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As it happened: Final Practice and Qualifying
By Geoff Creighton and Emlyn Hughes
The live commentary has ended. No further updates will be posted.
02:30 Hello everyone and welcome to Live as we continue to bring you blow-by-blow coverage from the 2008 Chinese Grand Prix.

Today we will bring you coverage from the third and final practice session and then the vital qualifying hour for tomorrow's race. The schedule looks like this:

02:30 - 03:00 The breakfast bar: Ease your way into Saturday with a look back over Friday's action at Shanghai International Circuit.
03:00 - 04:00 Live commentary and updates from the final practice session.
04:00 - 06:00 Continuing track updates, as well as weather status, and any breaking news from the circuit.
06:00 - 07:00 Live commentary and updates from the qualifying session.
07:00 - 07:30 End of day reaction and round-up, where we go from here, and what we can look forward to tomorrow.
07:30 Live commentary ends for today.

02:32 You can join in the fun by chatting live with other forum members.

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.

02:35 A dry day is in prospect for the drivers as they practice and qualify ahead of tomorrow's race.

This morning we have largely clear skies and no hint of rain, although the sunshine is hazy due to the ever-present smog. The air temperature is currently 25 degrees Celsius with the track surface at 24 degrees.

Conditions are expected to stay reasonably bright for the qualifying session later. However, all this could change tomorrow, as the showers that we have mentioned all week are still forecast.

Later this afternoon following the conclusion of qualifying, we will take a detailed look at the prospects for Sunday in the weather section of Live.

Lewis Hamilton rounds turn 16 during Friday Practice02:40 The Chinese Grand Prix weekend began yesterday with two 90-minute sessions of practice for the teams and drivers to conduct set-up work and gather data on tyre performance, as well as running with varying levels of fuel as they prepared for Sunday's race.

Championship contenders Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa and Robert Kubica were the focus of attention for many, including us, as they worked through their various programmes.

Friday morning dawned dry and reasonably bright, with dusty track conditions through the first half of the session. Grip was at a premium, and this was demonstrated by several drivers who struggled to put the power down cleanly on the exit of some of the slow corners - particularly the chicane at turns 11 and 12.

Lewis Hamilton set the quickest time with 1:35.630. His main challenger for the world title Felipe Massa was almost four-tenths of a second adrift in second place, with Robert Kubica almost nine-tenths of a second back in fifth place, behind Finns Kimi Raikkonen and Heikki Kovalainen.

Hamilton leads first session in China

In the afternoon it was a case of more of the same, as Hamilton posted the quickest time again with 1:35.750, ahead of Renault duo Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet. A rash of late laps on softer tyres slightly distorted the order in the final stages of the session, with Jarno Trulli placing fourth and Mark Webber moving up to fifth in the Red Bull RB4.

Felipe Massa wound up sixth in the first of the Ferraris - almost three-quarters of a second down on Hamilton's flyer early in the session on the harder tyre. Robert Kubica ended up 12th in the BMW Sauber.

Hamilton also tops second practice

Sebastien Bourdais, Friday Practice02:45 Scuderia Toro Rosso again showed good pace during practice on Friday, demonstrating that they are in the hunt for points again this weekend.

However, the order between the drivers was not as one would normally expect, with Sebastien Bourdais finishing ahead of German hot-shot Sebastian Vettel in both sessions.

The Frenchman has been driving extremely well of late, as he looks to continue with the Toro Rosso team in 2009. Netting just two points in the last four races does not do justice to his improvement in form.

Bourdais had never driven at the Shanghai International Circuit until yesterday, therefore had to spend some time learning the track. He went on to complete 64 laps of the track in practice, but then, starting his 65th lap, he spun wildly at turn one, ending his day's work. He spoke about the incident.

"It's okay," said Bourdais. "We just had a spin so it's not the end of the day. We had a good day, especially since I didn't know the race track to start with so I was quite quickly on the pace and the car seems okay. I mean it is going to be very tight again when you look at the classification, there is a big pack of cars within two or three tenths. We are going to need to put it all together tomorrow.

"We're still trying to figure it out (the set-up) but as usual you need a balanced car. It's not easy to achieve because it's quite aggressive on the tyres here with all these very long corners and you need to get the balance right regardless of these characteristics, so it's a bit demanding."

In 2007, Toro Rosso scored a memorable fourth place in changeable conditions thanks a brilliant drive from current teammate Sebastian Vettel.

Bourdais took comfort from that performance, and hopes for more of the same this weekend.

"I don't think last year was a lucky race - they pulled it off," he said. "They earned their result on pace and it was no luck involved in this. Sebastian (Vettel) was really quick on inters and was on the right strategy and Tonio (Liuzzi) was quick as well so hopefully we can repeat that this year."

Lewis Hamilton02:50 World Championship leader Lewis Hamilton thrust his name to the top of the timesheet in both sessions of free practice yesterday in Shanghai, and declared himself "very, very happy" with the performance of his McLaren Mercedes MP4-23.

