After heading the weekend's practice sessions, Q1 saw the Mercedes works team display its superiority once more, with Hamilton and Rosberg in the end making it through to Q2 comfortably in P1 and P2 respectively.
While their rivals all migrated to the soft tyre as the session progressed the Mercedes duo stuck with the medium compound tyre. There was a moment as they slipped down the order late in the session when it looked like they might regret the choice of tyre but Hamilton and Rosberg dug deep and the champion set a time a time of 1:48.908 to claim top spot, two hundredths of a second clear of Rosberg.
At the other end of the order the man in most trouble as the clock ran down was Max Verstappen. Early in his final run the Toro Rosso driver, then in P16, reported that something was wrong with his car and that he was down on power. However, despite the handicap the Dutch teenager put in am excellent lap to haul himself to P15 and safety as the final times came in. His team-mate, Carlos Sainz, vaulted to P5 in the final moments.
The drivers to lose out were Sauber's Felipe Nasr in P16, the McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, with Button finishing ahead of his team-mate in P17, and the Manors of Robert Merhi and Will Stevens, with the British driver getting the upper hand over his team-mate.
Q2 began with the Mercedes drivers quickly taking to the circuit, this time on soft tyres. Hamilton was soon informed that there was no telemetry coming from his car but it didn't hamper the Briton's swift progress to the top of the timesheet with a time of 1:48.024s.
That was swiftly beaten by Rosberg's lap of 1:47.955 but then the action was briefly halted when Kimi Räikkönen's Ferrari ground to a halt at Turn 14, with the Finn succinctly reporting that "something's broken". That something was later explained away by Ferrari as a terminal drop in oil pressure.
With not enough time left for two runs, it spelled a frantic dash towards safety in the final few minutes for most, though the Mercedes drivers sat tight and Max Verstappen bowed out. The Dutch driver will also take a 10-place grid drop tomorrow for an engine change.
And at the end of the segment the men to miss the cut were Nico Hulkenberg, who despite Force India's good pace this weekend so far lost out to Sainz by just five hundredths of a second.
Behind the German in P11 was Daniil Kvyat, the Russian also a surprise faller at this stage given Red Bull's good pace across the earlier practice sessions. Marcus Ericsson finished in P13 ahead of Räikkönen and Verstappen.
At the top Rosberg held on to P1 ahead of Hamilton, with Vettel third. Force India's Sergio Perez was fourth ahead of Williams' Felipe Massa, while Lotus made a good impression with Pastor Maldonado sixth ahead of team-mate Romain Grosjean. Eighth place in Q2 went to Ricciardo, with Valtteri Bottas ninth in the second Williams ahead of Sainz.
Q3 this season has all been about Hamilton seizing the initiative with his first run and once again the Briton set a blistering pace on his opening run to claim P1 with a lap of 1:47.449, more than four tenths clear of Rosberg's time.
Behind them, Williams suddenly surged forward, with Bottas taking a provisional P3 immediately ahead of Massa, while Ricciardo was fifth ahead of Vettel.
And Hamilton found even more pace in the final run, powering to a final time of 1:47.197. Rosberg also improved, but the German was almost three tenths slower than the champion in the middle sector and ended the session with a time of 1:47.655, again four tenths adrift of his team-mate.
Behind them Bottas held firm in third but Massa faded to be replaced by Grosjean, who finished ahead of Perez. Ricciardo took sixth ahead of Massa and Maldonado, while Vettel was a surprise ninth place ahead of Sainz.
Grosjean though will drop to ninth place for the start as he is set to take a five-place grid penalty tomorrow due to an unscheduled gearbox change.Editor F1tour: Augusto Cuestas
|10||55||Carlos Sainz Jr||12||1:49.109||1:49.065||1:49.771|
|FRI practice 1|
|FRI practice 2|
|SAT practice 3|