Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg will start the F1 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix from pole position after seeing off favourites Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso in the third and final session.
The German was one of only four drivers to complete two runs in the top-ten shootout at the Sakhir circuit, and was rewarded when his 1min 32.330secs second effort went unmatched, helping Mercedes claim its first back-to-back poles since the 1950s – although even his first effort in Q3, a 1m 32.543s, would have been sufficient to give him the top spot.
Vettel, who had been quickest in Q2 and second in Q1, will start alongside Rosberg on the front row in his Red Bull. He finished the final session 0.254 seconds slower on a 1m 32.584s.
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso claimed third, despite having had to abort his second run when he made a mistake. The Spaniard had been best in Q1 and in final practice this morning.
Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber completed the top five, but will both take penalties before they line up on the grid on Sunday. Hamilton drops five places to ninth because of a gearbox change, while Webber loses three places after his collision with Jean-Eric Vergne in China last Sunday.
Felipe Massa – the lone runner on the hard Pirelli tyre in Q3 – thus finds himself promoted from sixth to fourth, while Force India duo Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil also benefit and will now occupy the third row. Kimi Raikkonen also gains a place in his Lotus and will start eighth, one spot ahead of Hamilton, with Jenson Button, who only just escaped the Q2 drop zone and who didn't even complete his flying lap in Q3, rounding out the top ten.
As for Q2, Romain Grosjean was the major casualty after making a mistake in the second sector. He ended up just 0.060 seconds off the cut-off, bumped down late on after his Lotus team-mate, Raikkonen and Button posted late improvements. Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo, Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas and Jean-Eric Vergne were also eliminated and will fill positions 12 through to 16.
Of the remaining runners, Pastor Maldonado and Esteban Gutierrez joined the Caterham and Marussia drivers in missing the cut at the end of first qualifying, despite the Venezuelan clocking a time good enough to survive. Maldonado recorded exactly the same mark as his Williams team-mate Valtteri Bottas but, as the Finn posted his lap first, he escaped the drop-zone while Pastor fell through the trap door after making a mistake on his last lap, ensuring Williams' unwanted record of losing a car in Q1 at each race this year continues.