Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg has bagged pole position for Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix. Rosberg beat German treble-champion Sebastian Vettel to the front of the grid, with Fernando Alonso third for the contentious race.
Nico Rosberg went fastest in all three subsections of the lap at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir on Saturday, claiming the top spot on the grid by just over a quarter of a second. It's only the second pole position of Rosberg's 132-race F1 career - last time he started from the front, in China last year, the 27-year-old went on to claim his maiden F1 win.
Mercedes backroom newcomer Toto Wolff, however, said on Sky Germany after qualifying that "tomorrow counts," implying he was concerned about the comparative pace of the other teams with heavy fuel loads on race day.
At last week's race in China, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton started from pole position but could only finish third.
Reigning champion and this year's overall leader, Sebastian Vettel, qualified second-quickest, ahead of Ferrari's Spanish star Fernando Alonso.
Prancing Horses ready to pounce
Rosberg's teammate Hamilton was fourth fastest on the day, but will lose five places owing to a penalty for changing his gearbox on Saturday. Mark Webber, the fifth quickest driver, will also lose places for causing an incident in the previous race in China, meaning Ferrari's Felipe Massa jumps from sixth to fourth on the grid.
The two Ferraris, to start third and fourth on Sunday, are renowned as particularly quick getting off the line.
The Force India duo of Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil, Lotus-Renault's Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren's Jenson Button rounded out the top 10 in qualifying.
Sauber star Nico Hülkenberg fared worst among the four German drivers on the grid, having constantly complained about car balance on pit-radio during qualifying. Hülkenberg could manage only 14th place on the grid.
The Bahrain Grand Prix, arguably the most contentious date on the F1 calendar, has again been marked by public protests in parts of the country against the ruling royal family. The circuit itself, to the south and west of the capital Manama, has been quiet amid a heavy security presence.