Hamilton completed 56 laps of the 3.387 mile circuit, setting a benchmark of 1:35.630 in the morning, following that up with a slightly slower 1:35.750 early in the afternoon session.

Later on, the Briton spoke to a packed media scrum about his day's work.

"I think with the harder tyre and the medium tyre I'm able to extract quite a lot out of them," said Hamilton. "I think today was probably one of the best Fridays I've had so I'm very, very happy with it.

"You can never expect them (Ferrari) to be far away because they are a great team, but they are obviously having some problems. We'll see tomorrow. Tomorrow's another day and we'll continue to work on our job and try to continue being faster."

Meanwhile, Felipe Massa was also talking a good game, as he bids to overhaul a five point deficit to Hamilton in the points race this weekend, with just two rounds remaining.

Felipe Massa, Friday practice"For sure, he (Hamilton) will be very competitive like always," said Massa. "Lewis show a good pace, but I think everything he show today, not sure if it represents one hundred percent what is going to be tomorrow or Sunday. I think we are in the right direction. I think we are competitive and I think we did a good job today finding the balance, the right tuning for qualifying and especially for the race."

The Ferrari driver, alluding to a possible difference in fuel load, may or may not be correct. Time will tell throughout today and tomorrow which of these two have their sums right, but the numbers from Friday afternoon's practice session do tell a story.

Taking the second session as a baseline for racing performance, Hamilton was able to leave the pits and immediately string together a succession of laps in the mid-to-high 1:36s, interestingly with almost negligible drop-off in performance. On the other side, Massa's pace on his quickest set of laps was consistently in the high end of the 1:36s bracket, and crucially with a noticeable drop-off in performance after the first lap, as the tyres appeared to grain lightly for a time.

It is also worth noting Massa's stunning pace in Fuji. As he was recovering back through the field during the race, the Brazilian put in a spectacular burst just prior to the incident with Sebastien Bourdais, setting numerous fastest laps in succession, demonstrating supreme raw pace on a low fuel load that Hamilton could not match.

Hamilton continued on to speak about the tyre performance and the characteristics of this challenging circuit in China.

"It's quite aggressive because you have some very long corners," he said. "Especially you have the first sector, turn two and three, then you have seven, eight and nine, ten and thirteen. Very long corners, a lot of strong demand on the tyres so it is very important to have a good balance, not too much sliding, but it's a hard tyre so it's definitely the right tyre for this circuit I think."

As for the championship battle anything can happen, but the fact remains that Hamilton can clinch the title here in Shanghai this weekend if he wins the race and Massa comes home fifth or lower. Despite this, Lewis displayed a cool attitude to the prospect.

"I'm not looking at winning it (the championship) here," said the points leader. "I think last year I was thinking it would have been easy to have won it in this race, but I'm looking at two races and it's important that we have a strong car as always."

Qualifying will of course be important to both men this afternoon, and the smart money is on Hamilton and Massa occupying the front row of the grid.

02:52 Once again it is a pretty sparse crowd on hand in Shanghai for the practice session. They await the start of the hour's running in the warm and sunny conditions.

02:55 There are five minutes to go before the third and final practice session begins in Shanghai.

02:56 The track temperature is matching the ambient of 26 Celsius.

02:59 David Coulthard is ready to go out in his Red Bull for an installation lap at the start of the session.

02:59 Another tight Saturday morning session is expected as the teams run different programmes this morning: some teams will spend time looking at qualifying performance, while others will spend much of the session looking more at the race itself.

0 min: The practice session is underway.

0 min: Giancarlo Fisichella, leads the cars out onto the circuit this morning.

1 min: Many of the drivers are choosing to perform a practice start at the end of the pitlane.

2 min: Only Lewis Hamilton and the two Ferraris have yet to come out as the other 17 drivers continue round.

2 min: Fernando Alonso has the softer tyre on his Renault for this opening lap of the day and he runs slightly wide at the turn six hairpin on to the run-off area.

3 min: Lewis Hamilton is out on his installation lap with the harder tyres on the McLaren.

Only the pair of Ferraris have yet to emerge, a standard practice for the team.

4 min: The drivers come back into the pits at the completion of their installation laps.

Race weekend engines and gearboxes are now in play, and to keep up with the status of each driver's multi-race components you can do this by clicking on the parts tab of the infobox.

4 min: Kazuki Nakajima and Nico Rosberg have crossed the start-finish line and begin a second lap.

Yesterday both of them performed a two-lap installation process.

6 min: Nakajima pits, as does Rosberg. Williams taking a leaf out of Honda's book by sending their cars out for two laps to make sure that all systems on the cars are working properly.

6 min: Kimi Raikkonen hops into his Ferrari F2008 to begin preparations for his first run of the day.

7 min: Felipe Massa is chatting with race engineer Rob Smedley and is clearly in no hurry to get out on the track.

