Rosberg Leads Mercedes Front-Row Lock-Out in Spain Qualifying

Nico Rosberg claimed his second pole position of the season by setting the fastest lap in qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton will join his Mercedes teammate on the front row of the grid at the Circuit de Catalunya for tomorrow’s race.

Championship leader Sebastian Vettel could manage only third on the grid, Kimi Raikkonen was fourth, and home-favourite Fernando Alonso could manage only fifth.

Alonso should start the race alongside Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa, but the Brazilian could get a grid penalty for blocking Webber during Q2.

Jenson Button’s difficult season continues after he failed to make it into Q3 and qualified only fourteenth.  To make matters worse, his rookie teammate Sergio Perez did make it through to the pole position shoot-out, and qualified ninth.

The first part of qualifying took a long time to get going – it was almost four minutes before the first driver, Daniel Ricciardo, emerged from the pit lane.

Lotus, Ferrari and Mercedes all enjoyed time at the top of the timesheets during Q1, with Lewis Hamilton setting the fastest time in this early point of the session.

Meanwhile, down at the back of the grid, it was a miserable qualifying session for Williams. Both Valtteri Bottas and last-year’s pole-sitter Pastor Maldonado failed to make it out of Q1.

Giedo van der Garde qualified ahead of the two Marussia cars in P19. Jules Bianchi, in P20, out-qualified teammate Max Chilton, and Charles Pic was the slowest of them all, but comfortably within the 107% lap time.

As the clock counted down to zero in Q2, Lewis Hamilton was languishing towards the bottom of the timesheets, and about to head out of qualifying. Fortunately, he was on his final flying lap, and that lap was good enough to put him fastest, by 0.601 seconds from Sebastian Vettel.

There were mixed fortunes for the McLaren drivers: Jenson Button could manage no higher than P14, so failed to make it into Q3, but Sergio Perez put in an excellent lap to take P7. It is the first time that Perez has out-qualified Button since arriving at his new team.

Also out of the session were the two Toro Rosso drivers of Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne, Adrian Sutil and the two Sauber drivers of Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez.

Gutierrez may find himself further down the grid than P16, after he blocked Kimi Raikkonen during Q1. If the stewards come to the same conclusion as many commentators, the Mexican is likely to find himself with a grid penalty later this afternoon.

Raikkonen was first out of the pits for Q3, and was quickly followed by the likes of Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg. Vettel, Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton chose to sit back in the pits, only doing one run.

After the first flying laps were completed, Rosberg had provisional pole position ahead of Alonso, Massa, Romain Grosjean and Raikkonen. All five then returned to the pits for fresh tyres.

Vettel was first out of the pits for the next round of qualifying laps, and put his Red Bull into P2. Raikkonen could manage only P3. Neither could dislodge Rosberg from provisional pole.

The German’s next lap was faster, and he then stretched his advantage by 0.106 seconds. Hamilton could not dislodge his teammate, but took P2.

Home-favourite Alonso managed only fifth, whilst Webber could only get eighth, which meant an all Mercedes front row, led by Nico Rosberg.