MANAMA (Reuters) - Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton drove his ‘beast’ of a Mercedes to a fourth successive pole position on Saturday while team mate Nico Rosberg failed to make the front row at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Briton will have Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari alongside instead on Sunday, with fellow German Rosberg managing only third after taking pole at the Sakhir circuit the two previous years.
The pole position on the floodlit track was the 15th in a row for champions Mercedes and 42nd of Hamilton’s career although only the first in Bahrain, a race he won from second place last year.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen qualified fourth.
“Coming into the weekend, that was the target — to really try and master this (track) and get the car into an area that I’m comfortable with,” said Hamilton, who leads Vettel by 13 points after three races.
“That’s generally how the weekend’s kind of gone...I’m really grateful to have this beast underneath me,” added the champion, whose fastest time of one minute 32.571 seconds was a meaty 0.411 quicker than Vettel’s best.
Hamilton had celebrated a commanding win in China last weekend, a victory that had left Rosberg upset and complaining about his team mate’s behavior in a spat that earned the German little sympathy.
Rosberg knew the best reply was to beat Hamilton on the track and, although tops in Friday practice, he could not match the Briton’s speed on Saturday with the champion quickest in every phase of qualifying.
“Strategy-wise I think I got it wrong,” said Rosberg, who is 17 points behind Hamilton and has beaten his team mate only once in the last 10 races.
“I was thinking too much about the race and I under-estimated Sebastian’s speed...it’s disappointing that Sebastian beat me. Being third is not ideal.”
The Williams pair of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa filled the third row with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo seventh and Germany’s Nico Hulkenberg eighth for Force India.
Further back there was something of a breakthrough for Honda-powered McLaren, even if Jenson Button will start last after failing to clock a time or complete a lap, with double world champion Fernando Alonso qualifying 14th.
That was the first time in a troubled start to the season that a McLaren has gone through to the second phase of qualifying.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Mark Meadows/Gene Cherry