8 min: Kazuki Nakajima wastes no time in coming back out onto the circuit again, having driven straight through the pitlane.

The Japanese comes back into the pits having completed three laps of the circuit, but not having set a time yet.

8 min: Rosberg similarly drove straight through the pits and back onto the track. He pits at the end of his third lap.

11 min: Fernando Alonso breaks the silence and heads out onto the racetrack.

Jarno Trulli joins him in the Toyota.

12 min: The hard compound tyre is the choice taken by Renault for Alonso's first run of the day.

Timo Glock and Nelson Piquet also come out onto the circuit.

13 min: Alonso crosses the line to start the first timed lap of the day. Noticeable understeer in turns one and two for the Spaniard.

14 min: Fernando has a clear track and the whole backstraight to himself as he comes through to complete the first lap of the day in 1:38.477.

14 min: Jarno Trulli slots in second with his first effort of 1:39.070.

15 min: Giancarlo Fisichella runs wide at the tight right-hander at turn six, but continues round on this run of laps.

15 min: Timo Glock and then Nelson Piquet both take the top spot as the early laps continue.

16 min: Fernando Alonso's second timed lap is a 1:38.400 which puts him second to Piquet, with Glock behind them in third place.

17 min: Many of the cars are now heading out, including the Ferraris of Raikkonen and Massa.

18 min: Piquet improves on his current benchmark time, lowering the bar to 1:37.438. The Brazilian is using the softer tyres.

Meantime, his teammate Fernando Alonso runs wide at turn six and onto the extra tarmac area. He continues round and pits at the end of the lap.

19 min: Heikki Kovalainen starts his day on the hard tyre and slots in seventh after a poor end to his first flying lap.

19 min: Nelson Piquet leads the times with 1:37.349 after 19 minutes of the session, with the Toyota duo Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli second and third. Fernando Alonso is fourth and back in the pits following his first run.

19 min: Kimi Raikkonen clocks a 1:38.008 on the harder tyre for third quickest at the moment.

20 min: Lewis Hamilton joins the majority of the field now out on a busy track.

21 min: Timo Glock takes the fastest time away from elson Piquet with a lap of 1:37.294.

David Coulthard goes third in the Red Bull, just under half-a-second behind Glock's time.

22 min: Heikki Kovalainen sets the fastest first sector of the session but locks up his left front at turn 11. Despite that, he tops the order with a 1:37.079.

22 min: Robert Kubica completes his first timed lap of the day. It is 1:38.193 and he is currently in ninth position.

23 min: Lewis Hamilton immediately takes the quickest time as he starts his run with a 1:37.077, fractions quicker than his teammate.

24 min: Felipe Massa continues his run and moves forward with a 1:36.983 to go quickest at the moment as the times continue to improve.

25 min: Kubica is set for an improvement on his next lap, and yes ... the Pole moves up from 10th to ninth with 1:37.777. He is 0.794 seconds away from the pace of Massa and Hamilton.

25 min: Sebastien Bourdais goes fastest of all in the Toro Rosso with a lap of 1:36.860.

26 min: Hamilton continues a run of improving lap times to drop Bourdais from the top spot with a new best of 1:36.669.

27 min: Robert Kubica has come back into the pits after a run of five laps featuring a lap out of the pits, three timed laps and a back back into the pitlane.

28 min: Felipe Massa improves his time to a 1:36.961 as the teams evaluate a run of laps on the harder tyre.

28 min: Lewis Hamilton has had a moment in the pit lane ...

29 min: Sebastian Vettel moves up to eighth place with a time of 1:37.298, which is six tenths of a second slower than his teammate Sebastien Bourdais.

29 min: Hamilton overshot the tight turn in the pit lane that saw him out of the Chinese Grand Prix last year. He eventually reversed the McLaren out of the escape road and navigated the corner at a slower speed.

32 min: At BMW, Robert Kubica is giving his thoughts to his race engineer following that first run of three timed laps.

He says that the braking stability is not fantastic - similar to yesterday afternoon. His race engineer tells him that they will go down on the rear (rideheight) and try and get more stability on braking that way, enabling Robert to feel the car better as he is braking into the corners around this tricky circuit.

32 min: Many of the cars are now in the pits as they ponder the results from the first run of laps.

33 min: Rubens Barrichello demonstrates qualifying pace and vaults up the list to third place in the Honda. It is a short run for the Brazilian who is back into the pits.

Lewis Hamilton remains on top with Sebastien Bourdais second, Barrichello third and Felipe Massa in fourth position.

34 min: Nelson Piquet slots his Renault in seventh quickest as he runs on the harder tyre.

36 min: Sebastien Bourdais reports on the team radio that his car is not too bad, with just a slight lack of grip in the slow speed corners. He is another who is having some difficulty with stability of the car under braking, and a lack of traction powering out of the bends.

37 min: The track temperature continues to rise as the sunshine warms the Shanghai International Circuit. The asphalt is now up to 33 Celsius.

