Nico Rosberg led a Mercedes 1-2 in qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix

Nico Rosberg has led the Mercedes team to its third pole position on the trot – and his second in a row – with the Silver Arrows locking out the front row in qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix.

The German beat teammate Lewis Hamilton, fastest in both preliminary stages of qualifying, to top spot by 0.254 seconds, while Sebastian Vettel was third-quickest.

As track temperatures steadily climbed over the course of the session at the Circuit de Catalunya, it was Hamilton who looked the favourite to claim pole position as the ten-quickest qualifiers set out for their shootout at pole position glory. But the Englishman was unable to match two stunning lap times from his teammate and will have to settle for a starting position from the dirty side of the front row instead.

Hamilton led the charge of the world champions on the timesheets, with Vettel qualifying third-fastest ahead of 2007 title winner Kimi Räikkönen. Local hero Fernando Alonso could only manage the fifth-fastest time, and the Ferrari team will ultimately be disappointed with the result after showing excellent pace in each of the three practice sessions beforehand.

His teammate Felipe Massa, who topped the timesheets in the final practice session, was only sixth-fastest, but he will start from ninth place after the FIA Stewards hit him with a three-place grid penalty for impeding Mark Webber in Q2.

That penalty will promote Romain Grosjean to sixth, Webber to seventh and Sergio Pérez – who led the McLaren charge – into eighth place. Paul di Resta made it into the top-ten, but qualified slowest of the Q3 runners.

The Toro Rosso team has shown improved pace this weekend and narrowly missed out on a Q3 berth for both Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Éric Vergne, who will share the sixth row of the grid in their Ferrari-powered cars.

Row 7 will be occupied by Adrian Sutil’s Force India and the second McLaren of Jenson Button, who doesn’t seem to have made any headway with the raft of upgrades the Woking squad has applied to the MP4-28.

The Sauber pairing of Nico Hülkenberg and Esteban Gutiérrez were the slowest of the Q2 runners and qualified fifteenth- and sixteenth-fastest respectively, although Gutiérrez’s nightmare start to his Formula 1 career continues with his own three-place grid penalty for blocking Kimi Räikkönen at the end of Q1.

The bottom six places on the grid were comprised of the three teams who are yet to register a score this season. Having managed a front row start at this very circuit a year ago, Williams endured its first double-elimination from Q1 since the 2009 Italian Grand Prix.

Caterham led the charge for ‘wooden spoon’ honours in its ongoing battle with Marussia, with Giedo van der Garde enjoying a clean Q1 session to qualify fastest of the quartet, ahead of the Marussia pairing of Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton. Charles Pic was the slowest qualifier in the second Caterham, which sported extensive revisions including a new front wing assembly that does away with the unsightly ‘stepped nose’.

There will be plenty of eyes on all of the battles through the field, but of particular interest will be how Mercedes’ tyres manage to hold up in race conditions. The team achieved almost identical qualifying performances at the preceding rounds in China and Bahrain, only to find their Pirelli tyres unable to cope in the heavy fuel conditions.

2013 Spanish Formula 1 Grand Prix – Qualifying Session Times:

Driver Team Time Gap
1. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04 1:20.718  
2. Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04 1:20.972 + 0.254
3. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Racing Renault RB9 1:21.054 + 0.336
4. Kimi Räikkönen FIN Lotus F1 Renault E21 1:21.177 + 0.459
5. Fernando Alonso ESP Scuderia Ferrari F138 1:21.218 + 0.500
6. Felipe Massa^ BRA Scuderia Ferrari F138 1:21.219 + 0.501
7. Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus F1 Renault E21 1:21.308 + 0.590
8. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing Renault RB9 1:21.570 + 0.852
9. Sergio Pérez MEX McLaren Mercedes MP4-28 1:22.069 + 1.351
10. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM06 1:22.233 + 1.515
Q3 Cut-Off – 1:22.019   Time Gap*
11. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8 1:22.127 + 1.126
12. Jean-Éric Vergne FRA Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8 1:22.166 + 1.165
13. Adrian Sutil DEU Force India Mercedes VJM06 1:22.346 + 1.345
14. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-28 1:22.355 + 1.354
15. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Sauber Ferrari C32 1:22.389 + 1.388
16. Esteban Gutiérrez^ MEX Sauber Ferrari C32 1:22.793 + 1.792
Q2 Cut-Off – 1:23.218   Time Gap**
17. Valtteri Bottas FIN Williams Renault FW35 1:23.260 + 1.532
18. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Renault FW35 1:23.318 + 1.590
19. Giedo van der Garde NED Caterham Renault CT03 1:24.661 + 2.933
20. Jules Bianchi FRA Marussia Racing Cosworth MR02 1:24.713 + 2.985
21. Max Chilton GBR Marussia Racing Cosworth MR02 1:24.996 + 3.268
22. Charles Pic FRA Caterham Renault CT03 1:25.070 + 3.342

* Gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:21.728 by Lewis Hamilton 
** Gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:21.001 by Lewis Hamilton 
^ Massa and Gutiérrez will incur a 3- place grid penalty each after being found guilty of impeding another driver during qualifying

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.