Nico Rosberg proved the fastest man in qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix, outperforming his team mate Lewis Hamilton who made it another front row lockout for Mercedes AMG F1. Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari will start from third on the grid.
Roberto Merhi, set to compete his last race for Manor Marussia was the first man out on track, and similarly also the first to set a time. He did so in 1:32.471 on the medium tyres. Team mate Stevens, along with Hulkenberg, Nasr, Ericsson and Perez also chose to go out on the medium immediately whereas all others opted for the hard tyres on their first runs.
The McLarens emerged only 8 minutes into the session, also out on mediums immediately.
By that time, Rosberg had already completed 4 laps, his best of 1:27.677 enough to top the timesheet until Hamilton improved on that by 3 tenths of a second. Vettel settled in third halfway into the session, ahad of Massa and Sainz.
Kimi Raikkonen meanwhile complained of a lack of rear grip but still set the 8th best time thus far, slower than Hulkenberg on the mediums but faster than Bottas.
As most returned to the pits, McLaren had the track virtually to themselves and made proper use of that to set 5th and 6th, with Alonso 2 tenths ahead of his team mate.
The second series of laps proved to bring major improvements for many drivers, including Hamilton who managed to shave off another 9 tenths, still on hard tyres. Rosberg also went out another time to improve on hards. Vettel did the same, while all others opted for the mediums.
At the end of the very intense shuffling of the timing board, Markus Ericsson got eliminated, along with Hulkenberg, Perez, Stevens and Merhi.
In Q2, everybody is out on the medium tyres, knowing that the hards won't get them anyway near a place into Q3. Also, nobody chose to sit out the first minutes, instead taking to the track quickly to set a banker lap.
Rosberg proved fastest in that exercise, half a second quicker than Hamilton who set the second fastest time. Note though that top drivers are usually trying to save their tyres, as for those who get through to Q3, the tyres used with their best times in Q2 will have to be the tyres they start the race with.
Raikkonen and Vettel were 3rd and 4th, followed by Bottas, Verstappen, Massa, Sainz, Ricciardo and Kvyat. All these used new medium tyres on their runs, while the four drivers from 11th to 15th has used mediums on their cars.
The next series of runs were run without the top 5, as those chose not to go out again. It didn't change a lot, except for Massa who managed to improve to 4th. Eliminated are Grosjean, Maldonado, Alonso, Button and Nasr.
Q3 kicks off silently, with the first few minutes no action to be found on track. 2 minutes into the session, Bottas is then the first to shoot, quickly followed by most others. Massa, Sainz and both Red Bull drivers though stayed in a little bit longer.
Nico Rosberg soon proved fastest in those first attempts, completing a lap around Circuit de Catalunya in 1:24.681. Lewis Hamilton ended up at 3 tenths, followed by Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari.
On the second outing, the top three positions didn't change, as no one managed to improve on their earlier times. Valtteri Bottas though moved up into fourth, ahead of Sainz and Verstappen who secured a 3rd row lockout for Scuderia Toro Rosso.