SHANGHAI: Nico Rosberg roared to pole position for Mercedes after holding off a furious challenge from a resurgent Ferrari in Saturday’s qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix.
The German, who won the season’s first two races, is joined on Sunday’s front row by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo after a late burst left Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel on the second.
World champion Lewis Hamilton will start at the back of the grid, however, after mechanical failure effectively dashed the Briton’s hopes of a hat-trick of wins in China.
You can’t win them all, Hamilton tells Rosberg
“The pressure was on,” Rosberg told reporters after qualifying, which was delayed for 20 minutes after Pascal Wehrlein crashed his Manor into a wall moments into the first session. “Kimi did a better first lap so I needed to nail the lap — which I did. Kimi was massively close and we are definitely aware of the threat from Ferrari, maybe Red Bull as well.”
Raikkonen had looked set to claim his first pole since 2008 until a mistake at the hairpin left Rosberg celebrating his first of the season after being out-qualified by Hamilton in Australia and Bahrain.
Checkmate: Rosberg sets pace with dramatic win
“It’s a shame,” said Raikkonen, typically without a flicker of emotion despite blowing a golden opportunity. “We had a chance to be on top today but that’s how it goes. I was up on that lap but I ran wide on the hairpin and obviously lost a lot of time.”
Ricciardo surprised even himself with his late heroics. “Second is pretty awesome,” beamed the Australian. “We didn’t expect this!”
Voicing concerns: Format flop overshadows Hamilton’s 50th pole
Rosberg will be favourite to claim his 17th career victory on Sunday and become only the fourth driver to win six Formula One races in a row after taking the last five chequered flags dating back to last year.
But Ferrari, who have struggled with reliability this season, have shown blistering pace in Shanghai. Vettel insisted it was still game on, despite Rosberg making it three poles in a row for the Silver Arrows.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2016.
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