37 min: Jenson Button comes out on the harder tyre and moves up the order to 11th in the Honda with a lap of 1:37.415.

His hard tyres were visibly starting to grain up as he completed the lap.

38 min: Heikki Kovalainen is on track again in the McLaren with the harder tyre on the wheels. He sets the fastest first and second sectors of the lap en route to the quickest time of the session - 1:36.587.

39 min: Hamilton and Raikkonen join the circuit for another run.

40 min: Fernando Alonso has sliipped right down the order to 18th position, but has just left the pits for his third run of the morning.

41 min: Kovalainen continues to set the pace with a new fastest lap of the day in 1:36.571.

Hamilton is also running the harder tyre and knocks his teammate off the top spot with a lap of 1:36.416.

43 min: Kimi Raikkonen remains 12th after another lap on the harder tyre very close to his current best time.

43 min: Mark Webber has pulled up with huge smoke from the Red Bull ...

44 min: The Australian pulls off the track with smoke billowing from the back of the car and climbs out.

46 min: Webber stands disappointingly looking at the back of the car. Replays show that the engine is the most likely cause and failed spectacularly on the back straight while the RB4 was at top speed, approaching the braking area for turn 14.

48 min: Fernando Alonso completed a four lap run in the Renault, but was not able to improve on his time of 1:38.012. He remains down the field in 18th position.

49 min: Giancarlo Fisichella improves to 17th position in the Force India, with a time of 1:37.964, dropping Alonso down a place to 19th.

49 min: As we approach the final ten minutes, many cars are in the pits ahead of a final run on the softer tyre.

53 min: Down at Ferrari, the team are swapping the nose and front wing on Kimi Raikkonen's car, presumably to one with slightly different wing settings.

53 min: Timo Glock improves to ninth position in the Toyota with a lap of 1:37.053. His teammate Jarno Trulli jumps ahead of Glock to eighth with 1:36.964.

Both are using the harder tyre for this run of improving laps.

54 min: Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen head out for the final practice run.

54 min: Jenson Button has moved up to sixth place following a short run in the Honda. He pits a lap later.

55 min: Hamilton has the softer tyre on his McLaren as he crosses the line to begin a timed lap.

55 min: Mark Webber has made it back to the paddock and is walking slowly towards the Red Bull garage.

57 min: Hamilton is fractions up on his previous best time as he comes down the long straight and through the final complex.

He's slightly wide in the final corner but extends his advantage with a time of 1:36.135.

57 min: With just a few minutes left in the session, the McLarens lead the way with Lewis Hamilton ahead of Heikki Kovalainen. Sebastien Bourdais is third, Nelson Piquet is fourth with the Hondas of Barrichello and Button fifth and sixth following their qualifying simulation runs.

57 min: Robert Kubica leaps up the list to second quickest behind Lewis Hamilton with a lap of 1:36.150 set using the softer tyre.

58 min: Heikki Kovalainen is now third quickest with his best lap of the session on the softer tyre.

58 min: Every driver is on the circuit as we enter the last two minutes of the session, with the exception of the unfortunate Mark Webber whose Red Bull blew up a few minutes ago.

59 min: The Ferraris of Massa and Raikkonen are now on their soft tyre runs.

59 min: Nick Heidfeld goes fastest of all in the BMW Sauber, with a time of 1:36.061.

Hamilton is second with Kubica third, Kovalainen fourth and Nico Rosberg up to fifth place.

60 min: The session has ended. Cars that have already started a lap may complete it.

04:00 Massa sets a 1:36.842 for 11th on the softer tyre lap.

04:00 Fernando Alonso is on his last lap, and the Spaniard - using the softer tyre - moves up to 15th fastest with 1:36.996.

04:02 Raikkonen's best lap of the day is a 1:36.901 and he slots in just behind Massa for 13th in the classification.

04:03 The cars trundle round to the grid for another round of practice starts.

04:05 Having performed their starts, the drivers are now on their way back into the pits.

04:06 Rubens Barrichello is the last driver to make it back to the pits, leaving the track quiet again following the busy hour of action.

04:07 Nick Heidfeld is fastest of all this morning with a late lap of 1:36.061 set using soft tyres.Lewis Hamilton was second - just 0.074 seconds behind the German, with Heidfeld's teammate Robert Kubica third. Heikki Kovalainen was fourth, Jarno Trulli fifth and Nico Rosberg in sixth.

Felipe Massa finished the session well down the order in 12th, three-quarters of a second off the leading pace.

04:09 Mark Webber's smoky demise from the practice session could cost the Red Bull driver a ten-place grid penalty if the team are forced to change his Renault engine.

The two-race power plants are installed ahead of the final practice session and Webber's motor had already completed the Japanese Grand Prix.

Webber's team opted to use their penalty-free 'joker' engine change at the Italian Grand Prix so the Australian will face a penalty if the engine was the cause of his retirement from the session.

