Rosberg makes it three-in-a-row for Mercedes in Spain

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Nico Rosberg has secured Mercedes’ third consecutive pole position during qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix today at the Circuit de Catalunya.

The German driver led for large parts of qualifying, bettering his own fastest time late on in Q3 to finish ahead of his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, who will join him on the front row.

Mercedes enjoyed a sizeable gap to the chasing teams, with Sebastian Vettel posing the greatest challenge to their front row lock out in P3. He finished just ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, with Lotus looking particularly good on the harder tire. For Ferrari, qualifying was not as expected, locking out the third row of the grid with Alonso 5th and Massa 6th, which will be disappointing following their practice performances. Romain Grosjean will line up 7th tomorrow, followed by Mark Webber for Red Bull. Sergio Perez was delighted to make it into Q3, qualifying 9th ahead of Paul di Resta for Force India.

Q1 saw Mercedes finish the session on top, with Hamilton and Rosberg both running well on the softer tire. However, both Ferrari and Lotus showed good pace on the harder compound, whilst Red Bull also ran strongly at the front. Toro Rosso had a good session, finishing P10 and P11, and McLaren just about made their way through into Q2 as Perez and Button finished 14th and 15th respectively. For Williams, the session capped off a year of change. Twelve months ago, Pastor Maldonado started on pole and won the race, yet he could only qualify P18 today, one place behind his teammate. Caterham won the battle at the back, with Giedo van der Garde outqualifying both Marussias and his teammat for the first time this season.

Just as they did in Q1, Mercedes finished on top in Q2, but it required a late lap from Lewis Hamilton to make it into the final qualifying session, although his time was 0.5 seconds quicker than the rest of the field. Ferrari managed to make it through on one run once again, but McLaren’s weekend went from bad to worse. Jenson Button could only finish 14th, although Perez did manage to make it into the final qualifying shootout. Paul di Resta also posted a late lap to make it through, squeezing out both Toro Rosso drivers and his teammate Adrian Sutil. Sauber failed to make it into the final session, with Hulkenberg and Gutierrez lining up 15th and 16th respectively.

Qualifying has certainly thrown up an interesting result, although many will remind Mercedes that they have not won from pole position so far this season. However, every GP at the Circuit de Catalunya since 1996 has been won from the front row, which will certainly give the Silver Arrows some hope heading into tomorrow’s Spanish Grand Prix.

Daniel Ricciardo to decide soon about moving from Red Bull to another F1 team

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LE CASTELLET, France (AP) Daniel Ricciardo says over the next six weeks he wants to decide between staying at Red Bull or joining another Formula One team for next year.

Ricciardo said on Thursday at the French Grand Prix, “It would be nice to go on the summer break knowing what I am doing.”

F1 is working its way toward its three-week break in August with speculation mounting that Mercedes, Ferrari, and McLaren are interested in luring Ricciardo away from Red Bull for 2019.

“I will be honest, everyone is talking about Mercedes and Ferrari as potential places for me to go, and I am aware that there will be interest from other teams,” he said.

The Australian driver has won seven races in his four-plus seasons with Red Bull. He is fourth in the standings behind leader Sebastian Vettel heading into the race at the Paul Ricard Circuit near Marseille.

Ricciardo’s stock has risen in recent months after his victories in Shanghai and Monaco. His Monaco win was particularly impressive because Ricciardo had to deploy some masterful defensive driving to protect his lead after losing an estimated 25 percent of his engine power.

Ricciardo said he had not directly spoken to rivals Ferrari and Mercedes, but he hedged when asked if his manager had.

“People talk, have coffees, I will leave that one open-ended,” he said with a laugh.

Ricciardo called the decision on whether to go or stay with Red Bull the biggest choice of his career following his decision to leave his native Australia and continue his racing career in Europe over a decade ago.

“For sure the priority is to get a car to win the world title because I really believe I can,” he said. “I am slightly careful because it is easy to think the grass is greener and maybe it is, but I also have it pretty good where I am.

“People do like a change but just to make change for the sake of making a change is not enough for me. I need to find some substance behind it to jump ship.”

Red Bull announced recently it would be ending its 12-year partnership with engine-maker Renault and switching to Honda motors for next year.

Ricciardo was hesitant to endorse or criticize the change, saying he was going to “try to keep putting the pieces together if it is a good move.”

But with the question of the engine manufacturer out of the way, Ricciardo said Red Bull would likely be looking to resolve its drivers’ lineup for next year.

“I haven’t been pushed yet, but I would say that there will be some movement in the next week,” he said. “Whether that is something that gets put down on paper (or not), for sure the discussions will start to ramp up in the next few days.”