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As it happened: Qualifying
By Geoff Creighton, Emlyn Hughes and Simon Strang
The live commentary has ended. No further updates will be posted.
05:50 Hello everyone and welcome back to AUTOSPORT Live for continuing coverage and updates from round three of the 2012 FIA Formula 1 world championship - the Chinese Grand Prix.

McLaren moved back to the front this morning in final practice at the Shanghai International Circuit, with Lewis Hamilton topping the timesheet just ahead of team-mate Jenson Button. Nico Rosberg led the Mercedes challenge in third and Friday pacesetter Michael Schumacher ended up fourth.

The 60-minute session concluded without any major issues, but three drivers were perhaps left rueing a lack of pace. Sebastian Vettel struggled to get a clear lap on his soft tyre run and finished up only ninth, but there were long faces at Ferrari. Malaysian Grand Prix winner Fernando Alonso was 15th, some 1.525 seconds off the leading pace, while his team-mate Felipe Massa was 18th and facing a difficult qualifying battle this afternoon.

Hamilton tops final Shanghai practice

05:52 Weather conditions are much improved over yesterday's sessions in the cold. It may turn increasingly cloudy as qualifying wears on, but we expect no rain this afternoon.

Air temperature has climbed through the 20 degree mark and there is a light easterly breeze coming in from the East China Sea.

05:54 Here is how the qualifying battle is looking after two races:
Qualifying head-to-head

Vettel         0 - 2     Webber
Button         0 - 2     Hamilton
Alonso         2 - 0     Massa
Schumacher     2 - 0     Rosberg
Raikkonen      1 - 1     Grosjean
Di Resta       1 - 1     Hulkenberg
Kobayashi      1 - 1     Perez
Ricciardo      2 - 0     Vergne
Maldonado      2 - 0     Senna
Kovalainen     2 - 0     Petrov
De la Rosa     2 - 0     Karthikeyan
Glock          2 - 0     Pic
05:56 Motor racing enthusiasts love to debate and discuss the action on track, and the live forum at the bottom of the screen is your chance to let everyone know your thoughts on events as they unfold at the circuit.

• Who will join the HRT and Marussia drivers on the sidelines at the end of Q1?

• Where will Felipe Massa qualify this afternoon?

• Is the front row a sure thing for McLaren, or can Mercedes and Red Bull offer up a serious challenge?

Tell the world what you think.

Click the SHOW LIVE FORUM link in the red bar at the bottom of your browser window if you'd like to join the debate.

05:57 Track temperature is stable at 26 degrees Celsius with a few minutes to go until the start of the session.

05:59 At Ferrari, Felipe Massa is strapped in and getting ready for action, while further down the pitlane Nico Rosberg is waiting until the last possible moment to put his racing gloves on.

0 min: Qualifying is underway in China.

0 min: No takers in the opening seconds of the session as brinkmanship sets in.

0 min: Finally we hear some movement and it's Paul di Resta who is first out onto the circuit.

1 min: Medium compound tyres for the Scot as he winds his way through the first sector of the lap.

2 min: Karthikeyan also heads out for an early attempt in the HRT.

2 min: Massa is quickly on track using the medium compound rubber. He is looking at an uphill struggle this afternoon with a serious lack of pace.

2 min: Button is on track to bank a time in his McLaren.

2 min: Hulkenberg and Senna join the racetrack, but no sign of immediate movement yet from Mark Webber.

2 min: Di Resta crosses start-finish and begins the first lap of qualifying.

4 min: Di Resta finds himself in some clear space and he gets the ball rolling with a time of 1m38.190s.

4 min: Massa clocks an opening effort of 1m37.964s to head the first set of times.

5 min: McLaren is looking for its 150th pole, but only Button can achieve that record today thanks to the grid penalty for team-mate Hamilton.

5 min: Replays show that di Resta was wide entering Turn 6. He is going on for a second lap.

5 min: Hulkenberg takes over at the front with a lap of 1m37.945s.

5 min: Hamilton does look strong today and is already quickest through the first part of the lap.

5 min: Senna is next to top the early runners with a lap of 1m37.851s.

6 min: Button sets a current benchmark of 1m37.165s.

6 min: Maldonado moves into second spot behind Button with a time of 1m37.335s.

6 min: Hamilton comfortably tops his team-mate, and the rest of the field, with a new time to beat of 1m36.763s.

6 min: Vettel, Webber, Schumacher and Rosberg are all on track now and getting up to speed.

7 min: Vettel crosses the line on medium compound tyres and starts his first qualifying lap.

7 min: Raikkonen comes around in a strong third place, ahead of Perez in the Sauber, which is providing good speed down the long straight here.

7 min: Vettel has Vergne and then Karthikeyan a few seconds ahead of him on the road.

