formula one Motorsport

Nico Rosberg throws down the gauntlet

GUNNING FOR VICTORY: Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg waves as he celebrates his pole position at the Singapore Grand Prix.   | Photo Credit: MOHD RASFAN

In his 200th race, Nico Rosberg threw down the gauntlet to teammate and championship rival Lewis Hamilton by grabbing pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix at the Marina Bay circuit here on Saturday.

Rosberg’s 1:42:584 put him ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo followed by Hamilton in third.

But the big story of the day was when four-time winner and last year’s pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel failed to clear the first part of qualifying after a mechanical issue in the rear suspension of his Ferrari.

The problem was apparent from his first run in qualifying but he stayed on to post a time to take him to the second part before coming into the pits for repair which was unsuccessful. Vettel will now start last on the grid.

At a time when the team in in a state of internal turmoil combined with disappointing results on track, this result is likely to hurt its chances even further in the fight against Red Bull for second place in the constructors’ championship.

The sister Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen could only manage the fifth fastest time behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

Hamilton, who won here from pole position in 2014, never got going this weekend and struggled once again in the final practice session held in the evening.

The Briton had quite a few offs in practice and never looked on pace across the three qualifying sessions on Saturday.

In the first part of qualifying, apart from Vettel’s exit, the two Renaults, the two Manors and the Sauber of Felipe Nasr failed to make the cut off.

In the second part of qualifying, the two Red Bull’s chose to run the more durable supersoft tyres unlike the rest of the field that ran the quicker ultrasoft tyres.

The rules dictate that the top 10 drivers will have to start on the same tyres that they used to set their best times in the second part of qualifying.

Going into Sunday’s race, this gives both the Red Bull drivers the advantage to run longer in the first stint while Mercedes will have to start on ultrasofts.

For Hamilton, who has had numerous issues with starts this season, it will be important to get ahead of Ricciardo at the start and not be struck behind him on a track where overtaking is very difficult.

In the battle for fourth in the constructors’ title, Force India looks good with its drivers starting eighth and 10th while rival Williams could only manage 11th and 12th with the latter holding a slender three point lead.

Every edition of the Singapore GP has seen the appearance of a safety car and the timing of the pit stops could play a key role in the outcome of the race.

Towards the end of the second part of Q2, Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean became the first one to crash into the barriers in qualifying locking up under braking for turn 10.

In the previous eight runnings of the Singapore GP, the pole-sitter has gone on to win the race six times and Rosberg, who is riding a wave of confidence on the back of wins in the last two races, will want to make it count here on Sunday to take lead of the championship once again.

The results (qualifying): 1. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes); 2. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull); 3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes); 4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull); 5. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari); 6. Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso); 7. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso); 8. Nico Hulkenberg (Force India); 9. Fernando Alonso (McLaren); 10. Sergio Perez (Force India); 11. Valtteri Bottas (Williams); 12. Felipe Massa (Williams); 13. Jenson Button (McLaren); 14. Esteban Gutiérrez (Haas F1); 15. Romain Grosjean (Haas F1); 16. Marcus Ericsson (Sauber); 17. Kevin Magnussen (Renault); 18. Felipe Nasr (Sauber); 19. Jolyon Palmer (Renault); 20. Pascal Wehrlein (Manor); 21. Esteban Ocon (Manor); 22. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari).

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Printable version | Mar 3, 2021 8:51:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/motorsport/Nico-Rosberg-throws-down-the-gauntlet/article14457200.ece

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