Rosberg captures pole for Bahrain GP

Nico Rosberg from Mercedes will start on the pole for the Bahrain Grand Prix after topping Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel in Saturday's qualifying.

Rosberg's best lap around the 3.195-mile Sakhir circuit was timed in 1 minute, 32.330 seconds. The 27-year-old German was just 0.254 seconds quicker than his fellow countryman and three-time defending Formula One world champion Vettel.

It was the second career F1 pole for Rosberg. He started on pole and won the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix. Last weekend, his new Mercedes teammate, Lewis Hamilton, won the top starting position for the Chinese GP.

"I'm really, really happy," Rosberg said. "That's a fantastic result. Of course, tomorrow will be a tough race for sure, with rear tire degradation especially. A lot can happen."

Vettel is the defending winner of the Bahrain GP. He enters the fourth race of the season with just a three-point lead over Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen, who will start eighth.

"Congratulations to Nico; he put a very, very strong lap in," Vettel said. "When I initially crossed the line, I saw that I didn't finish first. I didn't know how much was missing, because the lap was fine. When I was told that Nico got P1, it was clear that, even with a perfect lap, he was unbeatable today."

Fernando Alonso from Ferrari made a lap in 1:32.667 to earn the third starting position. Alonso is coming off a victory in the Chinese GP. He is a three-time winner in Bahrain, which is more than any other driver.

"I'm very happy with third place," Alonso said. "Normally, we struggle a lot in qualifying. The car was very competitive today, so it puts us in a strong position to start tomorrow's race. We will fight for the podium."

Hamilton qualified fourth but will have to start ninth due to a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change. Vettel's teammate, Mark Webber, took the fifth spot but will roll off seventh after he received a penalty for causing an accident with Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne last week in China.

Felipe Massa will start fourth in his Ferrari, while Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil will begin the race fifth and sixth, respectively, in their Force India Mercedes.

Rosberg has struggled early in the season, with retirements in Australia and China. He finished fourth in Malaysia and has collected just 12 points for the year.

"I really want to kick-start my season right now," Rosberg said. "It's been a rough ride in the first three races. I'm okay for the race tomorrow."

Sunday's 57-lap Bahrain GP is scheduled to start at 8 a.m. ET.