There were times when he was at Mclaren when even winning a pole position couldn't put a smile on Lewis Hamilton's face. Not so this weekend at Shanghai, when his first pole for Mercedes put a wide ear-to-ear grin on the British driver's face.

"I am incredibly happy," he said afterwards. "So happy to have our first pole for some time. I'm just ecstatic really. The lap was great, the team performed well all weekend so far and I really hope we can carry that into tomorrow.

"I had to make sure the radio was off after my engineer told me I had pole because I was so excited!," he added. "None of us expected this level of performance at this stage of the season and it's a real bonus."

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Mercedes are the defending race champions, after Nico Rosberg secured victory for the team here in last year's F1 Grand Prix of China, and the squad clearly have an eye on back-to-back triumphs to mark their resurgence in the sport.

"A great qualifying session for us today and all credit to Lewis, Nico and the team for a strong performance," said team principal Ross Brawn. "It's a nice reward for all the hard work both here at the track and back at our factories in Brackley and Brixworth over the winter and in the last few weeks as we continue to develop the car."

"We're really happy about our pole position today at the Chinese Grand Prix, which the team achieved for the second year in a row," added Mercedes' director of motorsport Toto Wolff. "Lewis's performance was excellent and Nico also did a great job."

Both Mercedes had been the class of the field throughout qualifying even before the lottery of a flurry of last-minute flying laps that were completed after the chequered flag came out. Hamilton set a time 0.277s ahead of Lotus Kimi Raikkonen, while Nico Rosberg lost his chance to make it onto the front row alongside Hamilton after running wide on the exit of the final turn at the end of his only flying lap of Q3.

"I made a small mistake at the last corner on my lap in Q3 which cost maybe a tenth and a couple of places," he admitted. "But I'm in a good position for the race."

Fourth place on the grid alongside Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was actually a particularly good result for Rosberg considering that his preparations had been compromised by a problem earlier in the day.

"P4 is a decent grid position for me," he agreed. "I wasn't able to do my qualifying simulation this morning due to the hydraulic problem which was a bit unfortunate.

"I needed to catch up through the qualifying sessions and find my way," he continued. "I took some settings from Lewis for the initial set-up which worked out well."

Both drivers were looking forward to race day, with Hamilton keen to cement a much better start to 2013 than expected with his first win for the team, and Rosberg keen to reprise his victory of 12 months ago.

"We've worked a lot on the race performance this weekend so I hope we can gain some places tomorrow," said Rosberg. "It's going to be an interesting race with some of the guys starting on the medium tyres so let's see what happens."

"These tyres are very tricky this weekend," Hamilton contributed. "The two closest guys [on the grid] will be the biggest challenge. The Ferrari is massively quick on the first lap and so is Kimi - and Kimi is particularly very strong with looking after the option tyres so it's going to be very hard to keep them behind.

"I think we are in a good position [once we change to prime tyres] but it's just a matter of how much ground we can maintain or try not to lose in the first stint," he added.