Shanghai: Mercedes were celebrating on Saturday their first front-row lock-out since the 1955 Italian Grand Prix at Monza and driver Nico Rosberg's maiden pole position, on a day of firsts in Shanghai.

Rosberg described it as "a very special day" after he demolished the field to take pole for the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday. His teammate and fellow German Michael Schumacher was third-fastest but takes second on the grid.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, who was second fastest in qualifying, already knew he would be hit with a five-place penalty for a gearbox infraction, making it a Mercedes one-two.

"Firstly it was a strange feeling because I was watching the end of Q3 (final qualifying) from the FIA garage as we decided to save a set of option tyres for the race, and I couldn't do anything but watch," said Rosberg, 26.

"Seeing that I finished at the top of the timesheets and with half a second in hand made me the happiest man today.

"Thanks to the team, everyone here and in the factories, who have done a great job to develop and improve our Silver Arrow.

"We don't know what will happen in the race tomorrow, and it will be a challenge to stay in front, but for the moment, I will enjoy starting next to Michael from the front row, which is also very special to me."

Seven-time world champion Schumacher said it was "a special day for our Mercedes-Benz team".

"It's a great result, and I am very happy for everybody. Congratulations to Nico, he achieved his first pole position with a just fabulous lap. I can easily respect he did the better job today, and I am happy for him."

Schumacher added: "We are doing all we can to bring the Mercedes-Benz name to the front, where it belongs. As for me, I am happy too, and obviously my ambition for the race is to stay where we are now."

Ross Brawn, Mercedes team principal, said: "It was an exceptional qualifying session for us and I am very pleased with the way the whole team worked to achieve it.

"Congratulations to both drivers, but especially Nico on a stunning lap which earned him his first pole position."