Hamilton to start from back of the grid as problems mount for world champion

Hamilton to start from back of the grid as problems mount for world champion

Lewis Hamilton is targeting only a top-10 finish in Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix after a car problem consigned him to the very back of the grid.

Hamilton, who was already due to serve a five-place grid penalty after a gearbox change, encountered more troubles with his Mercedes in qualifying.

The 31-year-old Briton, yet to win this season, returned to his garage reporting a lack of power from his engine after just one lap.

Hamilton to start from back of the grid as problems mount for world champion

His Mercedes mechanics were unable to resolve the problem, and Hamilton was knocked out in last position after he failed to set a time.

His demise allowed Nico Rosberg to score a relatively comfortable pole to leave the German in prime position to extend his winning streak to three this season, and six stretching back to last term.

Hamilton last started at the back of the field in Hungary two years ago, and he took advantage of the intermittent weather to fight his way back through the field to finish third.

But with dry conditions forecast for Sunday, Hamilton said: "I don't take encouragement from that race. I take encouragement from the fact I have been driving a long time, so I have had the experiences since I've been young. There is no question in my mind as to how I am going to battle through tomorrow.

"Whether or not I can get all the way to third, that is going to be a very tough challenge, because you have got the Red Bulls that are quick, the two Ferraris and Nico, so just getting into the points is my goal."

Hamilton faces losing further ground to Rosberg, of whom he is already 17 points adrift, but the Briton is relishing the thought of carving his way through the pack.

"This is how it was when I first started racing," said Hamilton, who will take on a new engine for Sunday's race. "I use to battle my way through the field, so it is reminiscent of my younger days.

"There has never been a race where I have started at the back and not enjoyed."

Kimi Raikkonen led a Ferrari one-two in practice on Friday, but the Finn, who made a mistake on his final timed run, could manage only third, while Sebastian Vettel will start from fourth. Indeed it was the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo who surprisingly split Rosberg and the Ferrari pair, and he will start alongside the Mercedes driver on the front row.

Rosberg said: ''To get the lap done and to put it on pole, I am happy of course, but I am not ecstatic because Lewis had bad luck and his car broke down and the fight between us didn't take place.''

The sport reverted to last year's qualifying format after the unpopular elimination-style system was dropped following two unsuccessful outings. And Hamilton's failure to post a time ironically delivered the unpredictability which the previous format had so craved.

A red flag - the second of the afternoon after Pascal Wehrlein spun in the opening minutes of a damp start following a deluge of rain - brought an abrupt end to Q2. Nico Hulkenberg was left with just three tyres after his front-left wheel worked its way off before bouncing along the barrier.

It meant the McLaren duo of Fernando Alonso, back in the cockpit after sustaining a broken rib, and Jenson Button were unable to improve on their times and they will start 12th and 13th respectively.

Valtteri Bottas qualified fifth for Williams, with Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat sixth. Britain's Jolyon Palmer, whose Renault team-mate Kevin Magnussen was nearly one second faster, is to start only 19th.

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