Nico Rosberg took the first pole of his F1 career with a superb effort in China, putting in a first run that was so fast that he didn’t need to go out again and use his last set of tyres.
The German had made mistakes on his Q3 laps in both Australia and Malaysia, and this was the first time that he’d really done himself justice this year. It was also the first pole for a works Mercedes since 1955.
“It worked out well, qualifying, especially as we got it all right in the end,” said Rosberg. “It was a good lap and it all came together. It’s the perfect start until now. I’m really happy for the whole team. It really shows that, as a team, we’re moving forward. In qualifying we’re very, very strong now.
“In the race we’re still not quite as strong and not where we want to be yet but also there, we’re learning a lot and progressing fast. The thing is we can’t make huge jumps in a couple of weeks, it’s going to take a bit more time, but we’re getting there.”
Rosberg climbed out of his car after his first run and walked calmly down to the FIA weight check to await the end of qualifying. Fortunately it was a good call, and nobody went faster.
“It was just a decision to save another set of tyres. It was a good lap, I didn’t know if it was going to be enough or not, but it was definitely a good lap and saving a set is very good for the race, so we just took the decision to go for that, because the race is where the points are, not in qualifying.
“It was strange beforehand because I was standing there on my own and everybody else was still going round, but I couldn’t do anything any more, so it was strange. And then slowly but surely, I saw the sector times and I saw that it was definitely going to be enough so fantastic, very excited.”
The prospects for Mercedes in tomorrow’s race remain unknown, given that the team has had two troubled events so far, and looking after the tyres will clearly be critical.
“For me it’s also sort of the start of the season now because the first two races haven’t gone too well. So it’s not bad to start first, obviously for us it’s fantastic. Of course it’s pretty clear I think that in the race we been not quite as good as in qualifying lately. We’ve worked very hard to try and improve that but it’s not something you can change in a few weeks.
“It’s going to take some time but we’re making good progress in the race, that’s important. It’s difficult to know exactly where we’re going to be tomorrow because again with the conditions changing, if it becomes a little bit colder that might help us, for example. I don’t really know how it’s going to go. For sure we’re going to try our best. We’re going to work hard tonight to try and do the final little details on the set up, electronically specifically, and make the most of it.”