Sebastian Vettel set pole position for the fourth race in a row and continued his unbeaten run in 2011.
But team mate Mark Webber will start from the ninth row of the grid after being knocked out in the first part of qualifying.
The McLarens will start second and third, with Jenson Button ahead of Lewis Hamilton.
The first part of qualifying produced a shock – Mark Webber was eliminated at the first stage.
The Red Bull driver was already running without KERS following a problem with the system in practice.
Despite not setting a particularly fast time with his first effort, Webber returned to the track on another set of hard tyres, not wanting to use a set of softs which he would need for the race.
But he could only manage 16th fastest. Improvements from Michael Schumacher and, finally, Pastor Maldonado’s Williams, condemned him to starting the race 18th.
He was joined by the six ‘usual suspects’ – the two Lotuses, HRTs and Virgins.
Driver eliminated in Q1
|18||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault||1’36.468|
The McLaren duo headed the times at first, with Hamilton two-tenths of a second faster than Button, and Vettel a tenth further behind.
Vitaly Petrov set a time good enough for fourth but his Renault came to a stop shortly afterwards. That brought the red flags out with two minutes left to go.
Among the drivers inconvenienced by that was his team mate, who had just left the pits to do his first and only lap when Petrov stopped.
The session restarted with a string of cars queued up at the exit of the pit lane, led by Sergio Perez. But Felipe Massa made his way past the Sauber driver to make sure he had the advantage of a clear track.
While Massa made it through Perez driver failed to make the cut for the top ten, as team mate Kamui Kobayashi.
Michael Schumacher was also eliminated, as were both Williamses and Adrian Sutil’s Force India.
Heidfeld was also unable to get a clear lap in following the delay, leaving him 16th.
Driver eliminated in Q2
|11||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1’35.874|
Button and Vettel were the only drivers to go out at the start of the final ten minutes, the rest not wanting to use up soft tyres, including Hamilton, who hadn’t used any more than his two rivals.
Vettel set a stunning pace with his first lap, a 1’33.706, seven-tenths of a second faster than Button could manage.
It was more than Hamilton could do either, who made just a single run. He was fractionally faster than Button in the last two sectors, but a tenth slower in the first, and took third behind his team mate.
Nico Rosberg beat the Ferraris to fourth place, with Alonso just three-hundredths of a second faster than Massa.
Jaime Alguersuari took seventh ahead of Paul di Resta, followed by Sebastien Buemi, and Vitaly Petrov who was unable to set a time.
Top ten in Q3
|1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||1’33.706|
|7||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1’36.158|
|8||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1’36.190|
|9||Sebastien Buemi||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1’36.203|
|10||Vitaly Petrov||Renault||No time|
2011 Chinese Grand Prix
- Hamilton: ‘It’s sweeter to win by overtaking’
- 2011 Chinese Grand Prix: complete race weekend review
- Who was the best driver of the Chinese GP weekend?
- McLaren: Button’s pit mistakes almost cost Hamilton
- Red Bull: Poor qualifying gives strategy advantage to Webber
- Ferrari: Montezemolo demands reaction after poor result
- Mercedes: Rosberg beats Ferraris despite fuel worries
- Renault: Points salvaged after poor qualifying
- Sauber: Two penalties in one race for Perez
- Lotus: Kovalainen joins in midfield battle
Image ?é?® Red Bull/Getty images