Formula One: Mixed day for Mercedes stars Rosberg and Hamilton

Nico Rosberg, who won the first two races this season, won his first pole of 2016 during yesterday's qualifying session at the Shanghai International Circuit.
Nico Rosberg, who won the first two races this season, won his first pole of 2016 during yesterday's qualifying session at the Shanghai International Circuit.PHOTO: REUTERS

Rosberg takes pole in Shanghai Grand Prix, Hamilton to start at the back of the grid

SHANGHAI • Nico Rosberg blazed to pole position for Mercedes at the Chinese Grand Prix after holding off a resurgent Ferrari in yesterday's qualifying.

The German, who won the season's first two races, clinched his first pole of the season in 1min 35.402sec and his 23rd in all, to move him ahead of McLaren's Fernando Alonso on the all-time list.

He is joined on the front row for today's race by Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, who put together a thrilling late lap to give Red Bull their best qualifying performance of the season. "Second is pretty awesome," beamed the Australian. "We didn't expect this."

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel are on the second row, while world champion Lewis Hamilton will start at the back of the grid for the first time since Hungary in 2014 after a failure of his engine recovery system dumped him out of Q1.

The Briton, who won pole here on the previous three occasions, was already due to start the race in sixth place at best because of a five-grid penalty following a changed gearbox. But he was unable to set a time as his bad luck, after two mishaps in the opening two races in Australia and Bahrain, continued.

A very calm-looking Hamilton said afterwards: "These things are sent to try us and I am sure we will learn from it. It is just about trying to figure out the issue and making sure it doesn't happen again.

"You can overtake here, the tyres don't last as well so it perhaps won't be as simple as it was in that race (Hungary 2014). The car is quick, hopefully they get the issue fixed and we can have a race tomorrow."

The Ferraris of Raikkonen - who at one stage looked set to win his first pole since 2008 - and Vettel, finished third and fourth respectively.

"It's a shame," said Raikkonen, typically without a flicker of emotion despite blowing a golden opportunity.

"We had a chance to be on top today but that's how it goes. I was quite a bit up on that lap but I ran wide on the hairpin and obviously lost a lot of time."

Manor's Pascal Wehrlein has been outstanding this season but his qualifying lasted just 3min 22sec before he came off in the wet conditions. The session was red-flagged and Wehrlein - one of three rookies this season - was out of Q2.

The other drivers who failed to get out of Q1, apart from Hamilton, were the Renault pair of Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer, along with Rio Haryanto (Manor) and Esteban Gutierrez (Haas).

The Q2 drop-outs were McLaren's Jenson Button and Alonso, Sauber's Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr, Felipe Massa (Williams) and Romain Grosjean (Haas), while Force India's Nico Huelkenberg also missed out on Q2 after losing his front left wheel.

Rosberg, meanwhile, will be full of confidence going into the race.

"The whole weekend has gone well," he said. "To get the lap done and put it on pole, I'm happy with that - but not ecstatic because Lewis had bad luck and broke down. That fight didn't happen, but anyway I'm pleased."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 17, 2016, with the headline 'Mixed day for Mercedes'. Print Edition | Subscribe