Nico Rosberg surprised by commanding Bahrain pole but plays down victory hopes
Mercedes man expecting rear tyre degradation to dominate race
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 20/04/13 8:32pm
Having been tipped to fall out of the leading pack in Saturday's qualifying session, Rosberg delivered the surprise result of the season so far as he blitzed the field to land the second pole position of his career ahead of Vettel and Alonso.
"A little bit [of a surprise]", acknowledged Nico as he celebrated a pole position which seemed distinctly improbable on Friday when both Mercedes cars struggled for pace and Lotus appeared to boast a clear advantage.
But the gap to the frontrunners had already been narrowed during Practice Three following overnight tweaks to the W04 even before Rosberg unleashed a stunning turn of speed in Q3. The German driver delivered two different laps in the final ten minutes of the qualifyng hour sufficiently quick to claim pole position with his second ultimately two-tenths faster than the best of Vettel.
"We worked really well last night to improve the car because on Friday we were really struggling and the result is just fantastic," added Rosberg.
Yet despite Mercedes confounding pre-qualifying expectation to register their first back-to-back pole positions since the 1950s, paddock wisdom insists that Rosberg is likely to struggle in Sunday's race due to the W04's relatively high rate of tyre wear.
"It is going to be a tough race with rear degradation," acknowledged the German.
"For sure the completion is going to be tough and it's difficult to say if we have enough pace to win the race but a lot can still happen."
Yet regardless of what happens in Sunday's race, Rosberg's season is at last, in his own words, "up and running" following Saturday afternoon's unexpected success.
Although there have been glimpses of speed from the 27-year-old in each of the opening three events of 2013, Rosberg entered Saturday's qualifying hour trailing Hamilton 0-3 and knowing that he couldn't afford a repeat of the mistakes which cost him dear at both Malaysia and China.
His response was a comprehensive defeat of the 2008 World Champion as Hamilton, already facing a five-place grid penalty, failed to lap within four-tenths of his team-mate's time.
"The first three races have been a really rough and today was the first normal qualifying so I just want to kick-start my season in the race," he said.