Shanghai: Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton has positioned himself as the driver to beat at the Chinese Grand Prix after holding off a strong challenge from teammate Nico Rosberg to claim pole position in qualifying on Saturday.
Hamilton's time of 1 minute, 35.782 seconds was just 0.04 seconds faster than Rosberg.
It was Hamilton's third pole in a row to start the new Formula One season — and his fifth overall at the Shanghai International Circuit.
"I just like the track, I guess it just naturally suits a little bit my driving style as opposed to other circuits and one that I just generally really enjoy driving," he said.
Rosberg was clearly dejected after finishing behind his teammate yet again. When his team told him his final place over the radio, Rosberg replied with an exasperated "Oh, come on guys!"
"It's just four-hundredths and that makes it even more annoying because it's just very, very close," he said.
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who surprisingly beat both Mercedes drivers to win the Malaysian GP two weeks ago, qualified third in qualifying but was nearly 1 second behind Hamilton.
Williams drivers Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas will start fourth and fifth respectively in Sunday's race.
Rounding out the top 10 were Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, Lotus' Romain Grosjean and the two Sauber drivers, Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson.
For the McLaren drivers, who had been upbeat about their team's progress since the Malaysian Grand Prix two weeks ago, it was another early exit in qualifying.
For the third straight race, Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso were eliminated in the first qualifying session, finishing 17th and 18th respectively. They were just 0.2 seconds below the cut line this time, however, which is a closer gap than in the two previous qualifying races.