Nico Rosberg saw off his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton to seize pole position in Bahrain for a second consecutive year, in the process equaling his father’s record of five pole positions in Formula One.
Rosberg, having played second fiddle to Hamilton all weekend, seized the initiative in the second part of qualifying, before going on to deliver a sucker punch of a lap in Q3 of 1:33.185, a lap that Hamilton failed to better, as the 2008 champion buckled on his final run, ending the session a quarter of a second shy of his team-mate’s best time.
Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top three as the fastest of the two Red Bull’s, but the Australian will start 13th come Sunday as a result of the 10-place grid penalty he picked up owing to an unsafe release from the pits during last week’s Malaysian Grand Prix.
Valtteri Bottas underlined the pace that his Williams team has threatened with since pre-season testing with fourth fastest, and will share the second row of the grid with Sergio Perez, who ended the session just a tenth shy of the Finn in the Force India.
Kimi Raikkonen made just one run during Q3 in the Ferrari, and will start fifth on Sunday, ahead of Jenson Button – celebrating his 250th grand prix – and Felipe Massa in the second of the Williams cars.
Fernando Alonso disappointed in the final shootout, a whole six tenths adrift of his team-mate Raikkonen, but will start ninth, courtesy of Ricciardo’s grid penalty.
Sebastian Vettel and Nico Hulkenberg were the big scalps eliminated in Q2, the defending champion encountering an issue with his gearbox which restricted him to just 11th, while the Force India man locked up his left front into turn 11 on both of his flying laps, 12th on the grid a major disappointment in light of Sergio Perez’s strong showing in the sister VJM07.
Toro Rosso, celebrating their 150th race weekend, saw both of their drivers Daniil Kvyat and Jean-Eric Vergne fail to progress into Q3, the pair will start behind the penalty hit Ricciardo.
Romain Grosjean snuck into the second part of qualifying at the expense of his Lotus team-mate Pastor Maldonado, who was knocked out in Q1 for a third successive qualifying session. The Frenchman will start 16th, a spot ahead of the Venezuelan.
Kamui Kobayashi edged out Jules Bianchi for 19th, claiming a victory in the Caterham and Marussia battle, leaving Marcus Ericsson and Max Chilton to prop up the field on the final row of the grid.
Bahrain Grand Prix – Qualifying – Provisional Classification
1. Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – 1:33.185
2. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes – 1:33.464 +0.279
3. Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull-Renault – 1:34.051 +0.866
4. Valtteri Bottas – Williams-Mercedes – 1:34.247 +1.062
5. Sergio Perez – Force India-Mercedes – 1:34.346 +1.161
6. Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari – 1:34.368s +1.183
7. Jenson Button – McLaren-Mercedes – 1:34.387 +1.202
8. Felipe Massa – Williams-Mercedes – 1:34.511 +1.326
9. Kevin Magnussen – McLaren-Mercedes – 1:34.712 +1.527
10. Fernando Alonso – Ferrari – 1:34.992 +1.807
11. Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull-Renault – 1:34.985 +1.277
12. Nico Hulkenberg – Force India-Mercedes – 1:35.116 +1.408
13. Daniil Kvyat – Toro Rosso-Renault – 1:35.145 +1.437
14. Jean-Eric Vergne – Toro Rosso-Renault – 1:35.286 +1.578
15. Esteban Gutierrez – Sauber-Ferrari – 1:35.891 +2.183
16. Romain Grosjean – Lotus-Renault – 1:35.908 +2.200
17. Pastor Maldonado – Lotus-Renault – 1:36.663 +1.789
18. Adrian Sutil – Sauber-Ferrari – 1:36.840 +1.966
19. Kamui Kobayashi – Caterham-Renault – 1:37.085 +2.211
20. Jules Bianchi – Marussia-Ferrari – 1:37.310 +2.436
21. Marcus Ericsson – Caterham-Renault – 1:37.875 +3.001
22. Max Chilton – Marussia-Ferrari – 1:37.913 +3.039
Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG PETRONAS