7 min: Kobayashi splits the McLaren pair with a 1m36.863s lap on the harder rubber.

8 min: Schumacher is also on the medium compound as he begins his first hot lap.

8 min: Vettel completes his first attempt and moves into third with a time of 1m36.911s.

9 min: Button looked set for improvement on a further attempt with warmed tyres but has backed off in the latter part of the lap.

9 min: Rosberg completes a slow lap. He was mired in traffic.

9 min: Webber tops the list with a time of 1m36.682s.

9 min: Massa has slipped to 14th and will need more pace to be sure of escaping the cut.

9 min: Schumacher moves into fifth spot with a lap of 1m36.922s for Mercedes.

10 min: Rosberg passes Vettel on the straight as he tries to get a clean lap in this time around.

10 min: Rosberg posts 1m36.999s and moves into sixth place.

11 min: Vettel completed just one timed lap on the medium compound and he's immediately back into the pits.

11 min: Button improves to 1m36.746s, just fractions off Webber, as he takes advantage of good grip from the medium compound on his fifth lap.

11 min: Webber heads the pack so far with Button second, Hamilton third, Kobayashi fourth, Vettel fifth and Schumacher in sixth position.

12 min: All 24 drivers have posted a representative time on the board with Vergne, Kovalainen, Petrov, Glock, Pic, de la Rosa and Karthikeyan in the dropzone.

13 min: Alonso is 11th in his Ferrari, some seven tenths off the leading pace and may need to run again to counter the threat of soft tyre runs.

13 min: Maldonado and Kovalainen are already being investigated by the stewards for impeding other drivers in this first segment of qualifying.

14 min: Massa begins a flying lap on soft tyres. He is currently down in 16th but should benefit from the softer rubber.

14 min: Schumacher continued round and improved with a lap of 1m36.797s to slot into fourth position a short time ago.

15 min: Massa is setting the pace through the first two sectors, which may worry the leading runners who have set times on the harder tyres.

15 min: Ricciardo is 17th and having to look over his shoulder in the other Toro Rosso. He leaves the pits to start a final run.

15 min: Massa ends up on top of the times in 1m36.556s.

16 min: Alonso is also on track with softs, as are Perez and Grosjean.

16 min: Hulkenberg is 16th but briefly goes quickest in the first sector of the lap. The fight for 17th could be an all-Toro Rosso affair here.

16 min: Raikkonen is on a quick lap but remains on the harder tyres.

16 min: Button has chosen to head out on soft tyres.

17 min: Di Resta leaps up into second spot with a lap of 1m36.639s.

17 min: Raikkonen grabs seventh fastest with a quick lap on medium tyres, while Grosjean betters the pack with a 1m36.343s on softs.

17 min: Hulkenberg improves to 13th with 1m36.922s and Alonso has slipped down to 16th.

18 min: Alonso has slipped to 16th but is on a much better lap using softs.

18 min: Maldonado now jumps into second spot with 1m36.528s.

18 min: Alonso springs all the way up to the top of the times in 1m36.292s.

18 min: No move from Rosberg and Vettel in 14th and 15th places. They are playing the game and think they could be safe.

18 min: Perez is the next man to escape the drop by going all the way to the top of the order. 1m36.198s is the new best.

19 min: Vergne is still 18th and fighting his team-mate. Vergne improves with 1m37.714s but remains in 18th spot.

19 min: Button has pitted his McLaren after a lap to perhaps put a heat cycle on a set of soft rubber.

19 min: The flag is out on Q1.

06:20 Ricciardo comes back into the pits with Vergne only having one last crack to get into Q2.

06:20 Vergne is coming down the straight but has Glock in front of him at Turn 14.

06:21 Vergne pits the Toro Rosso and he is eliminated.

06:21 Petrov completes an improved lap but doesn't displace team-mate Kovalainen by a thousandth of a second. The pair end up 19th and 20th.

06:22 Karthikeyan finishes his last effort but is not able to better team-mate de la Rosa. The Indian remains in last position.

06:22 Kovalainen improves with his own final attempt but it isn't enough to pull the Caterham out of the final six.

06:22 The first period of qualifying has been completed. The following seven drivers are eliminated:

18) Vergne
19) Kovalainen
20) Petrov
21) Glock
22) Pic
23) de la Rosa
24) Karthikeyan.

06:24 Jean Eric Vergne is eliminated after not managing to get a good lap together in Q1. Once Hulkenberg improved the battle for 17th very quickly became an internal fight between the two Toro Rosso drivers.

06:24 Perez ended the segment on top of a jumbled timesheet, with leading contenders conserving soft rubber and clocking times on the mediums.

06:25 Mercedes and Red Bull clearly had an eye on the times that the Toro Ross pair were able to deliver and were not under any great threat.

06:26 Under a second covers the times so far from the entire Q2 pack, setting things up for a competitive second segment.

