Rosberg rocks Bahrain
Nico Rosberg has taken a surprise pole position in Bahrain, fending off Championship favourites Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.Rosberg looked feisty in his Mercedes all weekend, but the half-second gap between him and teammate Lewis Hamilton was an unexpected, to say the least.”It’s a fantastic result, it’s great for tomorrow,” said Rosberg. “I think as a team we worked really last night to improve the car, as yesterday we were really struggling.””Tomorrow is going to be a tough race for sure, with rear tyre degradation especially.””We’re not going to be as quick as we were in qualifying compared to everybody else. I think it’ll be much closer tomorrow on race fuel – but you just have to wait.”Sebastian Vettel came qualified second, his Red Bull after using up his set of softer medium tyres throughout the session – suggesting the Red Bull will prefer the hard compound for the race.The reigning Bahrain winner admitted that Red Bull was still some working out how to exploit the Pirelli rubber.”I think we managed to save some tyres throughout qualifying. It will be all about the tyres and tyre degradation tomorrow once again,” said Vettel.”I’m definitely not disappointed. Very happy. We believed the medium tyre was faster, so we went for that in qualifying.””[The race] will be between three and four stops. In qualifying we were not exactly sure how quick we would be. We didn’t want to take any risks.”Fernando Alonso will start behind Rosberg and Vettel but, critically, on the clean side of the grid.Alonso, who won the Chinese Grand Prix last weekend, aborted his final quick lap after a mistake going in to the final corner – hinting at the F138 having greater pace in hand.”Very happy with third place. Normally we’re struggling a lot but today the car was very competitive in qualifying and this puts us in a strong position to start tomorrow’s race,” said Alonso.”The conditions keep changing all the time here in Bahrain with the circuit running more and more categories, not only Formula One.””The race is very long so we need to wait and see how the pace is tomorrow. It’s true that on Sundays we normally do improve our performance and we seem more competitive.”Bahrain represented an opposite tyre challenge to that served in China, with Pirelli deciding to pair the medium tyre with the hard in exchange for the soft.It is unlikely to have been a knee-jerk reaction from last weekend, however, with such a decision needing to have been made earlier than just last week.Despite the improved durability of the rubber, however, Pirelli again found itself under the spotlight with a suspected tyre failure on Lewis Hamilton’s car during FP3 which, if proven to be the case, would be the manufacturer’s first since returning to the sport in 2011.All that considered, teams still found ways to differ their strategies from one another, with some of the top ten risking counter-strategies and choosing the hard as their primary race tyre.Lewis Hamilton could only go fourth fastest, with Mercedes launching an enquiry after qualifying as to why Hamilton couldn’t coax more pace from his car. He felt the W04 moved back a step after improving in free practice three.His misery was compounded with the application of a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change before qualifying.Mark Webber qualified fifth, but he too will suffer a grid penalty – this one for running into Jean-Eric Vergne during last week’s race. He drops to seventh place.Felipe Massa and Paul di Resta qualified in sixth and seventh (fourth and fifth after penalties), while Adrian Sutil and Kimi Raikkonen also become benefactors of Hamilton’s grid drop, moving up from eighth and ninth to seventh and eighth.Jenson Button, finally, completes the top ten, and gave a glimpse into the mindset of the McLaren team after celebrating his inclusion into Q3 this weekend.McLaren has looked off the pace since arriving in Sakhir, and will surely be counting the days before the Spanish Grand Prix, during which a significant upgrade is planned for MP4-28 Q1Ousted in Q1 was Pastor Maldonado in P17, and Esteban Gutierrez in P18, followed by the usual suspects Charles Pic, Jules Bianchi, Giedo van der Garde, and Max Chilton.Esteban Gutierrez received a five-place grid penalty after his collision with Adrian Sutil in China, so will start from last tomorrow. Q2Romain Grosjean continued his anonymous run in 2013 with the eleventh-fastest time. He was deeply unhappy out of the car, accusing the team of poor strategy by giving him only one run.McLaren, self-confessed as being well off the pace this weekend, proved as much Jenson Button just scraping through Q3, while Perez was again eliminated in Q2.Nico Hülkenberg announced his uneasiness on the faster medium tyre, his P13 qualification reflecting his inability to get the most from the rubber, while Daniel Ricciardo couldn’t back up his stellar grid position from Bahrain 2012, and will start from fourteenth.Valtteri Bottas managed to keep his Williams off the bottom of the session, outqualifying the STR of Jean-Eric Vergne. The 2013 Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix kicks off at 10PM this evening.