Rosberg takes pole for Mercedes in Bahrain
Germany's Nico Rosberg looked forward to 'kick-starting' his season after seizing Mercedes' second successive pole position in qualifying for the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix on Saturday.
Compatriot and triple world champion Sebastian Vettel joined him on the front row for Red Bull at a circuit where no driver has won from lower than fourth place on the grid in eight previous races.
"Am I surprised? A little bit. It wasn't really clear who was the quickest car over one lap," said Rosberg of his second career pole.
"I really want to kickstart my season. It has been a rough ride in the first three races. Today was my first real qualifying."
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, three times a winner in Bahrain, will share the second row in Sunday's race with Brazilian teammate Felipe Massa after penalties for Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull's Mark Webber.
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Hamilton was on pole in China last weekend but collected a five-place penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change after Saturday's final practice, dropping him from fourth.
Webber was fifth fastest for his 200th race but falls three places as a punishment for causing a collision in Shanghai, with Massa moving up from sixth.
Rosberg's only previous pole was in China last year. Mercedes have not had back-to-back poles since they returned as a works team in 2010.
The German driver has retired from two of the season's three races and finished fourth in Malaysia when he was ordered by the team not to pass Hamilton for third place for fear that the cars would run out of fuel.
The son of 1982 champion Keke now has a chance to take the second win of his career, at the circuit where he made his debut in 2006, but he warned that rear tyre degradation would be a concern in the race.
"It's difficult to say if we have enough pace to win the race tomorrow but for sure we'll try hard to win," said Rosberg.
The driver on pole in Bahrain has won four of the past eight races there.
Vettel leads the championship with 52 points, with Kimi Raikkonen, who qualified in ninth place but moves up to eighth, second on 49 for Lotus. Alonso has 43.
"Congratulations to Nico, it was all his today," said Vettel. "It was clear even with a perfect lap (he) was unbeatable today."
Britain's Paul Di Resta qualified a strong seventh for Force India and will move up to fifth after the grid penalties.
At the back, Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado failed to make it through the first phase after he and Williams teammate Valtteri Bottas clocked the same time down to a thousandth of a second. The Finn went through because he set his time first.
1. Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes 1min 32.330sec
2. Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull 1:32.584
3. Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari 1:32.667
4. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes 1:32.762
5. Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull 1:33.078
6. Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari 1:33.207
7. Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India 1:33.235
8. Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India 1:33.246
9. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus 1:33.327
10. Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren
1. Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull 1min 32.746sec (Q)
2. Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes 1:32.867 (Q)
3. Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull 1:33.098 (Q)
4. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus 1:33.146 (Q)
5. Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari 1:33.316 (Q)
6. Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India 1:33.335 (Q)
7. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes 1:33.346 (Q)
8. Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari 1:33.358 (Q)
9. Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India 1:33.378 (Q)
10. Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren 1:33.702 (Q)
Did not qualify for final session
11. Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus 1:33.762
12. Sergio Perez (MEX) McLaren 1:33.914
13. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Toro Rosso 1:33.974
14. Nico Hülkenberg (GER) Sauber 1:33.976
15. Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams 1:34.105
16. Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Toro Rosso 1:34.284
1. Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari 1min 32.878sec (Q)
2. Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull 1:33.327 (Q)
3. Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes 1:33.364 (Q)
4. Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus 1:33.498 (Q)
5. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes 1:33.498 (Q)
6. Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India 1:33.762 (Q)
7. Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari 1:33.780 (Q)
8. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus 1:33.827 (Q)
9. Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull 1:33.966 (Q)
10. Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India 1:34.048 (Q)
11. Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren 1:34.071 (Q), 12
Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Toro Rosso 1:34.120 (Q)
13. Sergio Perez (MEX) McLaren 1:34.310 (Q)
14. Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Toro Rosso 1:34.314 (Q)
15. Nico Hülkenberg (GER) Sauber 1:34.409 (Q)
16. Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams 1:34.425 (Q)
Did not qualify for second session
17. Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams 1:34.425
18. Esteban Gutierrez (MEX) Sauber 1:34.730
19. Charles Pic (FRA) Caterham 1:35.283
20. Jules Bianchi (FRA) Marussia 1:36.178
21. Giedo van der Garde (NED) Caterham 1:36.304
22. Max Chilton (GBR) Marussia 1:36.476