Nico Rosberg has acknowledged that his path to a fourth win from as many grands prix in 2016 has been eased by problems for two of his main rivals in the build-up to final qualifying at Sochi Autodrom.
Already aware that Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel would have to add five places to whatever grid position he earned on Saturday afternoon, after the Scuderia was forced to change a gearbox on his SF16-H, Rosberg's road to glory was smoothed even further when Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton was denied a chance to challenge for pole when his engine developed a problem during Q2. The Briton will start from a best of tenth, pending a visit to the stewards for incorrectly rejoining the track in Q1.
“The others have been unfortunate today, extremely unfortunate, so that makes my race a little bit easier tomorrow,” Rosberg conceded, “I knew Sebastian [had a penalty], but didn't really know what Lewis had until now. I was just focused on myself out there and really going for it.”
Typically, the points leader insisted that, despite his apparent advantage over the likes of Vettel and Hamilton, he wasn't expecting to cruise to victory on Sunday.
“Of course, an F1 race is never easy,” he maintained, “Even from where Sebastian is and where Kimi [Raikkonen] is, and with Valtteri behind [in P2] and everything, the opposition is still there. I still need to keep focused and try and get the job done as good as possible.
“I haven't thought too much about tomorrow yet but, of course, starting from pole position is great. It's never easy but, the way the grid is, it does help me a lot for sure.”
The German was a little more bullish about his qualifying fortunes, having spent the last couple of minutes in the Mercedes garage while his remaining rivals attempted to topple what was, by Q2 standards, a reachable time.
“To be honest, I was quite confident that the lap was good enough out there because, in Q2, Ferrari was quite far away,” he said, “I knew that Lewis was unable to participate in the last part of qualifying, so I was very sure that it was going to be enough, but you never know. There was always still a remaining uncertainty so I was glad eventually when Sebastian crossed the line that it was good enough.”