April 5th, 2014 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - For the first time this season, Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton have locked out the front row of the grid in qualifying. They've had a total monopoly on pole position, but Rosberg has yet to feature on the front row of the grid until this weekend. Daniel Ricciardo was third fastest for Red Bull, but will move down the grid as a result of a 10-place grid penalty incurred at last weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix.
Q1 delivered few surprises, although for a while it looked like there might be a Caterham or a Marussia in Q2. When the first part of qualifying ended, the drivers eliminated were Pastor Maldonado (beaten to Q2 by just 9 thousandths of a second by Grosjean in the other Lotus), Adrian Sutil, Kamui Kobayashi, Jules Bianchi, Marcus Ericsson and Max Chilton.
The second part of qualifying delivered the major drama, as reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel failed to make it through to the top ten shoot-out. Vettel complained on the radio that he was having trouble shifting down through the gears, which is likely to have cost him some time. In the other Red Bull, Daniel Ricciardo was third fastest in Q2 and maintained that position in the final part of qualifying.
The other surprise in Q2 was the elimination of Nico Hulkenberg, who had been looking very competitive throughout the weekend. Exactly what caused Hulkenberg's troubles is not clear. In the other Force India, Sergio Perez was comfortably quick enough to make the final part of qualifying.
Vettel and Hulkenberg were joined in elimination at the end of Q2 by the Toro Rossos of Daniil Kvyat and Jean-Eric Vergne, the Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez and the Lotus of Romain Grosjean.
The final part of qualifying provided something of an anti-climax due to the extreme dominance of Mercedes. Rosberg and Hamilton were quickest and second quickest on their first runs in the session, comfortably clear of the rest of the field. When they went out for their second runs in Q3, Hamilton locked up under braking for the first corner of his flying lap and ran wide, which ended any chance he had of challenging Rosberg. As soon as Rosberg was told about Hamilton's mistake, he aborted his flying lap and returned to the pits.
None of the other drivers were able to get close to the two Mercedes drivers. Ricciardo set the third fastest time, but was almost nine tenths of a second off the pace. Valtteri Bottas was fourth fastest for Williams, relishing the first completely dry qualifying session of the season. Serigo Perez qualified an impressive fifth for Force India, ahead of the leading Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen. Jenson Button was seventh for McLaren, followed by Felipe Massa in the second Williams. Kevin Magnussen qualified ninth for McLaren ahead of Fernando Alonso in the second Ferrari.
Everyone from Bottas to Kvyat will move up one place on the grid as a result of Ricciardo's 10-place grid penalty, received due to an unsafe release from a pit stop at last weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix. As a result, the second row of the grid will be occupied by Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez.