Williams’ Valtteri Bottas took fourth, but will drop three grid places for overtaking under red flags during Friday practice, while fifth went to the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen.
Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg was sixth ahead of Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat and the second Williams of Felipe Massa. Daniel Ricciardo took ninth, but loses ten grid places thanks to the new power unit on his Red Bull. Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen completed the top ten.
The opening Q1 phase saw Hamilton set the pace from Rosberg, with Raikkonen and Vettel trailing. It was bad news for McLaren, as Fernando Alonso was told to stop immediately even before he had recorded a time. Massa was lucky to get through, when his best lap was spoiled when countryman Felipe Nasr inadvertently blocked him in the Sauber - a misdemeanour which subsequently resulted in a three-place grid penalty for the Brazilian.
Right at the end Nasr’s team mate Marcus Ericsson hoisted himself into Q2 at the expense of Pastor Maldonado, who was 16th for Lotus on 1m 13.385s. Jenson Button was 17th on 1m 13.425s, confirming McLaren’ expectations of this being a tough venue for the Honda V6, and Alexander Rossi’s car was working much better after a morning brake bias problem had been resolved. He headed Marussia team mate Will Stevens but only just, 1m 16.151s to 1m 16.283s.
As 15 drivers were fighting it out on the track in Q2, the two McLaren pilots introduced a moment of levity as they hammed it up atop the podium.
On track Hamilton headed Vettel and Rosberg, and Massa was very fortunate to squeak through into Q3 as fellow Brazilian Nasr was 11th on 1m 12.989s, just a tenth slower. Carlos Sainz was unable to follow Toro Rosso team mate Verstappen into Q3 with 1m 13.045s, as Force India’s Sergio Perez (1m 13.147s), Ericsson (1m 13.233s) and Romain Grosjean (1m 13.913s) also failed to progress. The Frenchman spun his Lotus on his penultimate lap, when “something definitely happened.”
Could Hamilton hang on to take pole? Rosberg reasserted himself on their first runs in Q3, with 1m 11.461s to 1m 11.549s, a lock-up in Turn 10 costing Hamilton vital time. But Vettel was also untidy. Having been three-tenths off Hamilton in Q2, he was now double that off Rosberg, as Bottas headed Raikkonen and Ricciardo in fourth.
Rosberg trimmed down to 1m 11.282s on his second run and again, Hamilton couldn’t quite match that with 1m 11.360s. Behind them, Vettel retained third with a smoother 1m 11.804s as Bottas kept Raikkonen at bay with 1m 12.085s to 1m 12.144s. Hulkenberg put Force India sixth with 1m 12.265s as Kvyat in the older-spec Renault-engined Red Bull took seventh on 1m 12.322s.
As Massa recorded the eighth best time in the second Williams with 1m 12.415s, Ricciardo was breathing down his neck with 1m 12.417s. Verstappen did only one run for Toro Rosso, rounding out the top 10 with 1m 12.739s.
With Ricciardo’s, Bottas’ and Nasr's penalties taken into account, the provisional grid thus reads: Rosberg, Hamilton; Vettel, Raikkonen; Hulkenberg, Kvyat; Bottas, Massa; Verstappen, Sainz; Perez, Ericsson; Nasr, Grosjean; Maldonado, Button; Rossi, Stevens; Ricciardo, Alonso.