The German lapped some four-tenths of a second faster than Hamilton as Mercedes locked out the front row for the tenth time this year.
Rosberg was faster than Hamilton on the medium tyres in Q1, but Hamilton set the ultimate pace with 1m 37.196s on the softs, from the Williams duo of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas. This time only four cars would miss the cut in the absence of Caterham and Marussia, and they were Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso on 1m 39.250s, Esteban Gutierrez’s Sauber on 1m 39.555s, Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull (saved, as intended, for its pit-lane start) on 1m 39.621s, and Romain Grosjean’s Lotus on 1m 39.679s. The Frenchman just beat the chequered flag to get a final run in, but slid momentarily off the road on his next lap, spoiling his chances.
Q2 saw Sauber get a car through to Q3 for the first time this season as Adrian Sutil dragged his C33 round in 1m 38.378s. That left Pastor Maldonado 11th for Lotus on 1m 38.467s ahead of the two Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg on 1m 38.554s and 12m 38.598s respectively. Daniil Kvyat was 14th on 1m 38.699s, but takes a 10-place grid penalty after Toro Rosso elected to fit his car with a seventh engine of the season. He will thus start at the back of the grid.
A point of interest from Q2 was that Hamilton reported vibrations after flat-spotting the set of softs on which he set his fastest time and must therefore start the race on. The Briton, who subsequently bemoaned a locking left-front brake, ended up second fastest after his only run whereas Rosberg went again and on another set of softs he banged in the fastest time of the weekend with 1m 36.290s - a full second quicker than his team mate…
Q3 saw Rosberg pulverising everyone with a best lap of 1m 36.067s, as Hamilton was unable to improve his first-run time of 1m 36.443s.
Behind them, Valtteri Bottas jumped ahead of Felipe Massa in their intra-Williams duel, with 1m 36.906s to 1m 37.205s, as Daniel Ricciardo put his Red Bull ahead of Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari with a lap of 1m 37.244s to the Spaniard’s 1m 37.610s.
Jenson Button headed McLaren partner Kevin Magnussen, with 1m 37.655s to 1m 37.706s, though the former drops five places for a gearbox change, with Kimi Raikkonen taking ninth on 1m 37.804s in the other Ferrari. Sutil made it a good day for Sauber with the tenth-fastest time of 1m 38.810s.
Thus the grid forms: Rosberg, Hamilton; Bottas, Massa; Ricciardo, Alonso; Magnussen, Raikkonen; Sutil, Maldonado; Perez, Button; Hulkenberg, Vergne; Gutierrez, Grosjean; Kvyat. Vettel will be starting from the pit lane after Red Bull elected to change his entire Renault power unit.