Nico Rosberg grabbed the first pole position of his Formula One career and at the 111th time of asking as he clocked the fastest time in qualifying for Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix.

And the 26-year-old did it with ease and a set of tyres to spare at the Shanghai International Circuit to claim Mercedes their first pole since they returned to F1 at the start of 2010 and after a 55-year absence. 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.

Although Hamilton set the second fastest time, he will drop five places on the grid to seventh due to a gearbox change which means Michael Schumacher will join team-mate Rosberg in an all-Mercedes front row when the race gets under way. And behind them now on the grid 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.

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 Ricciardo, while 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.

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.