Hamilton looks to topple Rosberg in China GP
Mercedes AMG Petronas driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain drives during the qualifying session for the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on April 19, 2014 - by Wang Zhao
Such is Hamilton's form that he stormed to his third pole position of the season in a rain-soaked qualifying session on Saturday, and has won both races he has completed this year.
But the Briton, seeking his second world title after winning in 2008, also knows that Mercedes' supremacy this year could come under threat from Red Bull and Ferrari in Shanghai.
Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel, whose cars qualified second and third respectively, managed to relegate championship leader Rosberg to fourth on the grid.
And the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso, who will start in fifth place, is showing much greater pace than in Bahrain, where he trailed in ninth -- and he too will be eyeing a podium finish in his first race for new team principal Marco Mattiacci.
Rosberg will begin on the second row in fourth, after spinning on his final flying lap in Q3, and should Hamilton win the German would need to finish at least third to retain his championship lead.
The forecast for Sunday is for no rain, but Hamilton sounded a note of caution after losing valuable practice time in finer conditions on Friday, meaning he couldn't be confident with his dry race set-up.
"It's kind of strange because we made all those changes overnight and then today it’s been wet so I've no idea if it's in the right direction," Hamilton, said after eclipsing the British record of Jim Clark with his 34th Formula One pole position.
"It looked good in the wet so hopefully it's the same in the dry. It's a little bit of an unknown -– but it shouldn't be too far off."
With Mercedes having a power advantage on Shanghai's long straights, Vettel and Ricciardo agreed it might be difficult to hold off Rosberg.
Red Bull's downforce advantage in the corners is exaggerated by wet conditions and puts them closer to the Silver Arrows.
Asked if he could beat the Mercedes in the dry, Vettel joked: "Well, I think if we put two chicanes in all the straights, then yes."
Ricciardo was also in jovial mood. "The idea is to get a good start for both of us and just drive side by side the whole race and then just fight it out on the last lap," he said, smiling.
"I've seen the forecast, even if I did a rain dance all night I don't think it would work," he added.
Alonso is also sensing a chance of a podium finish in a race that if pans out as expected, could see his Ferrari going wheel to wheel with the Red Bulls in a battle for third.
"Tomorrow if everything goes OK we can be a little bit better than in Bahrain and a little bit closer to the podium than we have been," said Alonso.
"But I don't know if we can be faster than Red Bull."
What everyone agrees is that nursing tyres, on a "green" circuit washed clear of laid-down rubber by the rain, will be crucial in the race starting at 3:00 pm (0700 GMT).
Three stops looks the most likely option and, with the softer tyre proving up to two seconds a lap quicker in practice, when and for how long to deploy harder and softer compounds will be key.
Some drivers reported the soft tyres graining after as little as four laps in free practice on Friday, meaning the race could be won and lost by the pit-lane crews and team strategists.