06:26 The remaining 17 drivers now face the next challenge - they have 15 minutes to try and secure a slot in the top-ten shootout.

0 min: Q2 is underway.

0 min: As with the first segment, there is no immediate rush onto the circuit.

1 min: Kobayashi is the first man to head out of the pits.

1 min: Perez and Raikkonen also head out.

2 min: Nico Rosberg heads out for a run in his Mercedes.

2 min: Di Resta, Schumacher and Senna join the racetrack.

3 min: Alonso joins the early runners, with soft tyres now the obvious choice of the field.

3 min: The stewards are being kept busy this afternoon. Senna and de la Rosa are also under investigation for impeding during the first segment.

3 min: Rosberg starts a qualifying lap using soft tyres.

4 min: Only Grosjean is now in the pits as drivers work around the first flying attempts.

4 min: Extreme backing up at Turn 14 as Ricciardo, Hulkenberg and Vettel fight for track position as they look to begin qualifying laps.

5 min: Raikkonen tops the first rush of times from Kobayashi

5 min: Rosberg tops the pile with a time of 1m35.725s on soft tyres.

5 min: Alonso sets a slow 1m36.710s first attempt and will need more if the Malaysia winner wants to make the final 10.

5 min: Schumacher moves into second place, less than one-tenth shy of his team-mate.

6 min: Vettel goes sixth with his first effort - 1m36.047s.

6 min: Hamilton goes third to the Mercedes pair, with Button sure to be disappointed with seventh.

6 min: Mark Webber is only ninth after posting 1m36.509s and he will catch Hulkenberg on this next lap as well.

7 min: Massa can only manage a 1m37.521s after a lock up and is slowest of the 16 drivers to set a time so far.

8 min: Vettel comes round on soft tyres to complete a second timed lap but does not improve. He remains in sixth.

8 min: No improvement either for Webber, who stays ninth.

8 min: Grosjean abandons his first flying lap after running very wide in the long Turn 13.

9 min: The Red Bull drivers have the circuit to themselves and Vettel is quickest in the middle sector of the lap.

9 min: Vettel completes that tour and improves slightly with 1m36.034s, but remains in sixth.

9 min: Webber moves up one spot to eighth with a time of 1m36.209s.

11 min: Hamilton reports his final sector "wasn't that great" which is the part of the lap where he is losing time to the double DRS-aided Mercedes

11 min: Massa is back on track in an attempt to improve on 16th.

12 min: Grosjean has yet to post a time on the board and remains in the pits.

12 min: Kobayashi, currently fifth, and Perez, ninth, are back out to try and secure a Q3 double for Sauber.

12 min: Button is forced to run again on soft tyres.

13 min: Maldonado, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Senna, di Resta, Masa and Grosjean are all in the dropzone.

13 min: All of a sudden Mark Hughes's predictions in his fascinating GP Form Guide are starting to look a bit sharp...

Merc for pole, but McLaren remains race favourite

13 min: McLaren clearly feels under threat from behind and sends Hamilton for a further attempt.

14 min: Many of the drivers are back out there for a final effort. Maldonado in 11th is set to improve and break into the top 10.

14 min: Alonso springs up to sixth for the moment, while Massa manages a current 10th place.

14 min: Grosjean is on track and has just one attempt to set a time.

14 min: Senna goes 11th with 36.289s but team-mate Maldonado takes that spot away from him seconds later.

14 min: The flag is out but the laps continue.

06:42 Massa is surviving in 10th as the Williams and Force India drivers come at his time.

06:42 Perez goes third fastest for Sauber, demoting Massa out of the top 10.

06:42 Webber is down to 10th place and is on a much better lap this time round.

06:43 Button has slipped to ninth but is on a better lap. Hamilton has pitted his McLaren.

06:43 Button does improve but it is only enough for eighth fastest.

06:43 There looks to be no threat from those behind Webber and the Australian is safe ... but he goes quickest anyway with 1m35.700s.

06:43 Vettel is in the dropzone and needs to improve here ...

06:43 Grosjean does pull a time out of the bag and makes it through in seventh.

06:44 Vettel crosses the line and it isn't good enough. The world champion is eliminated!

06:44 With that shock for Vettel, Alonso just scrapes through in 10th. Massa is eliminated in 12th.

06:44 An amazing sequence of laps in the final stages from Perez, Kobayashi and Webber all helped push Vettel out of the top 10 and he couldn't respond.

06:45 The second period of qualifying has been completed. The following seven drivers are eliminated:

11) Vettel
12) Massa
13) Maldonado
14) Senna
15) di Resta
16) Hulkenberg
17) Ricciardo.

06:45 A mighty tight top ten, with amazingly just three tenths of a second covering the pole shootout drivers.

