Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel used KERS to power to pole at Shanghai on Saturday.
The team did not use the energy-recovery technology to dominate in Melbourne, but championship leader Vettel said he needed it to stave off a resurgent McLaren in China.
“We came here and solved most of the (reliability) problems,” the German said. “I think if we did not have it (KERS) today, we would not be here (on pole).”
So significant has been McLaren’s progress in recent weeks that Hamilton, happy to be second best in Australia, was visibly disappointed with his P3 on the Shanghai grid.
“These guys (Red Bull) still have a slight edge but it seems we’ve closed the gap a bit,” said the Briton.
Also visibly disappointed was Vettel’s teammate Mark Webber, who starts 18th on the grid after a wiring loom issue that caused some concern with the KERS. The combination of a bad call by team management to stay on hard tires and another KERS failure resulted in Webber not getting beyond Q3.