HOCKENHEIM, Germany (Reuters) - Nico Rosberg set a scorching pace under pressure on Saturday to seize pole position, ahead of Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton, in qualifying for his home German Formula One Grand Prix.
Rosberg, determined to take back the championship lead from Hamilton on Sunday after losing it in last weekend’s race in Hungary, lapped the 4.5-km Hockenheim track in one minute 14.363 seconds.
The German had only one flying lap to set his time, however, after being forced to abandon his first attempt in the final pole-position phase of qualifying due to an electronics problem.
“It’s a great feeling and just a great lap,” Rosberg said. “I also had extra fuel to make sure I could get another shot ... so (I am) really satisfied with that one, that was cool.”
Saturday’s pole was the 27th of Rosberg’s career and fifth of the season. It was also Mercedes’s 47th in the last 50 races. The German team have started all but one race this year from the front.
Hamilton, who escaped a penalty for an unsafe release in the final practice session, was 0.107 seconds slower than Rosberg.
The Briton had trailed the German in each of the three practice sessions in the build-up to qualifying but was quickest in Sunday’s opening two phases before locking up on his final lap.
“I had the pace today, just didn’t finish it off on the last lap,” said a visibly disappointed Hamilton, who leads Rosberg by six points heading into Sunday’s race.
Daniel Ricciardo will head an all-Red Bull second row after going third-fastest ahead of 18-year-old Dutch team mate Max Verstappen.
The Australian, who finished third in Hungary, was 0.363 seconds behind Rosberg’s benchmark but was optimistic that a different tyre strategy to the Mercedes pair could put him in the mix.
“There was maybe a tenth or so in it with the perfect lap, but not enough to challenge the pole,” said Ricciardo. “We’re close enough ... so hopefully it means something tomorrow.”
Kimi Raikkonen was fifth for Ferrari, beating team mate Sebastian Vettel who was a disappointing sixth on his first appearance on home soil in the Italian team’s scarlet colours.
Nico Hulkenberg was seventh ahead of Williams driver Valtteri Bottas and Force India team mate Sergio Perez. Felipe Massa, in the second Williams, was 10th.
Rosberg won at Hockenheim in 2014 and a repeat would allow him to put the brakes on Hamilton, who has won five of the last six races.
Mercedes will be anxious for their two drivers to make a clean start, with top management watching at what is a home event for them.
The team put stricter deterrents in place and tightened the “rules of engagement” after the latest in a spate of collisions between the pair earlier this month.
“We’ve talked about it a lot what the consequence would be and that hasn’t changed,” said team boss Toto Wolff. “They are aware.”
Editing by Clare Fallon