Rosberg takes sixth successive pole


Ahead of today's qualifying session the air temperature is 26 degrees C, whilst the track temperature is 30 degrees.

As ever with these twilight events, the disparity in temperatures between the early and late sessions presents a conundrum for the teams.

In this morning's session Nico Rosberg led the way, as he did in FP2 yesterday, whilst teammate Lewis Hamilton, though only 0.281s off the pace, failed to convince.

Whilst pole-man has only won here once since the first event in 2009, the winner has always started from the front row. Furthermore, as with all street tracks, as overtaking is difficult it is vital to be as near the front of the grid as possible.

The Ferraris have looked good all weekend, despite a Mexico-type mistake from Sebastian Vettel this morning, and we have a feeling that the red cars are going to end the season on a high.

It was a mixed morning for Red Bull, Daniel Ricciardo finishing sixth whilst teammate Daniil Kvyat failed to post a time having been side-lined by an electrical issue.

With the Williams pair eighth and ninth, and Carlos Sainz tenth, the big surprise was Force India, Sergio Perez finishing a very impressive fourth and Nico Hulkenberg seventh.

Unlike Monaco, drivers are allowed a margin of error here, mistakes ending in a trip across the generous tarmac run-offs as opposed to a clash with the barriers.

Nonetheless, drivers cannot afford mistakes and with the top seven covered by just 1.003s if they don't want to leave themselves with a mountain to climb tomorrow - remember Fernando Alonso stuck behind Vitaly Petrov in 2010 - a good grid position is vital.

Pole for Rosberg would be the German's sixth successive, a feat few have achieved before, the elite club that currently includes Senna, Schumacher, Prost and a certain Mr Hamilton as members.

The lights go green and Ricciardo leads the way, the Australian sideways as he applies the power storming out of his garage. Massa, Sainz, Ericsson and Stevens follow, as does Hamilton, the world champion already on the option rubber, as is his teammate.

Indeed, there a good mixture of drivers on the primes and options, some clearly feeling that the harder compound will be the main race tyre.

Ricciardo posts 43.401 with Massa going second, ahead of Kvyat and Ericsson.

On the softer rubber, Rosberg and Hamilton trade fastest sectors, the Briton posts 40.974 and the German 41.111. On the harder rubber, Perez posts 43.047 to go third, albeit 2.073s off Hamilton's time.

Grosjean (option) posts 42.956 to go third, but is demoted when Raikkonen (prime) bangs in a 42.700. Vettel, also on the primes, can only manage eighth (43.218).

Maldonado (option) goes fourth, leaving Raikkonen as the quickest runner on the harder rubber.

Alonso (option) goes eighth with a 43.187, his teammate Button the only driver yet to post a time.

Raikkonen and Vettel both go for another hot lap, both setting PBs in the first sector. Both however, lose time in S2. At the line Raikkonen posts 42.500 to close to within 1.526 of Hamilton whilst Vettel goes fifth with a 42.941.

Kvyat, Ericsson and Button comprise the drop zone along with the Manors. Sainz, Hulkenberg and Nasr are just outside the danger zone.

With 4:22 remaining, the Ferrari duo and Bottas are the only drivers that haven't reverted to the option rubber. Impressive stuff.

As Bottas switches to options, Hulkenberg goes third with a 41.996.

Late improvements see Vettel drop to eleventh, the German opting to come out again, this time on the option rubber. Raikkonen, now down in seventh, is staying put in his garage.

A 41.983 sees Perez go third as Ericsson is told he has a problem and has to back off.

Bottas, having gone quickest in the speed trap (210 mph), improves to ninth with a 42.608.

A late charge sees Button go ninth and Nasr twelfth, whilst Alonso reveals he has a puncture and pits.

Disaster for Ferrari, Vettel is out having made a mistake in S2 which means he failed to improve on his time. Unbelievable.

Onboard footage shows the German looking good until T6 when the car suddenly slowed though it's not clear why.

Quickest is Hamilton, ahead of Rosberg, Perez, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Massa, Raikkonen, Kvyat, Button and Grosjean.

