For only the third time in the 2015 Formula One season Nico Rosberg beat Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to pole position in Qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix.
The German's best lap of Q3 was a 1.37.113, putting him 0.320 clear of the reigning World Champion. Williams racer Valterri Bottas only just beat Sebastian Vettel for third with Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez, Romain Grosjean, Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo rounding out the top ten for the second Russian Grand Prix.
Rosberg dominant on Saturday
Rosberg's first attempt in Q3, was actually the fastest time of the final part of qualifying, due to Mercedes' huge advantage, but more importantly team mate Hamilton going off at T12 on his second run. The Brit then boxed his W06, handing his teammate a second successive pole after his expoits last time out in Japan.
The German's side of the garage will be hoping that he can make a better start than in Suzuka, and Hamilton won't get the run and thus advantage on the charge to T2 as Rosberg did last year, when he locked his brakes, which cost him a shot at victory.
"It's been a difficult weekend", Rosberg mused afterwards in the press conference, who trails the championship leader by 48 points, with just 125 left up for grabs. If Rosberg is to really take the fight to Hamilton, who is still searching for his 50th Pole, he must win the race.
Mixed Session For Williams
Williams were looking strong, espcially on Saturday morning, with Bottas pumping in some quick times. However, Felipe Massa struggled thtoughout Q1 and Q2 and was a high profile causalty in Q2. Bemoaning a lack of grip, a mistake and encountering some traffic on his best lap time means he will start 15th.
Force India again continued their recent strong showings, with Hulkenberg, in particular looking consistent and fast, while teammate Perez only just made it out of Q1. Romain Grosjean, in his first race since announcing he is to join Haas from Lotus next year, again impressed with eighth.
Red Bull In Trouble
Daniel Ricciardo snuck the Red Bull into a disappointing 10th, and Danill Kvyat, the home favourite couldn't repeat his P5 effort from 2014, missing out on a Q3 showing by less than one tenth of second.
It is difficult times for Red Bull with Ferrari announcing they won't supply them with engines in 2016, coupled with Mercedes also refusing, there is a real chance of Red Bull and Toro Rosso - for whom Verstappen impressed with ninth- exiting the sport.
Fernando Alonso, with his 35 place grid penalty for using a new spec Honda Power Unit - failed to make it out of Q1- finishing P16, although Jenson Button did make it through to Q2, on merit. Having recently announced that he is to stay at McLaren for a seventh season next year there were positive signs for the Woking outfit, and Button managed P13.
It seemed as though McLaren, in Sochi at least have jumped Sauber, the team just ahead of them in the constructors championship.
Only 19 Cars take part in Qualifying
During final practice Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz suffered a huge accident in the T12 braking zone. Intially the car was 'buried' in the Tecpro barrier, with extraction of the driver taking a considerable amount of time.
The session was stopped immediately and then abandoned. Evantually Sainz was extracted and gave the thumbs up sign. The team say that he "will be kept in hospital overnight" and they won't pressurise the Spainaird into racing. the accident meant that only 19 cars would actually take part in the session.
Russian Grand Prix Grid
1 Nico Rosberg
2 Lewis Hamilton
3 Valterri Bottas
4 Sebastian Vettel
5 Kimi Raikkonen
6 Nico Hulkenberg
7 Sergio Perez
8 Romain Grosjean
9 Max Verstappen
10 Daniel Ricciardo
11 Danill Kvyat
12 Felipe Nasr
13 Jenson Button
14 Pastor Maldonado
15 Felipe Massa
16 Marcus Ericsson
17 Will Stevens
18 Roberto Merhi
19 Fernando Alonso
20 Carlos Sainz*
*Medical Exam Pending