Nico Rosberg ended Lewis Hamilton’s pole position season monopoly on Saturday, beating his Mercedes teammate for first place on the grid at the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix.
Rosberg grabbed his 16th career pole in 1 minute 24.681 seconds for the 4.655km lap on the Circuit de Catalunya, 0.267 seconds ahead of Hamilton, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel third.
Daniel Ricciardo managed tenth place in his Red Bull.
World champion Hamilton had taken pole in the first four races of the season and won three of them to lead the standings BY 27 points from Rosberg with a further point to Vettel.
The pole sitter has won 18 of the 24 Barcelona races.
“It is an advantage to start from pole and I will try to make the most if it,” Rosberg said.
“Of course I needed it (pole) sooner rather than later.”
Hamilton admitted that “Nico did a great job” and said he didn’t quite have the car balance he had hoped for. But the Briton vowed “there is still a lot to play for” on Sunday.
Rosberg managed only three victories from the 11 pole positions he got last year, with Hamilton winning five of the other eight.
Hamilton by contrast has won nine of the 11 races he has started from the front since the start of the 2014 season, including last year’s race in Spain.
Mercedes appear to have kept their dominance after a three-week break which all teams used for upgrades.
Vettel trailed by a big margin and Kimi Raikkonen managed only seventh in the other Ferrari, but Vettel hopes to pose a bigger threat Sunday.
“Disappointed is the wrong word. I think it is great for Ferrari to keep confirming how close we are … Hopefully tomorrow we can be closer than today,” the Malaysian GP winner said.
Valtteri Bottas was fourth in a Williams ahead of a career-best fifth for Carlos Sainz and his Toro Rosso teammate Max Verstappen.
Daniil Kvyat of Red Bull, Williams’ Felipe Massa and Ricciardo completed the top 10.
McLaren meanwhile took another small step in the right direction when their ex-champions Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso both survived the first phase of qualifying for the first time this season, with Alonso 13th on the grid and Button next to him in 14th.
Alonso crashed in pre-season tests in Barcelona which made him miss the season-opener in Australia.
The home race is also the site of his last race win, in 2013 while at Ferrari – and with Rosberg on pole.