Nico Rosberg emerged as the surprise pole sitter from today’s qualifying session at the Bahrain International Circuit.
In a battle that many had predicted would be fought out between the two Ferrari and Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, Rosberg put in a stunning lap to easily take pole position. It followed him putting in a similarly dominant performance in Q2.
Initially, however, it was Fernando Alonso who confirmed Ferrari’s good pace around this circuit who topped Q1 as Sauber rookie Esteban Gutierrez and Pastor Maldonado were the two drivers to fail to make the cut, along with the two Marussias and Caterhams.
This time though two tail-end teams were much closer in performance, with Charles Pic out qualifying Jules Bianchi, whilst Giedo van der Garde got the better of Britain’s Max Chilton.
Q2 was close among the leading contenders till Rosberg posted in a quick lap, which was enough to make him fastest by almost half a second. Behind him though, the action heated up, with Romain Grosjean being the big name who failed to make it through to Q3. He was joined by Sergio Perez, the star performer from last weekend Daniel Ricciardo, Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas and Jean-Eric Vergne. Meanwhile, Button only just made the cut, once again confirming the problems that McLaren are experiencing with their 2013 car. He would ultimately elect to not set a time in Q3.
Unlike seven days ago, Q3 saw all the cars on circuit for the shootout for pole position. Rosberg took command of the top spot early on, and improved his lap time on a second run to make pole position unreachable for his rivals. He’ll be joined on the front row by last year’s winner, Sebastian Vettel, whilst Fernando Alonso – who took the win last time out in China, will line up in third, the very place he started at in Shanghai.
A 5 and 3 place grid drop for Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber respectively means Felipe Massa will start fourth, with Paul di Resta putting in an excellent performance to start fifth – easily his best grid slot of the season so far.
Hamilton incurred his penalty through a gearbox change before qualifying, whilst Webber was penalised for avoidable contact with Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne a week ago. Esteban Gutierrez is the only other driver with a penalty, and will start last after crashing into Adrian Sutil in last weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.
Interestingly, Felipe Massa set his Q3 time on the prime tyre meaning it will once again be interesting to see how strategy plays out throughout the race tomorrow. Will it be another victory for Fernando, or can Rosberg cause another upset and secure his second ever win?