Rosberg takes surprise Bahrain pole

For the second race in a row, a Mercedes driver will start from the front spot on the grid. This time, it was Nico Rosberg who took the honours, as Lewis Hamilton struggled with less pace and a gearbox penalty.

Sebastian Vettel is in a prime position to attack from 2nd place on the grid, while the Ferraris are 3rd and 4th. Penalties for Hamilton and Mark Webber have elevated Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil to 5th and 6th places. Here is what happened in qualifying:

Q1

Thankfully, we didn’t see a repeat of what happened in China, as most drivers partook in the majority of Q1.

Fernando Alonso had noteworthy pace on the hard compound tyres, going faster than medium-clad Sebastian Vettel. It was immediately apparent that Lotus’ pace had slid away, as Kimi Raikkonen struggled to keep his car on track under braking, repeatedly locking up and going off the track.

Both Williams drivers set the exact same time to a thousandth of a second, but Maldonado set his time later, so he was demoted further down the order, and was eventually knocked out of Q1.

Charles Pic put Caterham ahead of Marussia for the first time this season, while Esteban Gutierrez will start from 22nd after a penalty from last weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.

Drivers knocked out of Q1:

17) Pastor Maldonado – 1:34.425

18) Esteban Gutierrez – 1:34.730 (+ 5 positions)

19) Charles Pic – 1:35.283

20) Jules Bianchi – 1:36.178

21) Giedo van der Garde – 1:36.304

22) Max Chilton – 1:36.476

Q2

Paul di Resta put Force India firmly in the spotlight, initially leading proceedings, and eventually taking 4th place in Q2.

Romain Grosjean was all set to partake in Q3, until a mistake on his final Q2 lap put him under pressure. Jenson Button was all too willing to pounce, and was audibly delighted on the team radio afterwards.

Sergio Perez yet again failed to make the cut, while Nico Hulkenberg demonstrated Sauber’s lack of pace this weekend.

Drivers knocked out in Q2:

11) Romain Grosjean – 1:33.762

12) Sergio Perez – 1:33.914

13) Daniel Ricciardo – 1:33.974

14) Nico Hulkenberg – 1:33.976

15) Valtteri Bottas – 1:34.105

16) Jean-Eric Vergne – 1:34.284

Q3

A quick lap by Rosberg at the start of Q3 was enough to state his intentions. Alonso and Hamilton duly slotted behind in the first set of lap times.

All 10 drivers went out on track for the final 5 minutes, providing a closely-fought battle for pole. Only Jenson Button ended up not setting a time, the McLaren making a mistake on his sole lap.

Alonso also aborted his final run, leaving Vettel and Hamilton to chase the second Mercedes driver. After Nico improved his lap time again, Vettel could only get within a quarter of a second, while Hamilton could only muster 4th place.

Felipe Massa qualified 6th, but has been elevated to 4th because of other drivers’ penalties. He will start on the hard tyre, interestingly, and it will be fascinating to see how he matches up to teammate Alonso tomorrow.

The Force Indias were 7th and 8th, and Kimi Raikkonen had no pace whatsoever in Q3, a full second off Rosberg’s time.

Times from Q3:

1) Nico Rosberg – 1:32.330

2) Sebastian Vettel – 1:32.584

3) Fernando Alonso – 1:32.667

4) Lewis Hamilton – 1:32.762 (+ 5 places)

5) Mark Webber – 1:33.078 (+ 5 places)

6) Felipe Massa – 1:33.207

7) Paul di Resta – 1:33.235

8) Adrian Sutil – 1:33.246

9) Kimi Raikkonen – 1:33.327

10) Jenson Button – No time set

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