Rosberg claims Bahrain pole position

RARE ADVANTAGE::Nico Rosberg’s only previous pole position was in China last year, and Mercedes have not had back-to-back poles since returning as a works team in 2010

Reuters, MANAMA

Sun, Apr 21, 2013 - Page 20

Germany’s Nico Rosberg looked forward to “kick-starting” his season after seizing Mercedes’ second successive pole position in qualifying for the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix yesterday.

Compatriot and triple world champion Sebastian Vettel joined him on the front row for Red Bull at a circuit where no driver has won from lower than fourth place on the grid in eight previous races.

“Am I surprised? A little bit. It wasn’t really clear who was the quickest car over one lap,” Rosberg said. “I really want to kick-start my season. It has been a rough ride in the first three races. Today was my first real qualifying.”

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, three times a winner in Bahrain, will share the second row in today’s race with Brazilian teammate Felipe Massa after penalties for Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Mark Webber.

Hamilton was on pole in China last weekend, but collected a five-place penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change after yesterday’s final practice, dropping him from fourth.

Webber was fifth fastest for his 200th race, but fell three places as a punishment for causing a collision in Shanghai, with Massa moving up from sixth.

Rosberg’s only previous pole was in China last year. Mercedes have not had back-to-back poles since they returned as a works team in 2010.

“Congratulations to Nico, it was all his today,” Vettel said. “It was clear even with a perfect lap [he] was unbeatable today.”

The German driver has retired from two of the season’s three races and finished fourth in Malaysia when he was ordered by the team not to pass Hamilton for third place for fear that the cars would run out of fuel.

The son of 1982 champion Keke now has a chance to earn the second win of his career, at the circuit where he made his debut in 2006, but he warned that rear tire degradation would be a concern in the race.

“It’s difficult to say if we have enough pace to win the race tomorrow, but for sure we’ll try hard to win,” Rosberg said.

The driver on pole in Bahrain has won four of the past eight races there.

Britain’s Paul Di Resta qualified a strong seventh for Force India and will move up to fifth after the grid penalties.

At the back, Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado failed to make it through the first phase after he and Williams teammate Valtteri Bottas clocked the same time down to a thousandth of a second. The Finn went through because he set his time first.

Vettel leads the championship with 52 points, with Kimi Raikkonen, who qualified in ninth place but moves up to eighth, second on 49 for Lotus. Alonso has 43.