Nico Rosberg turned the tables on teammate Lewis Hamilton in Bahrain to record his first pole position of the year and make it three-straight for Mercedes to start the 2014 Formula One season. Mercedes continued their dominance of the weekend with 0.587 seconds separating second-placed Hamilton from the best of the rest, Daniel Ricciardo. But there is little prospect of Red Bull posing any threat to Mercedes on Sunday, with Ricciardo demoted 10 places for an unsafe release from a pit stop in last week’s Malaysian Grand Prix and four-time world champions Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the final top-10 shootout.
Ricciardo’s third place on the grid will go to William’s Valtteri Bottas, who will be followed on the grid by the impressive Sergio Perez in his Force India followed by Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and the McLaren of Jenson Button.
But the day belonged to Mercedes, who, barring something dramatic happening, look set to take a third-straight victory in 2014. Hamilton had gone faster in all three practice sessions but his run of poles was ended by the time set by Rosberg in his first run of Q3. Having been soundly beaten into second place by his teammate a week ago, Rosberg will now be looking to extend his lead in the drivers’ championship after taking pole in Bahrain for the second straight year.
“It's fantastic to be on pole again here in Bahrain,” he said, according to Formula One’s official website. “I really enjoy the track and I won my GP2 Series title here so it has some pretty special memories for me. We've had a good weekend so far and I've been able improve my pace throughout the practice sessions so I was hoping for a strong qualifying.”
Hamilton was not overly disappointed to have his teammate in front of him, but voiced some concern at his dip in performance under the lights in qualifying compared with the hotter daytime practice sessions.
“Second place is pretty good for us today,” he explained. “I made a mistake on my last lap which was a shame but it's great for the team to have both cars on the front row.
“The car has felt good so far but I definitely felt more comfortable in practice than I did this evening in qualifying. I'm not really sure why but we'll have a good look at the data tonight and see if there is anything we can identify before the race tomorrow.”
It was a bad day all-round for Vettel, however. Not only has the Red Bull driver conceded that Mercedes are out of reach this weekend, but he also failed to make it into Q3 for the second time this season after having uncharacteristically spun off earlier in practice.
“We weren’t quick enough today. I was pretty happy yesterday, but I think this morning didn’t help us when I spun off and did some damage to the car,” he said. “It’s hard to say how big the impact of that was, as once you start qualifying you just get your head down and try to do the best you can.”
One place ahead of Vettel on the grid, in ninth, will be Ferraris Fernando Alonso, with McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen starting from eighth, behind Felipe Massa’s Williams. It promises to be a tight battle between Red Bull, Ferrari, Williams and McLaren, but they all look set to be trailing in Mercedes’ wake.
Where to watch: The Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix will get underway at 11 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by NBCSN, with a live steam available on NBC Sports Live Extra.