Shanghai pole for Hamilton
Championship leader heads the grid with Ferrari duo right behind
Lewis Hamilton boosted his titles hopes by claiming pole position for Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.
Having led the way in practice on Friday the McLaren driver continued his dominance at the International Circuit, clocking an impressive time of one minute 36.303 seconds.
The 23-year-old will be joined on the front row of the grid by the man he hopes to replace as world champion, Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.
The Finnish driver's team-mate, and Hamilton's closest rival in the championship standings, Felipe Massa, will start from third position.
However, the Italian will have work to do as he looks to make up a five-point gap in what is the pentultimate race of the 2008 season.
Indeed, Hamilton - who sealed the 13th pole his F1 career - could well clinch the crown without needing to worry about any final-day nerves in Brazil.
Coming into the weekend under pressure following his first-corner mistake in last Sunday's race in Japan, the Brit has been outstanding and recorded the fastest times in all three qualifying sessions on Saturday.
Sadly, his team-mate Heikki Kovalainen could only qualify fifth, just behind Fernando Alonso, meaning Hamilton will have to battle it out on his own against the Ferrari pair at the front.
Red Bull's Mark Webber initially qualified sixth but will drop to 16th due to a 10-place grid penalty incurred after an engine change in final practice.
Nick Heidfeld will move up to take the Australian's place with the Toro Rosso duo of Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Bourdais in seventh and ninth, sandwiching Toyota's Jarno Trulli.
Renault's Nelson Piquet rounds out the top 10 ahead of Robert Kubicka, who equalled his worst qualifying run of the campaign.
The disappointing 11th-placed effort leaves the title hopes of the BMW Sauber man hanging by a thread. He will start the race 12 points adrift of current leader Hamilton.
David Coulthard missed out on a place in Q2 by 0.091secs and had to settle for 15th, so he will start one place ahead of Red Bull colleague Webber.
Afterwards the Scot asked his team put in an appeal against Heidfeld after apparently being baulked by the German during the opening session.
Jenson Button qualified in the bottom three for the third time in four races, meaning his Honda will start in front of only the Force India pair of Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella.
Chinese Grand Prix - qualifying times
01 L. Hamilton McLaren 1:36.303
02 K. Räikkönen Ferrari 1:36.645
03 F. Massa Ferrari 1:36.889
04 F. Alonso Renault 1:36.927
05 H. Kovalainen McLaren 1:36.930
06 M. Webber Red Bull 1:37.083 (Webber receives 10-place grid penalty due to an engine failure during final practice)
07 N. Heidfeld BMW 1:37.201
08 S. Vettel Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:37.685
09 J. Trulli Toyota 1:37.934
10 S. Bourdais Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:38.885
11 N. Piquet jr. Renault 1:35.722
12 R. Kubica BMW 1:35.814
13 T. Glock Toyota 1:35.937
14 R. Barrichello Honda 1:36.079
15 N. Rosberg Williams 1:36.210
16 D. Coulthard Red Bull 1:36.731
17 K. Nakajima Williams 1:36.863
18 J. Button Honda 1:37.053
19 A. Sutil Force India F1 1:37.730
20 G. Fisichella Force India F1 1:37.739