A rain-disrupted and difficult qualifying session eventually saw Lewis Hamilton take his 69th pole position, more than any other driver in history. Due to grid penalties for the Red Bulls that were second and third fastest, Lance Stroll is set to start from second, ahead of Ocon and Bottas.
Track conditions for qualifying were similar to those in FP3, with the entire circuit properly wet, rain still falling, and all drivers out on full wet tyres. The first runners also immediately reported that the track conditions seemed worse than in the 16 minute third practice session earlier.
With conditions unsure, and expected to get worse, Bottas headed a long queue of cars that were set to immediately go out on track. The Finn however went straight on through the first chicane on his first lap. Hamilton at the same time was told to make sue to complete the lap as more heavier rain was expected.
Moments later, Romain Grosjean found himself in the wall in the braking zone for Turn 1, triggering a red flag. The impact was relatively minor, although the front wing and possible the rear suspension were damaged. The right rear wheel certainly was ready to be scrapped. The Frenchman clearly acquaplaned after just having recorded the fastest top speed in wet conditions thus far at 297km/h, crucially on the pit straight, which has recently been resurfaced with a smoother layer of asphalt.
More than an hour of additional rain later, the session was still not re-started, and the situation remained unclear if qualifying would proceed.
The session was eventually restarted at 16:40 local time, more than two and a half hours after the stoppage of the first few minutes of running.
Predictably, numerous drivers queued up to get out on track, with Verstappen the first one out on track. Vettel's first lap however was immediately faster, soon after improved by both Mercedes. Hamilton interestingly was a full second faster than Bottas's first lap, and a further 3 tenths faster than Vettel. Ocon slotted into 5th, ahead of Massa, Ricciardo, Alonso, Stroll, Raikkonen and Sainz.
6 minutes from the end of the session, Alonso was the first to switch to intermediates, seconds later followed by Vettel. The first laps didn't provide an improvement, but Ricciardo, both Mercedes and a lot others switched to inters as well. That switch of tyres was a bit of a scary moment for Raikkonen as his left front brake caught fire while in the pits. The team let him go to cool it off while on track, only to almost his a Force India that turned into his own bitbox just ahead of him.
Raikkonen and Vettel did improve on inters before Bottas went fastest to end Q1 on top.
The second session was fairly straightforward, with nearly everybody again queuing at the pitlane to set a time before further rain arrived. All fast times were set on the intermediate tyres as the rain that did arrive was minor. Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull again ended up on the top end of the timesheet, behind which it was an extremely tense battle to get through to Q3. Close to the end, it was Vandoorne who pipped Perez for 10th by 0.002s.
During the break ahead of Q3, the rain intensified and required full wet tyres again in the final session that would decide on pole. When running started, the rain eased off, meaning that times improved as the session progressed. A lot depended on the decision of some teams to pit their drivers for new tyres for a final run.
As conditions improved, Hamilton and Verstappen mostly jumped each other to top the times until Hamilton and Bottas were pitted for new full wets. The latter allowed Hamilton to go faster still, and take his 69th pole of his career, breaking the previous 68 pole positions of Michael Schumacher.
The Red Bulls still ended up second and third, but due to their power unit penalties will drop down the grid, allowing Stroll to start from second. Ocon and Bottas will make up the second row, while Ferrari's Raikkonen and Vettel will be on row three. The scarlet cars endured a difficult Q3, but thanks to the penalties still have a chance at a properly good race result.
|1||44||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG||1:36.009||1:34.660||1:35.554||29|
|2||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer||1:37.344||1:36.113||1:36.702||29|
|3||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer||1:38.304||1:37.313||1:36.841||26|
|4||18||Lance Stroll||Williams Mercedes||1:37.653||1:37.002||1:37.032||27|
|5||31||Esteban Ocon||Force India Mercedes||1:38.775||1:37.580||1:37.719||29|
|6||77||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG||1:35.716||1:35.396||1:37.833||29|
|9||19||Felipe Massa||Williams Mercedes||1:38.338||1:37.456||1:38.251||27|
|10||2||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren Honda||1:38.767||1:37.471||1:39.157||25|
|11||11||Sergio Perez||Force India Mercedes||1:38.511||1:37.582||-||19|
|13||14||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Honda||1:39.134||1:38.202||-||11|
|14||26||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||1:39.183||1:38.245||-||21|
|15||55||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||1:39.788||1:38.526||-||21|
|16||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||1:40.489||-||-||12|
|18||9||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber Ferrari||1:41.732||-||-||11|
|19||94||Pascal Wehrlein||Sauber Ferrari||1:41.875||-||-||9|
|NC||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||1:43.355||-||-||3|