MONACO (AP) — Nico Rosberg took pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix ahead of Lewis Hamilton on Saturday after making a late error that left his Mercedes teammate visibly irate at missing out on a shot at qualifying in first place.
With Rosberg holding the best time, the Mercedes pair went out for one final qualifying lap with less than a minute remaining in the session, but the German lost control coming out of the Mirabeau turn, sliding down an escape road. After Rosberg backed out onto the circuit, a yellow flag came up — meaning the session was over and Hamilton could not improve on his time.
It was an incident that fueled the growing rivalry between the two runaway leaders in the overall standings, with Hamilton insinuating afterward that he would get revenge.
"I have apologized to Lewis for having hindered the opportunity for him to improve his lap time," Rosberg said. "I locked up the rears (tires) and then the fronts at the bumpy downhill part of the track before turn five."
Stewards cleared Rosberg of any wrongdoing after studying video and telemetry evidence of his maneuver.
It's the second pole of the season for Rosberg. Hamilton— who leads Rosberg by just three points in the overall standings — has the other four.
Given that nine out of the past 10 Monaco GP's have all been won from pole position, Rosberg has a great chance to reclaim the overall lead from Hamilton. Rosberg won from pole position here last year for his maiden win.
Rosberg's leading time was 1 minute, 15.989 seconds, with Hamilton clocking 1:16.048 and Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo was in third at 1:16.384. Four-time defending champion Sebastian Vettel of Germany finished fourth, while Fernando Alonso of Ferrari was fifth.
Tension has been building over the last few days, with Hamilton even publicly questioning whether his teammate has enough desire.
Although reluctant to discuss the incident in the post-qualifying news conference, Hamilton was later asked if the situation within Mercedes now compares to the internal rift between the late Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, who had an extremely tense relationship racing against each other for McLaren in the late 1980s.
Quizzed by British broadcaster BBC if his relationship with Rosberg was heading the same way, Hamilton responded "essentially" before adding: "I don't know if Senna and Prost sat down and talked it out. I quite like the way Senna dealt with it, so I'm going to take a page out of his book."