Hamilton's first pole performance as part of the Mercedes team was completed a scant 0.28 seconds ahead of Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen.
"The lap was great. The team performed well all weekend so far, and I hope that we can carry that into tomorrow," said Hamilton, who jumped from McLaren to Mercedes during the off-season as a replacement for Michael Schumacher, who retired from Formula One.
The Chinese Grand Prix takes place Sunday on the 3.386-mile Shanghai International Circuit.
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