04:12 The session report and classification is now available:

Heidfeld fastest in final China practice

Robert Kubica04:31 Robert Kubica's morning featured some problems that his BMW team tried to remedy throughout the session, before going for a short run at the end of practice.

Following his first run, the Pole mentioned to his race engineer that he felt a lack of stability at the rear under braking. The set-up adjustment to that was lowering the ride height.

Later, while attention was focussed on Mark Webber's smoky retirement from the session, Robert was in the garage and less than happy about the set-up of his F1.08.

"Every time we go softer from yesterday (suspension settings), the traction is getting worse and worse, so maybe we should go in another direction - I'm just guessing. Maybe going stiffer will be better ..."

To that point in the session (43 minutes), Kubica was down on the other two championship contenders, Hamilton and Massa, by three-quarters of a second.

With time pressing on, the work for the race had to end there with issues still clearly hampering Kubica's efforts. The team then looked towards qualifying simulation runs in the last 10 minutes of the session, and Robert went out first on the softer tyres and posted a much improved 1:36.150. Moments later his teammate Nick Heidfeld clocked a 1:36.051 - the fastest time of the session, also on the softer tyre.

Qualifying will come and go later this afternoon as Kubica tries to keep in touch with Hamilton and Massa, but his main concern is clearly for the race, with his radio conversations hinting at set-up issues and a car that is not as he would like it.

04:47 On track, the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia are out for a qualifying session ahead of the 10th race of their season tomorrow.

Support action in between final practice and qualifying is never popular with the Formula One teams as the harder rubber used by the Porsche tin-tops tends to alter the grip levels on the circuit.

05:30 An interesting qualifying session lies ahead and tensions run high with the world championships on the line.

Ferrari have yet to demonstrate a particularly stellar pace and have either been practicing with significant fuel load in the cars or have yet to get the best out of the selection of hard tyres at this circuit. The former seems likely based on the normal run of form.

Lewis Hamilton stormed to pole in Japan with an excellent lap in the Mclaren while Felipe Massa admitted that he struggled to get the best out of his tyres in the decisive final phase of qualifying. A repeat could be possible today, but the shootout for pole will, as ever, be a case of getting clean laps together and minimising the small mistakes that cost fractions of a second here and there.

The session will be dry as warm conditions continue at the circuit with hazy sunshine. The ever-increasing track temperature will certainly be welcomed in the Ferrari garage.

05:42 The breeze has reduced throughout the day and is now only gently fluttering the large Chinese flag in the paddock. The wind is unlikely to be available as an explanation for poor laps in the upcoming session.

05:52 Mark Webber will face a ten-place grid penalty as the team have been forced to change his engine after it failed spectacularly in practice this morning.

Webber used up his penalty-free 'joker' for a precautionary engine change at the Italian Grand Prix so the Australian is unable to avoid a penalty in China.

05:55 There are five minutes remaining before the qualifying battle in Shanghai begins.

05:57 The track temperature is 35 Celsius to start the session in a pleasant 28 degree ambient.

05:59 Race engineer Rob Smedley leans into the cockpit to give his driver, Felipe Massa, final instructions before the first segment of qualifying.

0 min: The qualifying period has started.

0 min: Nelson Piquet is the first driver to come out onto the racetrack this afternoon.

0 min: Jenson Button leaves the pitlane in the Honda.

1 min: The heat haze shimmers above the asphalt as qualifying gets underway in sunny conditions.

2 min: Eight drivers have come out so far in the early stages of the first period. The first timed lap will be set by Nelson Piquet, and he crosses the start-finish line to begin his first effort.

2 min: Nelson Piquet, Jarno Trulli and Nico Rosberg are all using the harder tyre for their first run.

3 min: Rosberg makes a slight error entering turn six on his first lap, as Piquet comes through to complete the first lap of the afternoon - a 1:37.511.

4 min: Timo Glock goes quickest in the Toyota - 1:37.369, with Piquet second, Barrichello third and Nico Rosberg in fourth place.

5 min: The big guns remain silent at the moment with only nine cars on track in these early stages. With Porsche action on circuit since final practice, the teams are waiting for improving track conditions.

5 min: Sebastian Vettel will use the softer tyre on his first run of the afternoon.

5 min: Massa, Raikkonen and Kovalainen all now head out to bank a lap time.

6 min: Timo Glock goes on for a second timed lap and lowers the benchmark further with 1:37.074.

6 min: Lewis Hamilton heads out on track as Felipe Massa gets a flying lap underway with the harder tyres on his Ferrari.

7 min: Vettel uses his soft tyres to good effect and posts a 1:36.318 to go fastest of all so far.

7 min: Felipe Massa clocks the fastest first and second sector and is on course to top the segment on this effort.

7 min: Fernando Alonso is the only driver yet to leave the pits.

7 min: Massa does go quickest, at least for now, with a 1:36.089.

8 min: Sebastien Bourdais also uses the softer tyre for his first run and he goes second to Massa with 1:36.239.

