Formula One leader Nico Rosberg took pole position for the Russian Grand Prix while his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton was 10th after a car failure ended his qualifying session early on Saturday.
Rosberg and Hamilton traded fastest times in the first two sessions, but their contest ended abruptly when Mercedes said Hamilton had a repeat of the power unit problem that left him at the back of the grid for the last race in China.
”I went out at the end of Q2 to get a feel and I lost the same power as I lost in China. There’s nothing I can do. I never give up,” Hamilton said in televised comments.
Hamilton was also summoned to the stewards’ office for disobeying instructions about driving across the run-off area during the first qualifying session.
With Hamilton out of contention, Rosberg secured pole with ease, opting not to run at the end of the final session after setting a time well beyond the reach of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who was .706 seconds off the pace in second.
”I didn’t know what Lewis had until now. I was just focused on myself out there, really going for it and feeling great about it,” Rosberg said.
Vettel also faces a five-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race due to a gearbox change, meaning Valtteri Bottas of Williams will start on the front row after qualifying third, 1.119 seconds behind Rosberg.
The gulf in performance between Mercedes and its closest rival Ferrari leaves Rosberg with little opposition on Sunday, when he will seek his seventh race win in succession and fourth of the season.
”The others have been unfortunate today, extremely unfortunate, so that makes my race a little bit easier tomorrow but an F1 race is never easy,” Rosberg said, adding: ”The way the grid is, it does help me out a lot, for sure, to get the win tomorrow.”
Vettel admitted there was a big gap to Mercedes but insisted Ferrari could still challenge on Sunday. ”It’s a long race, it’s a long way, especially around here there’s a lot of things that can happen,” he said.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was fourth in qualifying, followed by Bottas’ Williams teammate, Felipe Massa, and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
Both McLarens failed to reach the third session, with Jenson Button qualifying 12th and Fernando Alonso 14th.