2014 Bahrain GP Qualifying: Nico Rosberg takes pole position for dominant Mercedes
Mistake costs Hamilton; Mercedes still able to claim a one-two lockout; Vettel fails to make it through to Q3; Bottas to start from third; Sunday's race, exclusively live on Sky F1, starts at 4pm UK Time
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: 06/04/14 8:31am
Nico Rosberg will start the Bahrain GP from pole position after upsetting the formbook to defy Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
Thrashed in Malaysia a week ago, the German gained a reassuring measure of revenge over Hamilton by scoring his first qualifying defeat over the World Championship favourite this season.
Mercedes have scored a one-two in every session this weekend, but the sting in the tale at the conclusion of Saturday's qualifying hour was the sight of Rosberg, second to Hamilton in each of the three practice sessions, usurping the 2008 World Champion at the top of the charts.
Already three-tenths adrift of Rosberg after their first Q3 runs, a smokey mistake at the first corner of his final lap saw Hamilton raise the white flag in his bid for pole and leave his team-mate able to cruise round the Sakir circuit safe in the knowledge that he'd already done far more than enough to beat the rest of the field.
"You can't always get it right," accepted Hamilton. "I made a little lock-up at the first corner and went off."
And that was that. Rosberg's banker lap wasn't without a fault of its own, but it was still almost a second faster than any other car could produce. If it wasn't already apparent, it is fast becoming clear that there are two new series in F1 this year. The first is the brave new world which all the teams - some with rather less enthusiasm than others - have signed up to. The second is the league of their own that Mercedes and their front-running W05 have exclusive access to.
But while the dominant Mercedes outfit continue to resemble Red Bull of 2009-2013, the World Champions still look a shadow of their former selves with Sebastian Vettel, like in Melbourne, suffering the indignity of taking F1's version of an early bath at the end of Q2. How the mighty are falling.
"The final run for some reason was a bit more difficult, the rears were locking up. We had been playing around with it for quite a while - we are still not where we want to be but I don't want to blame it on that," rued the Red Bull driver. "There was a little bit more in the car which I couldn't get to, so I am not happy."
Daniel Ricciardo offered a glimmer of encouragement to the unhappy Red Bull camp as he piloted his RB10 to third-fastest in the timesheets, but the ten-place grid penalty the Australian has - harshly - carried over from Malaysia means that Valtteri Bottas will start from third with Williams team-mate Felipe Massa four places further back. Felipe, Valtteri is faster than you...
On a day of surprise intra-team results, the biggest were at Force India, where the previously-anonymous Sergio Perez suddenly emerged into the limelight by taking fourth while Nico Hulkenberg failed to reach the top-ten shoot-out, and at Ferrari as Kimi Raikkonen out-qualified the struggling Fernando Alonso for the first time. Yet with the F14 T so far adrift of the fronrunners, there was no cause for celebration from the Finn.
"We're doing better but sixth is not what we are after and my plans are much bigger than one qualifying," declared Raikkonen.
And there was another mild surprise at McLaren as Jenson Button, ahead of his 250th grand prix, proved there's still life in his old dog, and decent pace in the MP4-29, by beating Kevin Magnussen by three-tenths and claiming sixth.
Look beyond the run-away W05 and F1 in 2014 is a close-run thing. At the conclusion of Q3, just two-tenths covered the lead Williams, Force India, Ferrari and McLaren, with Ricciardo's Red Bull just another two-tenths further up the road. Yet there's no overlooking the Mercedes - even if it is only to sight the W05 as a fast-disappearing speck on the horizon.
As he celebrated landing pole, Rosberg described his duel with Hamilton as "massively intense". Battle will be rejoined on Sunday with both men driving in the sure knowledge that, barring a mutually-destructive accident or unexpected calamity, theirs will be a two-car contest for victory in the one car which has emerged as the first among equals of F1's brave new world.
Sky F1's exclusively live coverage of the Bahrain GP begins at 2.30pm UK Time, with the race underway at 4pm