Nico Rosberg has continued his dominant form at the Brazilian Grand Prix by claiming his tenth pole position of the 2014 Formula 1 season at Interlagos today.
After finishing quickest in all three practice sessions, Rosberg managed to find more time when it counted to edge out Mercedes teammate and championship rival Lewis Hamilton by just 0.033 seconds at the end of Q3 on Saturday.
Williams did appear to be in the running for pole, but Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas ultimately had to settle for P3 and P4 in the final standings as Mercedes’ pace proved to be too much once again in Brazil.
Qualifying began in overcast but dry conditions, allowing the drivers to head out on the soft compound tire early on to post their first lap times. Both of the Mercedes drivers opted against taking on the prime tire, with Rosberg and Hamilton exchanging blows on the softs at the top of the timesheets to pull over a full second clear of the rest of the field at one point. Ultimately, it was Rosberg who had the bragging rights at the end of Q1, finishing fastest by one-tenth of a second.
Having initially braved the medium tire, Williams and McLaren soon made the switch to the softs to ensure that they got through to the second session. Felipe Massa managed to run the Mercedes drivers close at the top of the standings with his final lap, but the Lotus duo of Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado were less fortunate as both drivers dropped out in Q1.
Jean-Eric Vergne was eliminated in the first session for the second week in a row, while Sergio Perez’s lack of Friday running showed as he could qualifying just 17th. He will drop to the back of the grid due to his penalty for the incident with Adrian Sutil in Austin last weekend.
Yet again, Q2 was a session that looked set to be dominated by the Mercedes drivers as both Rosberg and Hamilton headed out on fresh soft tires early on, immediately laying down an impressive pace. Continuing his dominance of the sessions, Rosberg soon established a 0.4 second gap to Hamilton, leaving the Briton with plenty to do ahead of Q3.
Both Mercedes drivers opted not to run for a second time in Q2, allowing Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas to split the Silver Arrows in second and third place respectively, throwing Williams’ hat into the ring for the pole position fight. Despite leaving their running late, both Red Bull drivers managed to get into the top ten, leaving Esteban Gutierrez, Nico Hulkenberg, Adrian Sutil and Daniil Kvyat in the dropzone at the end of the session.
At the beginning of Q3 in Brazil, Hamilton and Rosberg were the first two drivers to head out on track and post their first lap times in a bid for pole position. Hamilton managed to produce his fastest lap of the race weekend with his first run, only for Rosberg to go just 0.029 seconds faster, giving the German driver provisional pole.
However, Williams refused to go down quietly. With his first lap, Massa moved to within one-tenth of a second of Rosberg, and with Bottas in fourth place, less than 0.14 seconds separated the top four drivers after the first runs in Q3.
Hamilton looked to have snatched pole position away from his teammate when he went one-tenth of a second faster than Rosberg as the checkered flag fell, only for Rosberg to find an extra 0.033 seconds to take his tenth pole position of the season.
Having both had slow laps, Massa and Bottas opted to pit on their final flyers, leaving them third and fourth for Williams ahead of Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel. Kevin Magnussen qualified seventh, with Fernando Alonso, Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen completing the top ten.
With pole position, Rosberg clinched the FIA Pole Trophy for 2014 and also broke Rubens Barrichello’s record for the fastest pole position lap at Interlagos. However, with the smallest of margins separating him and Hamilton, the stage is set for another thrilling fight between the Silver Arrows in Brazil this weekend.