2008 F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton was left scratching his head and a bit mystified after only qualifying sixth for the Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit on Saturday.

Hamilton looked like he was one the favourites following practice and in the first two parts of qualifying he maintain that form, setting the quickest time in both sessions. However when he came to the all-important top-ten shoot-out, the Englishman was unable to keep up the momentum.

Indeed his best time in Q3 was a 1 minute 35.034 seconds, which was actually slower than his quickest effort in Q2 - a 1m 34.928s, which would have left him just five thousandths off Nico Rosberg in fourth.

"I'm a little disappointed - we wanted to get pole today, and thought we could - and I don't really know where the time went in Q3," Hamilton told reporters. "The tyres felt fine - pretty much exactly the same as in Q1 and Q2, when the car felt great - but in Q3 the car started moving around a lot more, and it felt like the front was bottoming.

"We'd been quick all weekend, but sixth was the best I could do in Q3. I think we ought to have been further up the grid - but we'll fight our way as far up the field as we can tomorrow. I'm sure it will be a good race."

As a result of Hamilton's woes, Jenson Button managed to get the better of his team-mate for the third time this year and will start one spot in front in fifth. Button in contrast though was actually happier in Q3 than he had been in Q2 or Q1.

"I was struggling a little with the car in the first two sessions," confirmed the former Brawn GP man. "By Q3, though, it was much better, but it was a little bit too late by then: the car felt quite different, balance-wise, and I had to play around with the diff and the front wing to find a good feeling in the car.

"So it wasn't a bad lap; it's just a bit frustrating that it took us that long in qualifying to get the balance right. But fifth is just about okay, and I think we'll have a good car for the race tomorrow. It's probably going to rain tomorrow anyway, so the set-up we have may well be pretty good in the wet conditions."

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh meanwhile was disappointed not to see his drivers' do a bit better and he conceded that fifth and sixth on the grid was not exactly 'ideal'.

"Lewis recorded good times in Q1 and Q2, but his Q3 lap was about 0.3s slower than we'd hoped for. We don't yet know the reason for that - it could be a number of things - but of course we'll analyse it. It's a pity, though, because without that 0.3s deficit he'd have been on the front row for tomorrow's race," Whitmarsh added.

"As for Jenson, he put in a very good lap in Q3 on used Option tyres - but, again, so close were the times of the drivers who qualified between P2 and P8, that a tenth or two would have made a significant difference to his grid slot.

"So fifth and sixth aren't ideal, but tomorrow the weather may well be more changeable than it was today, and both our drivers have great ability in such conditions."


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