Rosberg takes pole for first Mexican Grand Prix since 1992
MEXICO CITY (AP) Once again, Nico Rosberg beat Lewis Hamilton for the pole position on a Saturday. Beating his Mercedes teammate to the checkered flag on Sundays is proving to be far more difficult.
Rosberg won his fourth straight pole in qualifying for the Mexican Grand Prix, showing the German still has some fight in a rivalry that has been simmering in the Mercedes garage.
Fight is about all Rosberg has left over the final three races of the season. Each of his three previous pole positions ended in Hamilton victories.
Hamilton’s win last week at the United States Grand was an especially bitter blow. He snatched the lead from Rosberg with eight laps to go and wrapped up his third career season championship.
Rosberg stewed while Hamilton celebrated. A postrace dustup caught by television cameras saw Hamilton toss Rosberg a sponsor’s cap and Rosberg throw it back, nearly hitting Hamilton in the face.
On Saturday, Rosberg’s best lap of 1 minute, 19.480 seconds was 0.188 seconds faster than Hamilton.
That left them sitting together for the post-qualifying news conference, where Hamilton seemed more interested in checking his mobile phone than listening to his teammate’s answers. Neither driver wanted to rehash the drama.
”It’s always going to be a battle. What’s in the past is in the past, and now we move forward,” Rosberg said.
”Same as he said,” Hamilton replied.
Hamilton has 10 wins this season and could still tie Sebastian Vettel’s season record of 13, set with Red Bull in 2013.
Now driving for Ferrari, Vettel qualified third for Sunday’s race. Red Bull, which ran strong through the practice sessions, qualified fourth and fifth with Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo.
Home country favorite Sergio Perez of Force India will start ninth. The partisan crowd cheered his nickname ”Checo” each time Perez left pit lane or drove between the two massive grandstands.
”This is a dream come true no matter the outcome tomorrow,” Perez said. ”Today I was able to bring some joy to all of the fans who came to see me.”
Formula One is back in Mexico for the first time since 1992.
The drivers had a much easier time in qualifying than Friday’s practice sessions when everyone struggled to get used to the slick new surface at the Autodromos Hermanos Rodriguez.
The circuit got a $50 million boost for F1’s return, including repaving to smooth out the old bumpy ride on the course that hosted grand prix races from 1963-1970 and 1986-1992.
It also was modified to soften the notorious Peraltada turn that was considered one of the most dangerous in racing, the site of some spectacular wrecks – some fatal – and heart-pounding passing.
The track also features the longest straight in Formula One, where cars hit a blistering 226 mph (364 kph) in practice Saturday.
That’s where the race will start and Hamilton likes his chances to beat Rosberg with a burst of speed off the line. At the U.S. Grand Prix, Hamilton’s aggressive move in the first turn bumped tires and forced Rosberg wide.
”One of the best places to start, second or third. It’s a long, long way down to turn one. I’m excited for tomorrow,” Hamilton said.
Ferrari has been resurgent this season after a dismal 2014. Vettel has won three times, most recently four races ago in Singapore. He currently holds second in the driver’s standings, a mere six points ahead of Rosberg.
A week ago in Texas, Vettel was nipping at Rosberg’s back wheels at the finish line
”I tried everything (in qualifying). In the end they were just a sniff too quick,” Vettel said. ”We’ll see what happens tomorrow.”