Rosberg storms to pole position in Bahrain

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Nico Rosberg has claimed pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix after finishing quickest in qualifying today.

The Mercedes driver surprised many to go quickest in the final session, with the team expected to struggle in Bahrain. Rosberg’s time of 1:32.330 was two-tenths quicker than Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, who will join his compatriot on the front row.

Fernando Alonso qualified 3rd, with a mistake in Q3 meaning that he could not challenge for pole position, despite finishing quickest in Q1. Lewis Hamilton qualified 4th, but he will drop five places on the grid due to a gearbox penalty. Mark Webber, who also has a penalty, finished 5th, meaning that Felipe Massa will start in 4th for Ferrari on the harder tire.

Force India impressed once again to finish 7th and 8th, with Paul di Resta outqualifying Adrian Sutil, whilst Kimi Raikkonen could only line up 9th. Jenson Button failed to set a time, and he will start in 10th tomorrow.

The first qualifying session saw Alonso finish five-tenths clear of the rest of the field, with Red Bull leaving Vettel and Webber’s laps until very late on the softer tire. Further back, Marussia’s struggles continued as Max Chilton qualified last behind Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde, whilst Jules Bianchi finished a full nine-tenths behind Charles Pic. Esteban Gutierrez qualified P18, with a five-place grid penalty dropping him to last, whilst Pastor Maldonado was highly unlucky to make it into Q2. The Venezuelan driver set a lap time identical to that of his teammate Valtteri Bottas, but the Finn made it through having posted his time before Maldonado.

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Q2 failed to yield too many surprises as all of the big names made it through. However, Romain Grosjean could not match teammate Kimi Raikkonen for pace, finishing 11th, whilst Sergio Perez’s poor form continued as he ended up in P12. Daniel Ricciardo, who qualified 6th for last year’s race in Bahrain, could only line up 13th, albeit just 0.2 seconds off Button’s P10 time. Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas and Jean-Eric Vergne completed the classification in Q2, lining up 14th, 15th and 16th respectively.

The flurry of activity towards the end of Q3 meant that it was crucial to get good track position, and Rosberg appeared to perfect his lap to seal his second career pole position. Mercedes will be wary of Red Bull and Ferrari tomorrow, especially with Alonso running strongly in practice, and Massa’s alternative strategy suggests we are in for a thrilling race in Bahrain tomorrow.

Here’s who were picking to win the Indy 500 — who are YOU picking?

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Several members of the NBC Sports motorsports staff have made their predictions on who will win Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Of the six voters, two are going with 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden, while two others are going with Helio Castroneves to win a fourth 500, which would tie him with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

Here’s our picks. Who are YOU picking?

Leigh Diffey: Helio Castroneves — He drives the place better than anyone else. For me (for what its worth) he deserves a fourth 500 ring for the frustration he went through never getting the IndyCar title!

Townsend Bell: Josef Newgarden

Nate Ryan: Simon Pagenaud — All of his 2018 misfortune on the track has disappeared in May, and it culminates in the biggest victory of his career.

Jerry Bonkowski: Helio Castroneves – There’s no pressure as he pursues his fourth Indy 500 win. All Helio has to do, as late NFL owner Al Davis would say, is “Just win, baby!” (But if Helio falls short, watch for Marco Andretti)

Kyle Lavigne: Josef Newgarden — I think he has everything he needs to get it done this year.

Dan Beaver: Robert Wickens – Has driven like anything except a rookie and his second-place finish at Phoenix proves he’s just as good on an oval as the road courses.

Follow: Jerry Bonkowski