World champion Lewis Hamilton is facing an increasingly difficult task to hold on to his crown as team-mate Nico Rosberg flourishes.
The Mercedes drivers were comfortably fastest in qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix but it is the German that will start from the front of the grid after Hamilton suffered another power failure.
Just as they did in China, the Briton’s qualifying chances nosedived when he suffered from reliability problems.
Hamilton’s car will require a new power unit to be fitted in time for Sunday’s race.
Rosberg meanwhile, could even afford to abort his final qualifying lap after an early mistake, the championship leader admitting afterwards that he was confident nobody was going to match his quickest lap.
Hamilton is now 6.50 to win the Russian Grand Prix, while Rosberg is 1.30 to extend his winning sequence to seven races. The world champion confirmed he had suffered a repeat of the problems encountered last time out in China.
“I went out at the end of Q2 to get a feel and I lost the same power as I lost in China,” Hamilton said. Rosberg is already 36 points clear of Hamilton in the Drivers’ Championship and he is clearly a man bursting with confidence.
“I was quite confident that the lap was good enough out there because in Q2 the Ferraris were quite far away and I knew Lewis wasn’t taking any further part in qualifying,” said Rosberg on his decision to abort his last qualifying lap. “It was a qualifying that felt quite exceptional for me.
” Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was second quickest, over seven tenths of a second off the pace set by Rosberg. The four-time world champion however will be relegated five-places on the grid after a gearbox change was required on his car.