Reigning Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton has continued his domination of qualifying for the 2015 season by securing his fourth successive pole position ahead of Sunday night’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver was fastest in all three sessions, posting a scintillating 1:32.571 to finish 0.4 seconds clear of the rest of the field. Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel managed to split the Englishman and his teammate Nico Rosberg to claim the second-fastest time, setting up a potentially thrilling scrap for victory between the Silver Arrows and the Prancing Horse. Kimi Räikkönen was fourth-fastest in the sister SF15-T.

Hamilton secured pole on his final flying lap of the top-10 shootout for pole, which was a performance in contrast to Rosberg, who once again let pressure get the better of him and was demoted to the second row of the grid.

The result raises the prospect – such is Ferrari’s impressive race pace evidenced in practice – that Mercedes might have to split its strategies to cover the threat of the red cars, meaning Rosberg would be the loser in that situation.

The Williams team showed improved speed to lock out the third row of the grid – Valtteri Bottas outpaced Felipe Massa by 0.3 seconds – while Daniel Ricciardo was the fastest Renault-powered runner in seventh.

Ricciardo’s run was a pleasing effort given the ongoing concerns in the Red Bull Racing camp, and their Saturday evening was also a demonstration in contrasting fortunes as teammate Daniil Kvyat was bundled out in the opening exchange.

The Russian youngster had a rather embarrassing spin in the preceding practice session, and having lost critical track time to hone his qualifying set-up, it was perhaps little surprise that he lines up a lowly 17th.

One of the surprise performers of the session was Force India’s Nico Hülkenberg, who took his VJM08 into Q3 for the first time this season. The team entered the weekend downplaying the prospects of a good weekend, but the impressive German shone to deliver the eighth-fastest time of Q3. Teammate Sergio Pérez – a podium winner here last year – underlined the car’s potential and narrowly missed out on a top-10 result.

The top-ten grid places were claimed by Carlos Sainz Jr in the Toro Rosso and Lotus’ Romain Grosjean – for both, the performances exceeded expectations given neither had enjoyed great pace in the earlier practice sessions. Their respective teammates, Max Verstappen and Pastor Maldonado, couldn’t replicate their relative practice pace, and will start fifteenth and sixteenth.

Those performances consigned the rather-fancied Saubers into a Q2 elimination; rookie driver Felipe Nasr shaded teammate Marcus Ericsson by 0.3 seconds to claim twelfth and thirteenth on the grid respectively.

A major milestone was achieved for the McLaren-Honda partnership after it secured its first Q2 outing of the season thanks to Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard posted a time inside the top-10 in Q1 to guarantee himself a berth in the second round, and improved a little on his fastest time in Q2. Unfortunately for him, others improved more on the softer tyres and the two-time champion was bundled down to fourteenth place.

Teammate Jenson Button’s horror weekend at Sakhir continued when his car ground to a halt with an apparent electrical failure before he’d even managed to post a time in Q1. The FIA stewards were quick to give the Briton dispensation to start the race from last place on the grid behind the two Manor Marussias, where Will Stevens again easily had the measure of Roberto Merhi.

Sunday afternoon’s 57-lap Bahrain Grand Prix gets underway at 6:00pm local time (GMT +3).

2015 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix – Qualifying Results
Pos Q3 Qualifiers Team / Entry Time Gap Laps
1. Lewis Hamilton uk Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid 1:32.571 16
2. Sebastian Vettel de Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T 1:32.982 + 0.411 12
3. Nico Rosberg de Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid 1:33.129 + 0.558 16
4. Kimi Räikkönen fi Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T 1:33.227 + 0.656 15
5. Valtteri Bottas fi Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37 1:33.381 + 0.810 16
6. Felipe Massa br Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37 1:33.744 + 1.173 16
7. Daniel Ricciardo au Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11 1:33.832 + 1.261 15
8. Nico Hülkenberg de Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08 1:34.450 + 1.879 15
9. Carlos Sainz Jr. es Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10 1:34.462 + 1.891 18
10. Romain Grosjean fr Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid 1:34.784 + 2.213 20
Pos Q2 Qualifiers Team / Entry Time Gap* Laps
11. Sergio Pérez mx Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08 1:34.704 + 2.035 12
12. Felipe Nasr br Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34 1:34.737 + 2.068 9
13. Marcus Ericsson se Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34 1:35.034 + 2.365 9
14. Fernando Alonso es McLaren Honda MP4-30 1:35.039 + 2.370 10
15. Max Verstappen nl Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10 1:35.103 + 2.434 14
Pos Q1 Qualifiers Team / Entry Time Gap** Laps
16. Pastor Maldonado ve Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid 1:35.677 + 1.749 7
17. Daniil Kvyat ru Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11 1:35.800 + 1.872 6
18. Will Stevens uk Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03 1:38.713 + 4.785 6
19. Roberto Merhi es Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03 1:39.772 + 5.794 6
Pos Outside 107% Team / Entry Time Gap** Laps
DNQ. Jenson Button uk McLaren Honda MP4-30 no time 1

* Denotes gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:32.669 posted by Lewis Hamilton
** Denotes gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:33.928 posted by Lewis Hamilton.

Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team

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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.