Lewis Hamilton’s miserable week at the Chinese Grand Prix continued on Saturday, as he was eliminated in the first round of qualifying, with his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg taking pole position in Shanghai.
Some power problems prevented the world champion from setting a time in the opening stanza, meaning he’ll start from the very back of the grid on Sunday. His team-mate, who already has a 17-point lead in the championship, will lead the way ahead of Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari in second and third place, respectively.
Earlier in the day, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel topped a rainy third practice session, in which neither of the Mercedes men opted to post a time with qualifying in mind. The German will start the race in fourth.
Here’s a look back on another fascinating day in the Formula One season and how things will be shaping up on the grid come Sunday.
Here is how things looked at the end of a thrilling qualifying session, in which last season's tried-and-tested format was reverted to:
After a grim final practice session earlier in the day, when wet conditions prevented a lot of teams from setting a time, the outlook was a little better as the drivers got qualifying underway. The Force India team seemed pretty relieved to see sunlight:
Still, there were some remnants of the day’s early rain on the track, as Pascal Wehrlein unfortunately discovered. The Manor Marussia man aquaplaned into a barrier just three minutes into Q1, prompting a red flag.
The delay meant drivers were under pressure to get out quickly once the session resumed, and it also meant Mercedes had less time to amend an issue with the power supply on Hamilton’s car. And as the session wound down, there was no sign of the Brit setting a time.
Eventually, he was unable to, meaning that, with a five-place grid penalty to serve, he’ll start from the very back of the field. F1 journalist James Allen thinks Hamilton’s inactivity in FP3 may have cost him here:
"No-one wants it easy," Hamilton told BBC Sport after his elimination. "We are definitely in the mud but we will dig our way out."
Once the shock of the champion’s exit had died down, Q2 got underway, with Rosberg and the two Ferraris jostling at the top of the leaderboard.
The German eventually finished third behind Raikkonen and Vettel in Q2, although he only opted for the soft tyres, with the Ferraris utilising the quicker super-soft compound. Any chances of Rosberg launching a late surge were curtailed, too, as another red flag brought the session to a premature close.
As we can see here, Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India lost its left front wheel with minimal time remaining in Q2:
Rosberg and Raikkonen sought to assert themselves early in the final session, with both posting sharp times on the super-soft tyre. It was the latter who took preliminary pole, though, edging out the Mercedes man by 0.139 seconds.
Vettel was watching on as the duo tussled on the timing boards, opting to have a one-lap crack at pole position. But with time expiring, all the drivers were out looking to get the best possible spot in the lineup for Sunday's showdown; a far cry from what we've seen with the revamped qualifying process in recent weeks.
And it was Rosberg who rose to the occasion to set a scintillating time of 1:35.402, grabbing pole position in dramatic style.
Remarkably, Raikkonen had to make do with third as, from nowhere, Ricciardo nipped in to take second place with an awesome lap for Red Bull. Naturally, his team were pretty pleased:
Not only will Hamilton’s attempts to slalom his way through the field make for a great race on Sunday, but up front, it’s evident Ferrari have a much greater chance of challenging Rosberg, who has won both races so far in 2016, even with Ricciardo in the mix.
Nevertheless, the Mercedes man is in sublime form and, with open road in front of him, will prove very difficult to beat in Shanghai.
Here is a look at the provisional classification from FP3, in which Vettel was the quickest of just 14 cars to set a time:
With the amount of wet-weather tyres available limited, a lot of the teams in the paddock opted to save up their resources rather than go out for a paddle on a damp circuit.
Of the drivers who did take to the Shanghai circuit, Vettel was the most impressive, setting a benchmark of 1:57.351. His team-mate Raikkonen could only muster a time of 2:00.812, leaving him languishing down in 12th spot come the end of the session.
The man who got closest to Vettel was Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, who was 0.710 seconds back, while Force India’s Sergio Perez took third.
Instead of going out of the garage for a stint in the wet, the Mercedes pair of Rosberg and Hamilton opted to sit this one out for long spells with qualifying to come. The team’s Twitter feed summed up their respective inactivity:
There were a few drivers who had a run on the extreme tyre compound, typically used for the most severe wet conditions on race day. Of those, Carlos Sainz was quickest in the Toro Rosso, coming in fourth fastest.