SAKHIR, Bahrain (AP) — Mercedes locked out the front row for the Bahrain Grand Prix as Nico Rosberg claimed pole position on Saturday, qualifying ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton.
Rosberg's time of 1 minute, 33.185 seconds at the Bahrain International Circuit was a quarter of a second faster than Hamilton, who had to abandon his final flying lap after running wide at the first corner.
It was Mercedes' third straight pole to start the Formula One season but the first for Rosberg, who equaled his father Keke with five career poles. Rosberg leads the championship on 43 points, 18 ahead of Hamilton.
"It has just worked well through the weekend, finding my way, making progress and getting through some issues," Rosberg said. "I have good memories of this track, winning the GP2 championship and starting my first race in F1. I enjoy coming here and again today it's suited me."
Rosberg and Hamilton have a win each from the opening two races of the season and Mercedes also dominated the three practice sessions leading into qualifying, both in day and night conditions, with Sunday's race to be held at night for the first time.
The only surprise was Rosberg taking pole ahead of Hamilton, who usually thrives in the one-lap format.
"I locked up in the last lap but generally I am happy for the team," Hamilton said. "Nico did a great job and naturally I'm happy my teammate is there and not someone else."
Defending four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel did not even make the final session of qualifying and will start from 10th on the grid — promoted one spot as his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who qualified third, gets a 10-place grid penalty from the previous race in Malaysia.
Vettel paid the price for a session-ending spin in pre-qualifying practice which prevented him from getting valuable data on how to set up the car on the soft-tire, low-fuel setting. He also complained of a downshifting problem.