8 min: Heikki Kovalainen edges into second with a lap of 1:36.181 with teammate Hamilton on a fast lap on the harder tyre.

8 min: Sebastian Vettel goes on for a second timed lap and he improves to second with a 1:36.162.

9 min: Fernando Alonso comes out onto the track - the last driver to do so.

9 min: Lewis Hamilton grabs the quickest split in all three sectors of the lap to take the benchmark time in 1:35.566.

10 min: Felipe Massa continues his run of laps and has improved to a 1:35.971 for second quickest.

10 min: Nick Heidfeld goes fifth for BMW with a 1:36.224. Lewis Hamilton is fastest so far with Massa second, Vettel third, Kovalainen fourth and Heidfeld fifth.

11 min: Kimi Raikkonen is a disappointing eighth after the first run and is likely to make another attempt.

11 min: Mark Webber and David Coulthard have posted solid laps in their Red Bull Renaults. They are currently in seventh and ninth places.

11 min: Fernando Alonso's first effort is a 1:36.285, which puts him seventh.

13 min: All 20 drivers have now set a time in the first period of qualiffying.

Nico Rosberg, Jenson Button, Kazuki Nakajima, Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil are all in the knockout zone, and must improve their position in the remaining seven minutes or face elimination.

15 min: Robert Kubica has slipped down to 17th place in the BMW. He reports on the team radio that he is suffering from massive understeer and that the car doesn't turn at all.

Kubica pits and he is pushed back into the garage for some rapid attention.

15 min: Times are improving at the bottom of the timesheet as the cars sit in the pits deciding if they need to run again.

Nelson Piquet has jumped up to third in the Renault with an impressive lap and Timo Glock's Toyota is seventh after a good second effort.

16 min: Massa, Raikkonen and Kovalainen all now head out for a second attempt at a lap time.

16 min: Nico Rosberg moved out of the knockout zone with his latest attempt, and up into tenth position, four tenths of a second clear of the knockout zone at the moment.

17 min: Adrian Sutil and Jenson Button join the racetrack with 2:55 remaining in the first period of qualifying.

17 min: Massa is down on Hamilton's benchmark through the first and second sectors of his flying lap, although his second sector is his best and just a fraction slower than the McLaren.

18 min: Robert Kubica, Giancarlo Fisichella and Kazuki Nakajima all come out for their last chance to make it through to the second period.

These three drivers will only have one shot at making it through to the next round.

19 min: Kubica has taken the soft tyres for his last attempt.

19 min: Massa clocks a 1:36.007, which is fractions slower than his previous effort.

Heikki Kovalainen moves up to second with a 1:35.623, making it a McLaren one-two with Kimi Raikkonen completing the three-four with his Ferrari.

20 min: Robert Kubica's first section is slow. The Pole is in danger here and needs to pull two good sectors out of the bag to make it.

20 min: Hamilton felt no need to defend his earlier benchmark and remains in the McLaren garage as the flag comes out.

06:21 Robert Kubica produces two personal best sectors and moves up, but only to 14th!

06:21 Sebastian Vettel makes a major improvement to slot in third with a rapid 1:35.752.

Fernando Alonso joins him ahead of the Ferraris with a fourth-place effort in the Renault.

06:22 Robert Kubica holds on to 14th and is saved from elimination. Teammate Heidfeld is solidly through in 10th.

06:23 The first period of qualifying is over. The following drivers have been eliminated:

16) Coulthard
17) Nakajima
18) Button
19) Sutil
20) Fisichella.

06:26 Replays show David Coulthard's Red Bull encountering traffic from Nick Heidfeld's BMW, a matter that could come to the attention of the stewards later this afternoon.

06:26 Jenson Button is eliminated yet again from qualifying at the first hurdle, as his Honda team continue to struggle.

Button's 1:37.053 was just over four-tenths of a second slower than teammate Rubens Barrichello, who made it through to the next stage in 15th place.

0 min: The qualifying period has started.

0 min: The remaining 15 drivers now re-focus and reset, ready for the challenge of making it through to the top ten shootout.

0 min: The first minute of this second period of qualifying passes with no drivers taking to the circuit.

1 min: Kimi Raikkonen is the first man out of the pits with the softer tyre on the Ferrari.

2 min: Timo Glock also comes out onto the track in the Toyota.

3 min: The cars now stream out onto the circuit ahead of their first run in the second round of qualifying.

3 min: Kimi Raikkonen begins his flying lap on the softer rubber as Lewis Hamilton pulls out with the harder tyres on his McLaren.

4 min: Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica are again waiting a few minutes before choosing to go out.

5 min: Raikkonen is quicker than Hamilton's first-period best in the second sector and he puts it all together for the quickest lap of qualifying so far - 1:35.355.

6 min: Timo Glock uses the softer tyre and he goes second to Raikkonen with 1:35.937.

