AUSTIN – Nico Rosberg has praised his Mercedes’ team’s setup on his W05 as the deciding factor in claiming his ninth pole position of the year Saturday at Circuit of the Americas. That total leads all drivers, and is two ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton’s seven.
This one seemed a bit of a surprise as Hamilton had led all three practice sessions coming into qualifying. But Rosberg said setup, rather than his own digging deep and finding the time needed to snatch the pole, was more to thank.
“It worked out very well together with my engineers,” he said post-qualifying. “I was very happy with the balance. It was quite a challenge with the wind changing, conditions were different, and a lot colder (earlier in the day). In the end we had a great setup, great car.”
Rosberg exploited it to his advantage, particularly in what was a scintillating first sector. With a 25.662 sector one to Hamilton’s 25.847 on his ultimate best, Rosberg had time in hand to improve his fastest lap down to 1:36.067 at his final lap.
It was an impressive lap time, as the new formula of 1.6L V6 power units and on Pirelli’s soft tires (last year, the medium was the alternate whereas this year that’s the prime with the soft the alternate), produced a pole time quicker than Sebastian Vettel’s of 1:36.338 one year ago with the previous formula.
Rosberg upped the gap to 0.376 over Hamilton thanks to his pole time, and the Englishman could come no further.
Asked about the first sector specifically, Rosberg again downplayed it.
“I finally got the right setup together with the team,” he said. “We’ve continued to improve the car all the time. I felt comfortable and was finally able to push.”
Rosberg’s pole means he’ll start on the clean side of the track whilst Hamilton will be on the dirty side.
“I haven’t thought that far ahead yet, but if you say that’s good, that’s great,” Rosberg opined.
A win for Rosberg would be vital in the championship chase. He enters 17 points down to Hamilton with three races remaining. A Rosberg-led Mercedes 1-2 would close the gap to 10, and further inroads could be made if Hamilton falls further back on Sunday.