06:47 Vettel fails to make the shootout by 0.049s. A big name was going either way, as Alonso was next in the firing line.

06:48 Maldonado and Senna ended up 13th and 14th and were three-tenths off making the cut in the end. Progress halted for Williams this weekend.

06:49 Massa was perhaps closer than might have been expected but he joins Vettel on the sidelines as the rest prepare for Q3.

06:50 So these are the 10 drivers that have made it to the final shootout:

Mark Webber
Jenson Button
Lewis Hamilton
Fernando Alonso
Michael Schumacher
Nico Rosberg
Kimi Raikkonen
Romain Grosjean
Kamui Kobayashi
Sergio Perez.

0 min: The battle for pole is underway.

0 min: Raikkonen is first out in his Lotus.

0 min: Schumacher and Rosberg are quickly onto the circuit for Mercedes.

1 min: Hamilton heads out for a first run in his McLaren. Button remains in the garage after using up a set of softs to make it out of Q2.

1 min: Nico Rosberg is advised to generate tyre temperature as the track surface has cooled, thanks to increasing cloud cover.

2 min: Rosberg, on soft tyres, is into his first attempt.

2 min: No move yet from Webber or the Sauber pair and one run begins to look like their strategy.

3 min: Rosberg tears down the straight and into Turn 14 as he comes towards the end of his first effort.

3 min: Raikkonen sets the first marker at a 1m35.898s.

3 min: Rosberg posts 1m35.121s to go quicker than Raikkonen.

4 min: Schumacher places third behind Rosberg and Hamilton with a time of 1m35.691s.

4 min: Hamilton can only split the Mercedes pair with his first attempt, some half a second off Rosberg's strong marker.

4 min: Webber joins the racetrack for Red Bull.

5 min: Rosberg and Schumacher are touring back to the pits and will get ready for a final fight to take the front row.

6 min: Perez joins the racetrack, leaving Kobayashi in the pits.

6 min: Webber starts his one and only run on soft tyres.

6 min: Webber is one-tenth down on the leading pace through the first sector of the lap.

6 min: @OfficialSF1Team happy with it's lot so far...: "Here we go - new set of soft tyres for #Checo and #Kamui! So far a great performance of both drivers! 4 minutes to go!"

7 min: Kobayashi joins team-mate Perez on track for Sauber, while Webber is off the pace in the middle sector.

7 min: Button and Alonso head out for a single attempt, while Hamilton goes again to see if he can keep the pressure on the Mercedes pair.

7 min: Webber crosses the line and posts 1m36.290s to slot in fifth so far.

8 min: Schumacher is back on track but no move from Rosberg. He climbs out of the car and will wait for the rest to challenge him.

9 min: Perez is coming towards the end of his effort on soft tyres ... he goes sixth with 1m36.524s.

9 min: Under a minute left on the clock as the contenders line up to challenge Rosberg with a final flying lap.

9 min: Kobayashi is midway through his lap and Schumacher begins his final assault.

07:00 The flag is out but the grid is still to be set in China.

07:00 Schumacher is more than two-tenths off Rosberg's time in the first sector of the lap.

07:00 Hamilton is slower than Rosberg's benchmark through the first part of the lap.

07:00 Kobayashi comes through in a great 1m35.784s and grabs fourth!

07:00 Kobayashi grabs a great fourth for Sauber, making Raikkonen fifth with Button sixth.

07:01 Schumacher has backed off and will not improve on third.

07:01 Hamilton has backed out of his attempt and will end up second on the timesheet and seventh on the grid.

07:01 Nico Rosberg claims pole position for tomorrow's Chinese Grand Prix!

07:02 Grosjean aborts a final lap and will start 10th.

07:02 It's the German's maiden pole position and there is jubilation in the Mercedes camp.

07:03 Hamilton ends up second on the timesheet but had no answer to Rosberg's first qualifying lap and will take that five place drop.

07:04 Schumacher is third in qualifying with Kobayashi fourth and set to start an amazing third on tomorrow's grid.

07:05 Raikkonen was fifth in the classification with Button sixth, Webber seventh, Perez eighth, Alonso ninth and Grosjean 10th.

07:05 So once the penalty for Hamilton is accounted for we have a Mercedes lockout on the front row and the exciting Kobayashi on row two.

07:06 It is without doubt a stunning grid and there will be plenty to look for throughout the field tomorrow.

07:07 So Mercedes' star shines on Saturday but will race victory follow? Join us tomorrow for all the race action from Shanghai.

Session length: 60 minutes
Overcast High Temp: 21°C / 70°F
Track: Dry
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Friday 13 Apr Start GMT
 Friday practice one 01:55
 Friday practice two 05:55
Saturday 14 Apr
 Saturday practice 02:55
 Qualifying 05:50
Sunday 15 Apr
 The Chinese Grand Prix 06:45