Nico Rosberg claimed a first pole position and will start the Chinese Grand Prix with Michael Schumacher alongside him in the first all-Mercedes front row since the 1950s.
Having looked strong in the practice sessions Mercedes were a good tip to take pole, though Rosberg’s half-second gap back to Lewis Hamilton who qualified in second place revealed a level of performance that was unexpected. Rosberg himself, having set the time early and then watched the final minutes of the session as a spectator having jumped out of the car, called it ‘a perfect lap.’
“It’s a great feeling. Fantastic,” he added. “It worked out well, qualifying, especially as we got it all right in the end. It was a good lap and it all came together. It’s the perfect start. It really shows that, as a team, we’re moving forward. In qualifying we’re very, very strong now.” With Hamilton taking a grid penalty for an out-of-sequence change of gearbox, Rosberg will be joined on the front row by team-mate Michael Schumacher. Somewhat more experienced in such things it will be Schumacher’s 116th front row start, though his first since the Japanese Grand Prix of 2006.
Even Schumacher, however, was surprised at Rosberg’s pole-lap pace. “I said actually ‘well done’, [over the radio to his engineer, after enquiring about Rosberg’s time] because that was a phenomenal lap time. For all of us, to see the gap that big is a bit of a surprise but there you go. He’s known as a good qualifier and [there is] no reason [for me] to be unhappy. The opposite: happy for him for his first pole.”
Despite the jubilation, Mercedes acknowledge their one-lap pace in superior to what they are capable of over a long-run and are sanguine about their chances of maintaining their positions in the race. “In the race we’re still not quite as strong and not where we want to be yet but also there, we’re learning a lot and progressing fast,” said Rosberg. “The thing is we can't make huge jumps in a couple of weeks, it’s going to take a bit more time, but we’re getting there.”