Nico Rosberg grabbed the first pole position of his Formula One career and at the 111th time of asking.

And the 26-year-old did it with ease and a set of tyres to spare at the Shanghai International Circuit ahead of tomorrow's Chinese Grand Prix.

Rosberg blitzed the field on his first quick lap in the top 10 shoot-out and did not bother heading out again, finishing half a second up on McLaren's Lewis Hamilton.

For Mercedes it is also their first pole since they returned to F1 at the start of 2010 and after a 55-year absence from the sport.
Although Hamilton set the second fastest time, he will drop five places on the grid tomorrow to seventh due to a gearbox change.

It means Michael Schumacher will join team-mate Rosberg in an all-Mercedes front row when the race gets under way.

Given the build up had been completely overshadowed by the talk surrounding the prospects of next weekend's race in Bahrain, it was a relief to watch some meaningful action in Shanghai.

At least Rosberg and Mercedes have provided a different story, and behind them now on the grid - given Hamilton's penalty - will be Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi with his highest slot of third.

Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen will start fourth and Jenson Button in his McLaren fifth, followed by the Red Bull of Mark Webber.

Behind Hamilton will be the second Sauber of Sergio Perez, the championship leader in Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and the Lotus of Romain Grosjean.

The second session proved to be a disaster for reigning champion Sebastian Vettel who could only qualify 11th in his Red Bull, failing to make Q3 for the first time in 42 races.

It was the German's worst qualifying performance since Brazil 2009 when he was 15th, and that in inclement weather.

In stark contrast, and what will prove most galling for Vettel, is that Webber finished quickest at the end of Q2.

Behind Vettel will be Ferrari's Felipe Massa and the Williams duo of Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna, although both are currently under investigation for impeding incidents with Caterham's Heikki Kovalainen and Pedro de la Rosa at HRT.

Paul di Resta managed to finish ahead of Force India team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, the duo starting 15th and 16th, with Daniel Ricciardo for Toro Rosso 17th.

Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne led the departees following the initial 20-minute qualifying session, finishing 0.8secs behind team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

To underline such a startling chasm between two identical cars, that same period of time covered the 17 drivers above him in Q1.

The battle at Caterham saw Kovalainen edge out Vitaly Petrov for 19th on the grid, but with the Finn three quarters of a second behind Vergne.

Rosberg described his maiden pole as "a very special feeling", adding: "Now I'm looking forward to starting first tomorrow."

Asked where he found the time, Rosberg said: "The track was cooling off a little, the temperatures were coming down and the rear tyres started working a little better.

"We changed the set up of the car slightly before my last run and then I had the perfect lap. It worked out really well."

However, with Mercedes so far scoring just one point from the opening two races - that from Schumacher - Rosberg knows he is in need of a finish tomorrow.

"For me the season starts here because I've not had a good start," he added.

"It's pretty clear that in the race we've not been as good as in qualifying, and we've worked hard to improve that, but it's not something you change in a few weeks.

"It's going to take some time, but we're making progress, and difficult to know where we're going to be in the race.

"But I'm going to work hard and make the most of it."

Having grown up with Rosberg and raced against him in karting, Hamilton was quick to offer his congratulations.

However, in dropping to seventh, Hamilton said: "I've a penalty, but I'm in a good position.

"I made some good set-up changes to the car which feel good.

"It's going to be tough, but I've a lot of good people ahead of me, but I'll be pushing as hard as I can."

Schumacher also hailed Rosberg's "phenomenal lap time", one he also described as "a bit of a surprise".

Schumacher added: "He is known as a good qualifier, but no reason to be unhappy. The opposite - I'm happy for him.

"And it's going to be the first front row of a proper Mercedes Silver Arrow' that will take place tomorrow. It's not good for Lewis, but it's good for us."

Timo Glock starts 21st after finishing comfortably quicker than Marussia team-mate Charles Pic, whilst at HRT, Narain Karthikeyan starts 24th and last behind team-mate De la Rosa.