Hamilton continues Mercedes' dominating start with third pole of the season at Chinese GP

Lewis Hamilton continued Mercedes' dominant start to the season by capturing pole position at the rainy Chinese Grand Prix on Saturday; his third pole in four races this season.

Hamilton set the fastest time in qualifying at 1 minute, 53.860 seconds at Shanghai International Circuit, ahead of Red Bull drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel in second and third position.

The steady light rain and slippery track raised the prospect of rival teams challenging Mercedes, but Hamilton was well clear of the Red Bulls, and his main competitor — teammate Nico Rosberg — made mistakes on his final two flying laps and qualified fourth.

It was the 34th pole of Hamilton's career, moving him into fourth place on the all-time pole list, one ahead of former world champion Jim Clark and Alain Prost. By moving one clear of Clark, Hamilton now has the most poles of any British driver in F1 history.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso qualified fifth while teammate Kimi Raikkonen was down in a humble 11th.

Williams qualified two drivers in the top 10 — Felipe Massa in sixth and Valtteri Bottas in seventh — a vast improvement for the team after it struggled in wet conditions in qualifying in Australia and Malaysia due to its relative lack of downforce.

Force India's Nico Hulkenberg qualified in eighth, followed by Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne and Lotus' Romain Grosjean, who took his team into third qualifying for the first time this season and will start from 10th.

Both McLaren cars were also knocked out in the second qualifying session for the first time this year. Jenson Button will start from the 12th spot, while Kevin Magnussen will be three places back in 15th.

Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado, meanwhile, did not start qualifying due to an engine problem that cut short his final practice round in the morning.

It's been a tough season and a trying week so far for the Venezuelan, who crashed into the wall on his way into the pits on Friday and also spun his car after looking down briefly to adjust the settings on his steering wheel.

He carried a five-place grid penalty into this Sunday's race for flipping Esteban Gutierrez's Sauber at the Bahrain GP two weeks ago.

Conditions are expected to be better for Sunday's race, with no rain and cool temperatures in the forecast.