Nico Rosberg on pole for Chinese Grand Prix
No one was more surprised than Nico Rosberg at the German's peerless performance that saw him snatch pole position in Shanghai.
The Mercedes man’s first ever pole came courtesy of a blistering lap that goes a long way to proving Ross Brawn’s outfit has the speed to win races this season.
However, that it was Rosberg and not seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher at the head of the grid for today’s Grand Prix is a surprise, his first pole coming at his 111th attempt.
The 26-year-old was a full half-second ahead of McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, who was given a five-place grid penalty this week for having to change his gearbox and will start from seventh. That puts Schumacher right behind his team-mate, as the F1 legend followed up his quick practice times by finishing third in the qualifying session.
“It was strange beforehand because I was standing there on my own and everybody else was still going round and I can’t do anything anymore,” Rosberg said.
“And then slowly but surely, I saw the sector times and I saw that it was definitely going to be enough, so fantastic.
“In the race we have been not as good as in qualifying. But I’m going to work hard and make the most of it.”
Schumacher is still looking for his first podium finish since returning to the sport in 2010, and Mercedes looks to have finally produced a car that can get him there. Even the German great, though, was surprised at how fast Rosberg was.
“For all of us, to see the gap that big is a bit of a surprise, but there you go,” Schumacher said. “He’s known as a good qualifier and no reason to be unhappy.”
Even though Hamilton will have to work his way up through the field, the Briton is not discounting his team’s chances today after a strong start to the season. Jenson Button captured the season-opening race in Australia and Hamilton has two third places.
“I’ve set my car up to be at its strongest in the race,” Hamilton said.
“So, although Jenson and I are a little bit further back than we’d like, and we’ve got a bit of work to do, we can still make it.
“There’s a good group of drivers ahead of us on the grid, but we’re right with them in terms of race pace.”