By Alan Baldwin
SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton's first pole position for Mercedes at the Chinese Grand Prix on Saturday allowed the 2008 Formula One world champion to relive old memories and prove the critics wrong once again.
The 27-year-old could scarcely of dreamed of such a turnaround after agreeing to join the team last year at a time when their car was considerably off the pace being set by McLaren - with whom he ended last season on pole in Brazil.
Yet, in only his third race as a Mercedes driver, he swept to a 27th career pole with every expectation of a second podium finish of the year after taking third place in Malaysia last month.
It was, he said, up there with his first in 2007.
"Every pole is special in its own way. I feel very privileged to just even have one, let alone the amount that I have," the twice winner in China told reporters.
"Being in a new team, and where we are today, it does feel like it is the first and hopefully the first of many," added Hamilton.
"I'm pleased I have this feeling, the excitement that I have when I'm at the top. I've been racing for so long, so many years, and I've had the feeling quite a few times. But it's great to still have that energy and buzz when it does come together."
The Briton arrived in Shanghai feeling under the weather, suffering from an allergy that forced him to cancel all media engagements on Thursday.
Hamilton had also been struggling to get comfortable in the car, still adjusting to the setup and different ways of doing things.
His team mate Nico Rosberg, winner for Mercedes last year in China, led the timesheets in first free practice on Friday and Ferrari's Felipe Massa was fastest overall on the day.
"Coming here we never expected to be as high as we are, I definitely didn't expect it," said Hamilton. "So it's a real pleasure and a bonus for us to have such a position but it's still all to play for tomorrow.
"We've still a lot of work to do with the car but the guys are on it, I can tell, which is a real positive feeling."
Asked how much satisfaction he derived from showing up the critics who said he was a fool to leave McLaren, Hamilton smiled.
"You can't really answer it in one result but definitely, bit by bit, the more and more we impress and improve they have to stand to be corrected," he replied.
"Today is such a blessing to be here because it was such a big change for me and a big step for me. I think I made the right choice."
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)