European GP qualifying: Nico Rosberg secures pole after Lewis Hamilton crashes
Hamilton to start tenth; Perez loses front-row starting berth due to grid penalty; Vettel and Ricciardo set identical fastest laps
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 27/12/16 8:41am
Nico Rosberg claimed pole position for the European GP after team-mate Lewis Hamilton crashed out during an action-packed qualifying hour in Baku.
After mistakes at the end of Q2 and on his first flying lap in Q3, Hamilton hit the wall at Turn 10 in an extraordinary culmination to a thoroughly wretched session for the world champion.
Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo will line up alongside Rosberg on the front row with the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel third. The pair set identical lap times but Ricciardo will be given the superior grid slot because he crossed the line first.
"I had a fantastic rhythm on Friday but zero today," Hamilton told Sky Sports. "It will be damage limitation from here. I was just not on it today."
Provided that Mercedes can repair his car for the race without triggering a penalty, the world champion will start a distant 10th.
"Clearly he has lost an opportunity because the car was good enough for the front row," said team boss Toto Wolff. "But it is tricky around here."
Prior to his qualifying disaster, Hamilton had dominated the weekend, topping the timesheets in all three practice sessions.
But after Rosberg began to show signs of a revival by setting the pace in Q1, Hamilton had to abandon his first flying lap in Q2 after Nico Hulkenberg spun, made another on his second run, and only belatedly secured a place in the top-ten shoot-out with just seconds to spare.
However, another mistake then occured at the start of Q3 and was almost immediately followed by an even more costly error through the tight and twisty section of track past Baku's medieval castle as he clipped the wall, wrecking the right-front of his Mercedes W06.
Although Force India's Sergio Perez was second fastest in Q3, the in-form Mexican will take a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change necessitated by his heavy crash in Practice Three.
"It feels like pole," said Perez. "Obviously I am still a bit angry from the mistake of this morning but very happy and the lap we put together in Q3 was very strong."
Daniil Kvyat, promoted to sixth ahead of Perez but behind Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa, also had cause to celebrate: by reaching Q3 ahead of Carlos Sainz, the Russian out-qualified a team-mate for the first time this year.
But Jenson Button was just 19th on a miserable afternoon for McLaren's former world champion while both Renaults were relegated to the back row. "Rubbish," was Jolyon Palmer's succinct but indisputable assessment of the team's afternoon.
European GP qualifying
1 Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:42.758
2 Sergio Perez, Force India, 1:43.515
3 Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:43.966
4 Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:43.966
5 Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:44.269
6 Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:44.483
7 Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 1:44.717
8 Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:45.246
9 Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 1:45.570
10 Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 2:01.954
11 Romain Grosjean, Haas, 1:44.755
12 Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 1:44.824
13 Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, 1:45.000
14 Fernando Alonso, McLaren, 1:45.270
15 Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, 1:45.349
16 Felipe Nasr, Sauber, 1:46.048
17 Rio Haryanto, Manor, 1:45.665
18 Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, 1:45.750
19 Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:45.804
20 Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1:46.231
21 Kevin Magnussen, Renault, 1:46.348
22 Jolyon Palmer, Renault, 1:46.394