Behind Rosberg, Williams claimed second and third with Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa, whilst McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo completed the top five.
By the time Q1 got underway the track temperature was already way higher than the 47 degrees Celsius from FP3, nudging 55 and getting closer to the 58 seen in FP2. That made it almost certain that error-free, single-lap runs on the supersoft Pirellis were at a premium. Despite that, Rosberg, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, Lotus’s Pastor Maldonado and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat all had off-track moments during the session.
Of course, Hamilton’s accident was the big news of Q1, occurring just after the Briton had set the second fastest time and then a pair of purple sectors on his next flying lap. A puff of black smoke from the right-front tyre was just visible before the Mercedes snapped into a spin under braking. Hamilton, who was shaken but uninjured in the accident, reported over the radio that something had failed as he’d hit the brakes.
After a brief red-flag period while Hamilton’s stricken car was recovered, the session resumed with Rosberg immediately beating Bottas’s 1m 18.215s to go fastest with 1m 17.631s, to the intense relief of the Mercedes chiefs.
The German headed the Red Bulls of Ricciardo and Vettel, as Bottas starred as the only drive to set his time on soft rubber. Further back, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg just squeaked into Q2 ahead of Sauber’s Adrian Sutil, with 1m 18.927s to 1m 19.142s. Jules Bianchi was 18th for Marussia on 1m 19.676s, then came Pastor Maldonado’s Lotus on 1m 20.195s, Kamui Kobayashi’s Caterham on 1m 20.408s and Max Chilton’s Marussia on 1m 20.489s. Marcus Ericsson didn’t make it out as Caterham were unable to repair his car after a hydraulic leak from the throttle.
Q2 began in 56 degree track heat with Rosberg setting the fastest time with 1m 17.109s. However, the Williams duo of Bottas and Massa were right behind him, the Finn managing 1m 17.353s on fresh supersofts and on a similar set Massa improved on his previous time on worn rubber to lap in 1m 17.370s.
It was a torrid session for McLaren's Jenson Button, who seemed to have done enough for 10th with 1m 18.193, only to be pushed down to 11th at the last moment when Sergio Perez improved to 1m 18.161s for Force India. Behind Button, Kimi Raikkonen also failed to get through with 1m 18.273s in his Ferrari, as did Jean-Eric Vergne for Toro Rosso on 1m 18.285s, Esteban Gutierrez on 1m 18.787s in the lead Sauber and Romain Grosjean in the lead Lotus on 1m 18.983s. Hamilton, of course, did not run.
The track temperature had sidled up to 57 degrees as Q3 got underway, and once again it was Rosberg who came to the fore in his first run to secure pole position with 1m 16.540s. Bottas’s response was 1m 17.057s as Massa managed 1m 17.340s. Both Williams drivers improved on their second runs, Bottas to a superb 1m 16.759s, Massa to 1m 17.078s, but though Rosberg didn’t go quicker on his final run, his 1m 16.752s nevertheless just topped the Finn.
Right at the end Kevin Magnussen jumped his McLaren up to fourth on 1m 17.214s, leaving Ricciardo to beat Vettel yet again; the Australian improved to 1m 17.273s, but the reigning champion didn’t enhance his first-run 1m 17.577s.
Fernando Alonso had to make do with seventh on 1m 17.649s for Ferrari, which left him ahead of the continuously impressive Kvyat on 1m 17.965s. That left the Force Indias on row five as Hulkenberg just pipped Sergo Perez, 1m 18.014s to 1m 18.035s.
Taking into account Gutierrez’s three-place penalty from Silverstone, the grid will line up thus: Rosberg, Bottas; Massa, Magnussen; Ricciardo, Vettel; Alonso, Kvyat; Hulkenberg, Perez; Button, Raikkonen; Vergne, Grosjean; Hamilton, Sutil; Gutierrez, Bianchi; Maldonado, Kobayashi; Chilton, Ericsson.