BAKU (Azerbaijan) • Nico Rosberg will start on pole for the inaugural European Grand Prix in Baku, with his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton only 10th after a calamitous qualifying session on the tricky street circuit yesterday.
The Briton was quickest in all three practice sessions but the Formula One triple world champion had an error-strewn qualifying, culminating in him crashing his Mercedes in Q3.
Rosberg took full advantage of Hamilton's misfortune. The championship-leading German clipped the wall on his fastest lap in Q3 on his way to a 1min 42.758sec time, after Hamilton did the same but more severely in the track's narrowest section, damaging his front right tyre.
The Briton was forced to pull up and, as he walked away, the session was red-flagged to a halt with two minutes remaining as marshals cleared the debris.
"I couldn't tell you what the possibilities are for tomorrow," he said. "It's damage limitation from here. The team made a change to something overnight, but I just wasn't on it today."
Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes
Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari
Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari
Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams
Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Toro Rosso
Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India
Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Williams
Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull
Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes
Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas
Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Force India
Carlos Sainz (Esp) Toro Rosso
Fernando Alonso (Esp) McLaren
Esteban Gutierrez (Mex) Haas
Felipe Nasr (Bra) Sauber
Rio Haryanto (Ina) Manor
Pascal Wehrlein (Ger) Manor
Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren
Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber
Kevin Magnussen (Den) Renault
Jolyon Palmer (Gbr) Renault
The pole will have been all the sweeter for Rosberg after Hamilton criticised rivals, including his team-mate, for "moaning" about the street circuit, whose layout winds around ancient city walls but also has long straights.
A buoyant Rosberg said: "It was great. That was one of the more challenging sessions out there, but everything worked out well. All weekend, we have been building towards this and qualifying was really optimum."
When the action resumed, Sergio Perez wound up second fastest for Force India in 1:43.515, but the Mexican will start from seventh after picking up a five-place penalty for a gear-box change after crashing in the final free practice.
The demotion lifted Red Bull's Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who was third-fastest, to the front row.
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel moved up to third and his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was fourth.
Brazilian Felipe Massa, for Williams, and Russian Daniil Kvyat, in a Toro Rosso, share the third row.
At the back, Manor can no longer be described as tail-enders after Indonesian Rio Haryanto and Germany's Pascal Wehrlein qualified a creditable 17th and 18th.
That was ahead of 2009 world champion Jenson Button's McLaren, Sauber's Marcus Ericsson and the Renaults of Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer.
The pole was the 25th of Rosberg's career and first since Russia in April, when Hamilton also qualified 10th after an engine failure. The German won that race, with Hamilton second.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
F1 EUROPEAN GRAND PRIX
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