Hamilton, Webber lose five and three places respectively
Mercedes got its second straight pole position when Nico Rosberg beat world champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull for first place in Saturday’s qualifying for the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix.
Rosberg clocked 1 minute 32.330 seconds on the 5.412-kilometre course, ahead of fellow-German Vettel who had 1:32.548, a week after teammate Lewis Hamilton started from first place on the grid in China.
The Shanghai winner Fernando Alonso of Ferrari was third and will start the race alongside teammate Felipe Massa.
The Brazilian moves two places up from sixth in qualifying because Hamilton and Red Bull’s Mark Webber lose five (gearbox change Saturday) and three places (causing an accident in China) respectively.
Rosberg’s second career pole may be a good omen for Sunday because his lone victory to date last year in China also came from first on the grid.
“I’m really, really happy. It’s a fantastic result, it’s great for tomorrow,” Rosberg said.
“I really want to kickstart my season. It has been a rough ride in the first three races ... The competition will be tough. It is difficult to say if we have enough pace to win the race tomorrow but for sure we’ll try hard to win.”
Rosberg is yet to make the podium in 2013, failing to finish in Australia and China while being ordered by the team to stay fourth behind Hamilton in Malaysia although he appeared to have the faster car.
Hamilton has two third-place finishes and 40 points overall to rank fourth behind Vettel (52), Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen (49) and Alonso (43). Rosberg is seventh with 12 points.
Vettel named Rosberg “unbeatable” on the day but was happy that, “We managed to save tyres for the race. For sure it’s good to start on the front.”
Alonso also conserved tyres when he did not complete his last fast lap, realising he wouldn’t be able to beat Rosberg.
But the Spaniard was happy overall as Ferrari is normally further behind in qualifying.
“Normally in qualifying we struggle a lot and the car is very competitive in the race. We start with the leaders and fight for the podium,” he said.
Ferrari has won four of the eight previous Bahrain races, Alonso won in 2005 and 2006 for Renault (which is now Lotus), and Vettel the 2012 edition after the 2011 race was called off because of political unrest in the country.
Webber will start his 200th career race from seventh place owing to the penalty, and Hamilton from ninth, but podium finishes for them are not out of the question given the tricky issue of conserving tyres.
The Australian GP winner Raikkonen will start eighth, and the grid shak-—up pushed the Force India duo of Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil into the third row behind the Ferraris.
The starting grid: 1st row: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) and Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull).
2nd: Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) and Felipe Massa (Ferrari).
3rd: Paul di Resta (Force India) and Adrian Sutil (Force India).
4th: Mark Webber (Red Bull) and Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus); 5th: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and Jenson Button (McLaren).
Keywords: Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix