SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Germany’s Nico Rosberg chalked up his 10th pole position of the season on Saturday after beating team mate Lewis Hamilton in a Mercedes sweep of the front row in Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying.
Rosberg seized the top spot with the fastest ever Interlagos pole time of one minute 10.023 seconds, a lap just 0.033 of a second quicker than championship leader Hamilton who will be chasing his 11th win of the season in Sunday’s race.
The previous Brazilian GP pole record of 1:10.646 was set by local driver Rubens Barrichello with Ferrari in 2004 when cars had V10 engines rather than the current V6 turbo hybrid power unit.
It was the seventh successive front row lockout for Mercedes and 17th pole of the year for the ‘Silver Arrows’ who have won 14 races so far and look sure to equal the record of 15 held by Ferrari and McLaren.
Hamilton leads Rosberg by 24 points with two races, and a maximum 75 points, remaining.
The pole came as no surprise, with Rosberg quicker than Hamilton in all practice sessions and every phase of qualifying, even if the final time difference between the two amounted to about two metres on the track.
Complimented on his “perfect job”, the German quickly replied: “Perfect job only if it works out tomorrow. I need to make it happen in the race, unlike Austin.
“I have learned from Austin, I know what I need to do better so from that point of view, I look forward to tomorrow,” added Rosberg, who secured the sport’s inaugural pole position trophy.
The German was on pole last weekend in Texas but Hamilton won the race, his fifth success in a row.
“Nico did a good lap,” said Hamilton, who need only finish second in the last two races for his second championship.
“I lost a bit of time in turn 10 and maybe a tiny bit in turn one.”
Brazilian Felipe Massa qualified third with Williams team mate Valtteri Bottas fourth. McLaren’s Jenson Button will line up fifth, the first five places all filled by Mercedes-powered cars.
“It’s very emotional to be here in Brazil and have a competitive car,” said Massa, whose last victory came at Interlagos in 2008 when he missed out on the title to Hamilton by a single point.
“I didn’t use everything I could from the car, I got a lot of traffic on my last run and there were also problems in the garage and I couldn’t improve my lap time.”
Mercedes have already won the constructors’ title and are sure of the drivers’ crown, with only their pairing remaining in contention.
If their drivers finish one-two on Sunday, it would break the record of 10 for a season they share jointly with McLaren.
Red Bull’s quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel was the best of the non-Mercedes drivers with sixth place ahead of McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who was critical of his team’s preparation in the first phase.
“In Q1 we were not ready to do the laps, the first flying lap normally is the best for the tyres and my first lap was a recharge lap because I had no battery going out of the garage,” he told reporters.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo, for Red Bull, and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen filled out the top 10.