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Rosberg storms to desert pole

NEWS STORY
20/04/2013

Ahead of today's qualifying session, the air temperature is 34 degrees C, while the track temperature is 42 degrees.

As if Mercedes wasn't having enough problems, the German team clearly struggling with its tyres and balance here, Lewis Hamilton has incurred a five-place grid penalty after his team opted to change the gearbox on his car. This, the result of a tyre failure in the final moments of this morning's session which damaged his suspension.

Of course, Mark Webber and Esteban Gutierrez also have grid penalties, both for incident in last week's Chinese Grand Prix.

While Fernando Alonso was quickest this morning, and Felipe Massa yesterday morning, it appears to be close call between Ferrari, Red Bull and Lotus, Kimi Raikkonen looking particularly strong here.

While McLaren and Mercedes are clearly struggling, Force India is looking good and could well pull a real surprise both today and tomorrow.

Sauber, on the other hand, looks all at sea, as do Williams and Toro Rosso, none of which appear to suit the conditions here.

Having been on the back foot in the opening rounds Caterham looks a lot stronger here, the Anglo-Malaysian outfit having brought back Heikki Kovalainen as test and reserve driver.

Tyres were always going to be the main talking point here and Hamilton's problem this morning will only add to that. However, with a three-week break until the Spanish Grand Prix, the start of the European season, Pirelli and the powers that be have some time to get things sorted. However, there appears to be some confusion as to extra tyres for Fridays, some thinking they are for rookie drivers only, others under the impression they'll be available to everyone.

While the dusty (sandy) surface has caught out as number of drivers this weekend, it was over exuberance that saw Alonso go off between Turns 2 and 3 this morning.

Tyres available here are hard (prime) and medium (option), while there are two DRS zones, one on the main straight and the other on the back straight linking Turns 10 and 11.

The lights go green and in the Mercedes garage mechanics are putting the finishing touches to Hamilton's car.

It is almost three minutes before the first car heads down the pitlane, Gutierrez, followed by his Sauber teammate. Both are on the hard tyre.

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