SOCHI, Russia: Nico Rosberg out-qualified his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to claim pole for the Russian Grand Prix at Sochi on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
Rosberg, trailing Hamilton by 48 points in the world championship, claimed his third pole of the season by three tenths of a second with a time of 1 min 37.113 sec.
It was Rosberg’s third pole of the season and the 18th of his career and came after a dramatic morning during which Spaniard Carlos Sainz of Toro Rosso escaped injury when crashed heavily at Turn 13 after careering out of control at more than 300 kph.
Showing undimmed self-belief and confidence, Rosberg said: “I am very happy. It has been a difficult weekend because of the little running we got, but I got some very good laps in and I am happy with that.
“I am just enjoying being on pole at the moment. The constructors championship is a really important target for us again this weekend and at the same time I am out to reduce the gap on Lewis.”
Hamilton, who ran off track in a vain final bid to improve his time and grab his 50th career pole, was three-tenths adrift in second place ahead of Finn Valtteri Bottas who was third for Williams.
The Briton was philosophical about the outcome.
“I did go for my second lap — I just did not finish it,” he said. “I made a mistake at Turn 13.
“It’s been a difficult weekend for everyone but Nico did a great job with his lap. Overall, I am very happy and it is great for the team. Plus, this is not such a bad race for P2…. “
Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari was fourth ahead of teammate Kimi Raikkonen and the two Force Indias of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez.
Romain Grosjean was eighth for Ferrari ahead of Dutch teenager Max Verstappen in his Toro Rosso and Australian Daniel Ricciardo who was 10th for Red Bull.