was a major shock, however, with Sebastian Vettel, the two-time reigning World champion, failing to make the third qualifying stage with his surprisingly lacklustre time of 1:36.031. He starts 11th on the grid.
“It went really well and it's a very special feeling,” said Rosberg, 26, who has never been on pole and never won a race.
“We are not quite where we want to be in the races, but we are progressing. The first two races of the season have not gone too well.”
The German could only manage seventh on the grid in the first two races of the season, in Australia and Malaysia, before sliding down the field to end the two races 12th and 13th respectively.
Hamilton, who has said he was relishing starting further back as a result of his five-place grid penalty, admitted he would need to do something special to catch the two Mercedes at a dry but cool Shanghai International Circuit.
“We are in a good position,” said the Briton and 2008 World champion, who took pole position in Melbourne and Sepang.
“The car feels good, but it was tough, for sure,” Hamilton added, congratulating his friend Rosberg.
Schumacher, who came out of retirement in 2010, was full of praise for his younger teammate.
“I said ‘well done' and it's a bit of a surprise,” he said.
“But for me, there's no reason to be unhappy.”
The Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi was fourth fastest and Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen was fifth-quickest, followed by Hamilton's teammate Jenson Button and the Red Bull of Mark Webber.
Felipe Massa was the other notable casualty of the second qualifying round in his clunky Ferrari, while teammate and current championship leader Fernando Alonso was only ninth-fastest.
Starting grid: First row: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), Michael Schumacher (Mercedes); Second row: Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber), Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus-Renault); Third row: Jenson Button (McLaren), Mark Webber (Red Bull); Fourth row: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), Sergio Perez (Sauber); Fifth row: Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), Romain Grosjean (Lotus-Renault).