Lewis Hamilton did what was expected thanks to his form earlier in the weekend by taking pole position in a commanding way. Nico Rosberg was no match to him throughout qualifying, but a last gasp lap still put him second on the grid, ahead of both Red Bulls.
Qualifying got off to a rather slow start, with the less competitive cars dominating the first half of the first 20 minutes of running. The start was particularly sluggish for both Haas drivers, as both men were seen going extremely wide on several corners. Gutierrez rapidly opted to back out of that lap and try again the next whereas the Frenchman simply returned to the pits.
It was only halfway through that Mercedes and Ferrari appeared on track, with Vettel setting the fastest time on the first outing. Raikkonen improved on that while moments later the Red Bulls joined in, similarly paced to the Mercedes drivers.
Kvyat in the Toro Rosso was one of the first to get out on track, and returned happily to the pits with a 3rd fastest time at the time. Obviously, that degraded as others set their times, and when the Russian was set to get out for a second attempt, a car issue prevented him to return to the track, effectively meaning an 18th position on the grid. That's just behind home driver Gutierrez, who spun in the final seconds and saw Pascal Wehrlein jump up to 16th moments later.
Grosjean was similarly disappointing as he set a 21st time, ahead only of Jolyon Palmer, the latter not even making it out on track.
As was to be expected, several drivers opted to go out on softs in the second part of qualifying, to see if they could get through, and hence be able to start the race on the soft compound tyres. In fact, quite of lot of them tried to do so, with only Wehrlein, Sainz, Magnussen, the Red Bulls and both McLarens opting for super softs on their first runs.
The first lap on softs saw Rosberg take a 0.6s advantage over his teammate, with the latter returning the favour another lap later. Sebastian Vettel slotted in between the Mercedes while Raikkonen proved 2 tenths slower than Rosberg.
Verstappen and Ricciardo subsequently took first and fourth, somewhat underlining that the advantage of the super soft is a lot less in qualifying that it was on a much colder track on Friday.
The switch to super softs on the second runs was interesting though, with only the top 5 staying into the garage in the final minutes, while all others returned to the track on super softs. For Williams in particular that was much needed, as they were only 11th and 12th fastest with their lap on soft Pirelli rubber. It was a fairly straightforward correction on the super softs, with Hulkenberg also improving considerably on the super softs.
The improvements resulted in Alonso ended up in 11th, ahead of Perez, Button, Magnussen, Ericsson and Wehrlein. This also means both Ferraris and both Mercedes start the race on softs. Raikkonen did still come out on track on super softs, but completed some easy laps before returning back to the pits.
Red Bull were out first in Q3, but it was Hamilton who set the fastest lap in the first half of the session. Going round in 1:18.704 was nearly 4 tenths quicker than Verstappen, 5 tenths quicker than Ricciardo and nearly 6 tenths faster than Rosberg. Hulkenberg and Raikkonen were within a tenth of the second Mercedes while Vettel disappointed, lapping 7 tenths slower than his Finnish team mate.
On the second laps, only two drivers managed to move up some positions. Vettel recovered and qualified into 7th, 5 thousandths of a second slower than Raikkonen. Rosberg must also have been happy with his second lap, as he ended up in second and hence quite a bit better than the prospect of starting behind both Red Bulls.
The scene was clearly set for a close battle on Sunday...
|1||44||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG||1:19.447||1:19.137||1:18.704||18|
|2||6||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG||1:19.996||1:19.761||1:18.958||22|
|3||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer||1:19.874||1:18.972||1:19.054||14|
|4||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer||1:19.713||1:19.553||1:19.133||15|
|5||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India Mercedes||1:20.599||1:19.769||1:19.330||22|
|8||77||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Mercedes||1:20.338||1:19.958||1:19.551||20|
|9||19||Felipe Massa||Williams Mercedes||1:20.423||1:20.151||1:20.032||19|
|10||55||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso Ferrari||1:20.457||1:20.169||1:20.378||24|
|11||14||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Honda||1:20.552||1:20.282||-||12|
|12||11||Sergio Perez||Force India Mercedes||1:20.308||1:20.287||-||14|
|13||22||Jenson Button||McLaren Honda||1:21.333||1:20.673||-||17|
|15||9||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber Ferrari||1:21.062||1:21.536||-||15|
|16||94||Pascal Wehrlein||MRT Mercedes||1:21.363||1:21.785||-||17|
|17||21||Esteban Gutierrez||Haas Ferrari||1:21.401||-||-||9|
|18||26||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso Ferrari||1:21.454||-||-||4|
|19||12||Felipe Nasr||Sauber Ferrari||1:21.692||-||-||9|
|20||31||Esteban Ocon||MRT Mercedes||1:21.881||-||-||10|
|21||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||1:21.916||-||-||10|