Formula 1 championship leader Nico Rosberg remains wary of the threat posed by the opposition in tomorrow’s Russian Grand Prix despite seeing chief rivals Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel both drop back on the grid.
Defending champion Hamilton was forced to sit out of Q3 in Sochi after an issue similar to the one he suffered in China arose on his power unit.
As a result, Hamilton will start tomorrow’s race from P10 at best, leaving him with a huge task if he is to cut into Rosberg’s 36-point lead at the top of the drivers’ championship.
Vettel took advantage of this to qualify second for Ferrari, but he drops back to seventh on the grid after taking a new gearbox earlier in the weekend.
Rosberg eased to his second pole position of the season by seven-tenths of a second despite only completing one fast run in qualifying, but he is refusing to get ahead of himself.
“I was just focused on myself out there, really going for it and feeling great about it,” Rosberg said.
“It’s really going really well today. From Q2 onwards it felt awesome. The others have been unfortunate today, definitely, extremely unfortunate.
“That makes my race a little bit easier tomorrow, but an F1 race is never easy. Even from where Sebastian is and where Kimi [Raikkonen] is and with Valtteri [Bottas] behind and everything, the opposition is still there.
“So I still need to keep focused and try and get the job done as good as possible.”
Rosberg was able to get out of his car long before the end of qualifying safe in the knowledge he had pole thanks to the advantage Mercedes has enjoyed at the Sochi Autodrom.
“To be honest I was quite confident that the lap was good enough out there because in Q2 Ferrari was quite far away and I knew that Lewis was not able to participate in the last part of qualifying,” Rosberg said.
“So I was very sure it was going to be enough. You never know, there’s still the remaining uncertainty so I was glad eventually when Sebastian crossed the line that it was good enough.”
The Russian Grand Prix is live on CNBC from 7am ET on Sunday.