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Mercedes may have clinched its first pole position since it returned to Formula 1 with a front-row lockout on the starting grid as an added bonus, but whether it could convert its performance to a solid finish on Sunday is anybody's guess.
Nico Rosberg bagged pole and teammate Michael Schumacher qualified third, with the seven-time world champion to move up one place credited to Lewis Hamilton's penalty at the Chinese Grand Prix but both drivers acknowledged that the race could spell a different story.
"It’s difficult to know exactly where we’re going to be because again with the conditions changing, if it becomes a little bit colder that might help us, for example. I don’t really know how it’s going to go," Rosberg said.
The 26-year-old revealed that since the track was cooling off a little bit and since the temperatures were coming down slightly, his tyres started to work better at the Shanghai International Circuit during qualifying.
Despite the successful homework, Schumacher indicated that the Grand Prix distance could be tougher "even if in terms of set-up we have prepared the car mainly for the race".
"It’s not completely clear what we would have seen with our car. It’s certainly a question mark whether we would have been able to keep up that position but we’ll try our best to do so," the 43-year-old said.
This was the first time in three races that Rosberg out-qualified his teammate with Schumacher admitting "I can easily respect he did the better job"
The result was also the first time Mercedes will start on a front row since Monza in 1955, which drew smiles from the German manufacturer's motorsport vice president Norbert Haug.
"Norbert has been suffering with us for the last two and a half years," Schumacher said. "Obviously it’s his little baby, to get the Mercedes car up front and to achieve this, with all the effort that Mercedes has put in, the team has put in, it’s just great.
"When you are in difficulties, you know what it means to get out of that. It needs patience and focus and that's what we all had. And now we are taking the fruits from all the work and effort we put in," he added.
Team principal Ross Brawn however called it "only a small step and that what really counts is the race".