6 min: Heikki Kovalainen is the next man to light up the timing screen with a lap of 1:35.216 to go fastest on the softer tyre.

7 min: Massa flings his Ferrari through the last corner to top the table with a 1:35.135 on the softer tyre.

7 min: The first attempts are now being completed by many of the drivers as the BMW drivers leave the pits for the first time.

Sebastian Vettel has put in a stunning 1:35.386 to slot in fourth. He has a great chance of making it through to the shootout with that time.

8 min: Lewis Hamilton's effort on the harder tyre, in contrast to the other front runners, is only enough for fifth with a 1:35.402.

10 min: Robert Kubica is on his first timed lap and his rear end traction problems from this morning are evident. He completes the lap and it is 1:35.814 and that places him tenth - and that was using a set of soft tyres.

10 min: Nick Heidfeld fares a bit better in the other BMW Sauber and produces a 1:35.403 to go sixth.

10 min: Hamilton may feel the need to go out again with the softer tyre, which looks like a quicker rubber choice for this phase of qualifying.

11 min: Hamilton is told on the team radio that they do need another run on the softer 'option' tyre.

11 min: All 15 drivers have set a time in the second period of qualifying for tomorrow's Chinese Grand Prix.

Robert Kubica, Timo Glock, Nelson Piquet, Rubens Barrichello and Nico Rosberg are all in the knockout zone. These five drivers must improve in the remaining three minutes.

12 min: The BMW drivers and Nico Rosberg all take on another set of soft tyres and go again for their final attempt as they bid to make the top ten.

13 min: The top four of Massa, Kovalainen, Raikkonen and Vettel look to be comfortable with their times as Lewis Hamilton joins the rest of the pack for a second attempt.

15 min: The flag is out but the laps continue in the battle to be in the pole position shootout.

06:42 Hamilton is fractions down on his previous best in the first sector but is the fastest man in the middle portion of the lap.

06:42 Robert Kubica starts his final attempt as he aims to move up from 11th place. His first sector is ok, but the second sector is slow.

He flashes across the line and he does not improve.

One of the championship contenders is eliminated.

06:43 Nelson Piquet moves up from 13th to 11th on his last effort and is eliminated.

06:43 Lewis guns for the line on the softer tyre and puts his McLaren quickest on the second attempt. It is a 1:34.947 for the championship leader.

06:43 The second period of qualifying is over. The following drivers have been eliminated:

11) Piquet
12) Kubica
13) Glock
14) Barrichello
15) Rosberg.

06:47 The following ten drivers will battle it out in a highly-charged ten-minute session, to decide the best places on the grid for tomorrow's race.

They are: Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa, Heikki Kovalainen, Kimi Raikkonen, Sebastian Vettel, Nick Heidfeld, Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Bourdais, Mark Webber and Jarno Trulli.

06:47 The race fuel is now loaded in to the top ten cars as they choose a strategy for the first portion of tomorrow's race.

0 min: The fight for pole is underway at the Shanghai International Circuit.

0 min: Sebastian Vettel is the first driver out onto the track. He chooses the harder tyre.

0 min: Kimi Raikkonen goes with the softer tyre as he leaves the pitlane.

2 min: Vettel will be the first driver to start his first effort. He crosses the line and the clock begins.

2 min: Lewis Hamilton pulls out of the McLaren garage with the softer tyres on his car.

Jarno Trulli in the Toyota is using the harder tyre for his first effort.

3 min: Felipe Massa has also chosen the softer tyre for his first run. He is warming up his tyres as he goes down the back straight.

3 min: Sebastian Vettel completes the first lap of the shootout and he posts a 1:38.053.

4 min: Lewis Hamilton is several tenths quicker than Kimi Raikkonen as we get the first time check of the lap.

The second sector is not good for the McLaren and he drops time to the Ferrari.

4 min: Raikkonen posts a 1:36.989 to go fastest so far, but behind him on the road there are others still to complete their first lap.

5 min: Mark Webber goes second and Felipe Massa is third after the first runs.

5 min: Hamilton slots in second but is quickly beaten by Webber and Massa after that poor middle sector gave a lap of 1:37.514.

6 min: Heikki Kovalainen signals his intent with a quick lap of 1:36.978 to be fastest after the first runs.

6 min: The drivers are on their way into the pits following that first run of two.

7 min: Kimi Raikkonen is second, Webber third, Massa fourth and Hamilton fifth after a poor middle sector on his first qualifying lap.

7 min: Felipe Massa comes into the pits and takes on another set of soft tyres. The Brazilian leaves the lane and joins the racetrack.

8 min: The top ten are on their laps out of the pits and the final battle for pole is about to begin in Shanghai.

8 min: The McLarens refuel and take more soft tyres, with Kovalainen set to be the last man over the line in the final scramble.

8 min: Kimi Raikkonen on soft tyres is the first to begin his final effort.

9 min: Hamilton again clocks a good first sector, two tenths quicker than that of Raikkonen. He needs a good middle portion of the lap to fight off the Finn ...

