Rosberg takes pole in Bahrain

Nico Rosberg denied Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton a hat-trick of successive pole positions to clinch top spot for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

After clinching victory in last Sunday's race in Malaysia, Hamilton proceeded to dominate all three practice sessions in Bahrain, with Rosberg playing second fiddle.

But come qualifying at the Bahrain International Circuit it was the current championship leader who took the spotlight by grabbing his first pole position since last May's Monaco Grand Prix.

The setting was at least spectacular, with the circuit lit by 5,000 luminaries arranged on 495 poles ranging in height from 10-45 metres.

As part of the track's 10th anniversary celebrations this year, the organisers are hosting a night race, joining Singapore and Abu Dhabi in that regard on the current calendar.

So far Mercedes have lit up the track on their own with blistering pace none of their rivals have been able to come close to.

Hamilton, however, made a mistake on his final run, locking up at one point and handing the initiative to Rosberg, who claimed pole for the second consecutive time at this track.

Behind the Mercedes duo it was Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo who took third, however the Australian faces a 10-place grid penalty following an unsafe release from a pit stop in Malaysia and will start 13th.

It means all those drivers from fourth to 13th will move up a place, spearheaded by Williams' Valtteri Bottas, with Sergio Perez a superb fifth in qualifying in his Force India.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button in his McLaren were next up, followed by Felipe Massa in his Williams and the second McLaren and Ferrari of rookie Kevin Magnussen and Fernando Alonso respectively.

A major surprise saw Sebastian Vettel fail to make the top 10 for the second time this season, and just a week after qualifying on the front row at Malaysia, albeit with the inclement conditions aiding his cause.

Vettel, however, finished four tenths of a second adrift of team-mate Ricciardo at the end of the second session, missing out on a place in the top 10 to Raikkonen by just 0.060secs.

The 26-year-old German could only qualify 11th, with Nico Hulkenberg 12th in his Force India, followed by Toro Rosso duo Daniel Kvyat and Jean-Eric Vergne, with Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez 15th.

Lotus' Romain Grosjean could only manage 16th, with his car a second off top-10 pace at this track where he finished third a year ago.

The Frenchman, however, was impeded on one of his runs by the Sauber of Adrian Sutil, with the stewards - that this weekend include BRDC president Derek Warwick - to have another look at the incident.

Further down the field Lotus' Pastor Maldonado will start 17th, with Sutil joining the Venezuelan on row nine, pending the outcome of the stewards' hearing as the German may be held accountable.

Caterham's Kamui Kobayashi lines up 19th ahead of Jules Bianchi in his Caterham, with their respective team-mates Marcus Ericsson and Max Chilton on the back row in the 21st and 22nd.

It has been 16 races since Rosberg, winner of the season-opening race in Australia, was last on pole.

He said: "It has just worked well through the weekend, finding my way, making progress and getting through some issues.

"The challenge this weekend is that in free practice we ran in such hot conditions, and we sort of had to guess for the cold conditions (for qualifying).

"But it worked out well. I felt comfortable and got my laps together, so I'm very happy.

"I have good memories of this track, winning the GP2 championship and starting my first race in F1. I enjoy coming here and again, today, it' s suited me."

After the error on his final run, Hamilton insisted he was far from disappointed, and instead praised Rosberg for pipping him to the top spot.

"Congratulations to Nico who has done a great job this weekend," said Hamilton. He is improving and picking up the pace."

As to his mistake, he added: "I locked up. You can't always get it right, but generally I am happy for the team."

Ricciardo, meanwhile, appreciates he faces a battle to scythe his way through the field to gain a respectable points position.

"I'm really pleased with the performance," said Ricciardo.

"At the moment it's the best anyone can do against the two guys alongside me.

"We've still some ground to make up on them, but I'm really pleased with qualifying.

"Unfortunately I don't stay at the front, I've a bit of work to do, and we'll move forward from there."