Rosberg edges Hamilton for Bahrain pole

Manama: Nico Rosberg took pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix today with teammate Lewis Hamilton ensuring a Mercedes front row lockout, further loosening struggling Sebastien Vettel`s grip on his world title.

Rosberg, the world championship leader after two races, clocked 1min 33.185sec to edge Hamilton by 0.279sec as Mercedes stayed on course for a third win in three races this season.

It was German driver Rosberg`s fifth career pole and first of this season after Hamilton had started from the front in Australia and Malaysia.

"Starting from pole is great but it`s a whole different story tomorrow. The challenge waiting us is tyre degradation but I`m confident I can stay ahead in tomorrow`s race," said Rosberg, who won the season opener in Australia.

Mercedes have been untouchable in Bahrain with Hamilton and Rosberg dominating all three practice sessions.

Rosberg will head into Sunday`s floodlit race with 43 points to his teammate`s 25 after Hamilton, who made a slight error on his last flying lap, missed out on what would have been a third pole in three races in 2014.

"I am not disappointed, congratulations to Nico. He has done a great job this weekend, he is improving and picking up the pace. I locked up in the last lap," said the 2008 world champion who won from lights to flag in Malaysia last week.

Red Bull`s Daniel Ricciardo was third fastest but he will be demoted 10 places on Sunday`s grid after being punished for a pit-lane offence in Malaysia last weekend.

That leaves a second row featuring Finland`s Valtteri Bottas in a Williams and Mexico`s Sergio Perez of Force India.

Kimi Raikkonen in a Ferrari, Jenson Button, in a McLaren and racing in his 250th grand prix, are on the third row with Williams` Felipe Massa and Kevin Magnussen in the second McLaren on the fifth row. More (AFP) AT

Fernando Alonso, a three-time winner at the Sakhir track, is on the fifth row in his Ferrari alongside four-time world champion Vettel.

The German, in the second Red Bull, was eliminated in the second qualifying session.

"The Mercedes are out of reach -- this track suits them here," Vettel told the BBC. "Hopefully we can do a good job at the moment and rescue some points this weekend. Things are going on in the background which haven`t helped and we haven`t done many laps here. You can have days where it`s quite tight to get into Q3."

Vettel was joined on the Q2 sidelines by Force India`s Nico Hulkenberg, Toro Rosso duo, Daniil Kvyat and Jean-Eric Vergne, Sauber`s Esteban Gutierrez and Romain Grosjean in a Lotus.

In Q1, both Caterhams of Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson as well as fellow backmarkers, Marussia`s Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton were eliminated.

They were joined by Pastor Maldonado in a Lotus and Adrian Sutil in the second Sauber as the early drivers to drop out of qualifying.