MANAMA (Bahrain) • World champion Lewis Hamilton secured the 51st pole position of his career and his second of the season for Mercedes with the fastest lap ever at the Bahrain International Circuit yesterday.
The 31-year-old Briton, under pressure after failing to top the times in three practice sessions, found the pace he needed in another desultory exhibition of the new qualifying format ahead of today's Bahrain Grand Prix.
"It's obviously not been a smooth weekend in terms of pace for me - and Nico (Rosberg) has been right on it - but I was able to put a lap together, my best of the weekend, and it mattered for me at just the right time," said the three-time world champion.
His lap in one minute and 29.493 seconds was the fastest lap recorded at the Sakhir track and it rescued him after an error had marred his first fast lap in Q3.
Rosberg, who won the season-opener in Australia and looked set for pole position himself, wound up second fastest behind Hamilton in the second Mercedes.
BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX GRID
1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes
2 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes
3 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari
4 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari
5 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull
6 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Williams
7 Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams
8 Nico Huelkenberg (Ger) Force India
9 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas
10 Max Verstappen (Ned) Toro Rosso
14 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1:31.998
But the German, who has now won four consecutive races, remained upbeat knowing that this circuit offers multiple overtaking opportunities.
"My lap felt good and I was sure I was on pole. Lewis put in an incredible lap to beat me," he said. "This track is where pole counts least, I think. There are still a lot of opportunities."
Rosberg will start ahead of the third-placed Ferrari of four-time champion Sebastian Vettel.
"I was very happy with the first attempt. The second attempt was more or less copy and paste, but that's not enough if they improve by five tenths," said Vettel.
"There isn't one place on the track where the car doesn't feel right. Step by step we're getting there. We know what to do, so we'll see. It's a long race and let's see what happens tomorrow."
Kimi Raikkonen was fourth in the second Ferrari ahead of Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull, Valtteri Bottas and his Williams team-mate Felipe Massa.
Nico Huelkenberg was eighth for Force India, ahead of Romain Grosjean of the new American Haas team with Dutch teenager Max Verstappen 10th for Toro Rosso.
Despite the Silver Arrows locking out the front row, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff heaped criticism on the new qualifying format which provided marginally more excitement yesterday than the disappointing debut at the Australian season-opener two weeks earlier.
"It was terrible," he said.
F1 BAHRAIN GP
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