Q2 gets underway and Massa leads the way. Unlike previous (daylight) Q2 sessions there is a mad rush to get out whilst its still a little warm.

All are on the option rubber, and though he has yet to emerge from his garage, Raikkonen appears to be sticking with the prime.

Massa posts a 42.362, the Brazilian subsequently running wide at T1.

Moments later, Hamilton posts 40.758 and Rosberg a 40.979 as Raikkonen remains in his garage.

Hulkenberg goes third and Perez fourth, the Force India duo subsequently demoted when Ricciardo posts 41.830 to slip in behind the Mercedes duo.

Hulkenberg is advised that he has a "deflating front-left tyre" and should exercise "caution on the straights".

With 6:50 remaining, Raikkonen finally emerges, the Finn's Ferrari now sporting a set of options. He and Grosjean remain the only drivers yet to post a time.

Indeed, the Frenchman is told he has a problem and has to return to the pits. "Stay in gear, stay in gear," he is told.

The track to himself, Raikkonen goes third with a 41.612, a massive 0.854s off Hamilton's time.

Sainz, Button, Maldonado, Nasr and Grosjean comprise the drop zone with 2:30 remaining.

Both Williams drivers look set to improve, posting PBs in the first two sectors. Bottas improves to fifth (41.868) while Massa has a poor final sector and can only manage ninth.

"I've lost everything," moans Grosjean, his car grinding to a halt moments after leaving the pits. A bitter final qualifying session for the likeable Frenchman.

At the death Sainz goes tenth, demoting his teammate to the drop zone which he does not escape.

Another miracle lap from Perez, the Mexican closing to within 0.802s of Hamilton as he goes third.

Quickest was Hamilton, ahead of Rosberg, Perez, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Bottas, Hulkenberg, Kvyat, Massa and Sainz.

We lose Verstappen, Button, Maldonado, Nasr and the hapless Grosjean.

The lights go green, and no surprise to see the Force India duo lead the way, the Silverstone outfit is clearly up for it. Ricciardo is another early riser.

Perez posts 41.184 while teammate Hulkenberg can only manage 42.180.

Moments later Hamilton bangs in a 41.016 but this is soon beaten by teammate Rosberg, who stops the clock at 40.738, a full 0.278s quicker.

Raikkonen can only manage 41.257 which puts him fourth behind the Mercedes duo and Perez.

Ahead of the final assault, IT'S: Rosberg, Hamilton, Perez, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Bottas, Massa, Hulkenberg and Kvyat. Sainz hasn't been out, the Spaniard clearly going for a late single lap.

Other than the whirring of wheelguns, and pounding music from the yachts in the harbour, silence falls over the circuit.

With 3:20 remaining, the Red Bull duo head out, they are subsequently followed by Bottas, Hamilton and Raikkonen. Soon all ten drivers are on track, all sporting fresh option rubber.

Ricciardo and Kvyat both posts PBs in S1, as does Bottas. Hamilton however fails to improve. Ricciardo pulls out all the stops in the final phase of the lap, crossing the line at 41.444 to go a very impressive fifth.

Raikkonen also quicker in S1as Rosberg also fails to improve.

In S2 however Hamilton goes quickest, the Briton, having run wide in the final corner, crossing the line at 40.614 to take provisional pole.

Rosberg goes quickest in S2, the German maintaining the pace in S3, thereby taking pole by 0.377s with a 40.237.

Raikkonen also improves (41.051) to leapfrog Perez. "Great job, nailed the last lap," the Finn is told

"How fast was Kimi," asks Perez, clearly feeling he'd done enough. Fact is the Finn was 0.133s quicker.

Furthermore, as Pirelli points out Raikkonen will be the only driver to have a set of new supersofts for the race. Which "could be very important," admits the tyre manufacturer.

Having taken his sixth successive pole, it remains to be seen whether Roberg can convert this to a win tomorrow, after all a third successive win would be a great way to end this season and set him up for next.

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Published: 28/11/2015
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