9 min: Raikkonen is just behind the target time at the first section of the circuit. In the middle sector he finds some time and is ahead of Kovalainen's benchmark.

9 min: Hamilton is fastest in the middle sector as he guns down the back straight ...

10 min: The chequred flag is flying at the line but the second round of laps are still to be completed ...

07:00 Raikkonen crosses the line and he goes provisionally fastest with a 1:36.545.

07:00 Hamilton guns for the line and beats Raikkonen by three tenths with a 1:36.303 ... this could be a crucial pole for the Briton as his teammate continues his lap ...

07:01 Felipe Massa crosses the line and it is only good enough for third place - 1:36.889.

07:01 Kovalainen stays fifth with a lock up at the hairpin.

Lewis Hamilton is on pole for the Chinese Grand Prix!

07:04 Lewis Hamilton arrives in Parc Ferme and is delighted having taken the pole position, with his rival for the championship Massa in third place.

07:04 Lewis Hamilton will start the race from his 13th career pole position and will have the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa right on his tail for the decisive run to the first corner.

Fernando Alonso scores a strong fourth on the grid in his Renault with Heikki Kovalainen a disappointing fifth in the McLaren.

07:05 Mark Webber is sixth in the Red Bull Renault, but will drop to 16th following his engine change prior to qualifying. Nick Heidfeld was seventh in the BMW, with Sebastian Vettel eighth, Jarno Trulli ninth and Sebastien Bourdais in tenth place.

07:05 Hamilton smiles as he waves to the fans and the photographers, flanked by the pair of Ferrari drivers.

07:07 The report on an exciting qualifying hour is now available:

Hamilton grabs crucial pole in China

"They (McLaren) have been, Lewis especially, have been very, very strong all weekend, so we expected they would be strong in qualifying and there you go - he's done the pole position. Good for him! You know, we'll see tomorrow.

"The car has been maybe a little bit difficult for him (Massa) all weekend - but not so difficult, I mean not more than usual to be honest. Reasonably happy in the first qualifying, you saw we did one attempt in Q2 on the soft tyre and we were quite quick there so I think that shows probably our true pace."
Rob Smedley, Ferrari, speaking to German broadcaster Premiere

07:18 The weather forecasts all week have pointed to possible showers on Sunday. Live will take a detailed look at the weather prospects for tomorrow with an update to the weather page in the next few hours.

Chinese Grand Prix Weather

"I think the team did a very good job. Car is still quicker and quicker every race, new bits every race to improve the performance and this is helping us a lot.

"We are still missing a couple of tenths to be fighting with Ferrari and McLaren. Our race will be more concentrated on the Red Bulls, the Toyota - try to finish in front of them."
Fernando Alonso speaking to German broadcaster Premiere

07:30 On a near-perfect weather day Lewis Hamilton grabbed pole position for the Chinese Grand Prix.

The day started with the final hour of practice, and as usual the times were very close, with the top 17 drivers covered by less than one second. Different strategy programmes in third practice often produce a close field, but everyone knew the real pace would show itself only in the qualifying session later.

Nick Heidfeld used a set of soft tyres well and surged to the top of the times near the end of the session, with championship challengers Lewis Hamilton and Robert Kubica second and third respectively.

Qualifying was always going to be very important, and would turn out to be another McLaren versus Ferrari show. Heikki Kovalainen led the pack at the end of the first run in the decisive final phase, with the Ferraris in chase, but Lewis Hamilton had a poor first effort and could only manage fifth.

That was all to change on the final run for pole as Hamilton knocked Kimi Raikkonen off the top spot with a lap of 1:36.303. Massa crossed the line but could only manage third - over half-a-second behind his championship rival. Fernando Alonso grabbed fourth with another great effort in the Renault, which left it all down to Heikki Kovalainen ...

The Finn had a disaster of a final lap with a lock-up at turn 14 and crossed the line over six-tenths of a second behind Hamilton in fifth. Heikki stepped out the McLaren and was visibly disappointed with his final lap.

So Hamilton claims the pole, and his rivals Massa and Kubica will start the Chinese Grand Prix from third and eleventh places on the grid.

Tomorrow, the points will be awarded following a critical 56-lap race. Our pre-race coverage begins at 03:00 GMT. Don't miss it.

Session Length: 60 Minutes
 View official live timing
Hazy sunshine High Temp: 28°C / 82°F
Track: Dry
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Monday 13 Oct Start GMT
 Chinese Grand Prix Weather 15:00
Friday 17 Oct
 Friday Practice 01:30
Saturday 18 Oct
 Final Practice and Qualifying 02:30
Sunday 19 Oct
 Raceday in Shanghai 03:00
Emlyn Hughes and Geoff Creighton are's live commentary team. The dynamic duo have developed an inimitable style and a reputation for fast, accurate and insightful commentary. With unrivaled access to events unfolding at the circuit, they bring you the very latest, as it happens.

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