Rosberg relishing Lewis battle
Nico Rosberg has described his rivalry with Lewis Hamilton as "massively intense" in the wake of beating his Mercedes team-mate to pole position for the Bahrain GP.
While the pre-eminent status of the W05 in the field is not in dispute, the contest between Hamilton and Rosberg, and the fluctuating balance of power between the Mercedes pair, is proving to be one of the most intriguing sub-plots of the nascent 2014 campaign.
The rivalry has certainly emerged as the most important intra-team battle of the year with the Mercedes car in a league of its own at the front and the W05 once again dominating proceedings this weekend in Bahrain. It seems a racing certainty that Sunday's grand prix will prove to be another straight fight for victory between Hamilton and Rosberg following on from their wins in Malaysia and Australia respectively.
"It really is a great feeling. I come to the track knowing that I can be second on a bad day and first on a good day," enthused Rosberg after denying Hamilton a third successive pole.
"It's a massively intense battle with Lewis because he is extremely quick and I have to get everything all right to be ahead. We are pushing each other to the limit."
The German had started qualifying on the back foot after being on the receiving end of a Hamilton masterclass in Malaysia a week ago and trailing the Englishman in three consecutive Mercedes one-twos in Practice. But having already moved three-tenths clear of Hamilton in the opening exchanges of Q3, a mistake at the first corner of Hamilton's first run guaranteed pole for Rosberg.
"I'm very happy, it's been a great day. I've just been steadily improving all weekend, finding bits and pieces and working well with the team," he told Sky Sports F1.
"Tyre degradation will be the main concern and this will be third race on this engine, so we are starting to push the limits. We need to be cautious, but I'm feeling very confident."
So too, though, will Hamilton ahead of what is poised to be a compelling - if isolated - fight for victory between the Mercedes team-mates.
Sky Sports F1's exclusively live coverage of the Bahrain GP begins at 2.30pm UK Time, with the race underway at 4pm