Nico Rosberg is anticipating a close fight for victory in Sunday’s European Grand Prix despite seeing Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton crash out in qualifying.
Rosberg took pole with a last-gasp lap in Q3, edging out Force India’s Sergio Perez for pole just moments before the session was red flagged after Hamilton hit the wall at Turn 10.
The shunt left Hamilton 10th on the grid for the start in Baku, handing Rosberg an opportunity to open his championship lead back up once again after seeing it reduce from 43 points to just nine in the past three weeks.
“It was one of the more challenging sessions out there, but everything worked out well,” Rosberg said of qualifying.
“There was a bit of reorganizing, because for example in Q3 Lewis had an off in front of me so I had to abort that lap, and then I just had one more attempt at the end but that worked out fine. I’m very, very happy. It was great.
“I’m really pleased with that because all weekend we’ve been building towards it. In qualifying it was really optimum, so it felt good.”
By virtue of Perez’s penalty, Rosberg will start ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel on the grid on Sunday.
When asked who his main rivals for victory would be in Baku, Rosberg said: “Of course it’s going to be Daniel and Sebastian, Kimi, and Lewis.
“Never forget him, he can always come back from 10th as he’s shown very often this year.”
Rosberg spoke warmly of the Baku City Circuit, which plays host to F1 for the first time this weekend, believing its design played a big role in making qualifying as exciting as it was.
“I think they’ve done a great job up to now with the track especially. We’ve seen one of the most exciting qualifying sessions for a long time,” Rosberg said.
“The gap was pretty big in front but there was a lot going on all over the place and that’s down to the track. The race I’m sure is going to be very exciting.
“It’s one of the easiest tracks to overtake so there are going to be a lot of changing places I think, probably a lot of safety cars as well, exciting restarts as well.”
The European Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8am ET on Sunday.