Hamilton had never sat on the Sakhir pole, but with a superb performance in all three phases of the session he made sure that he broke that duck in style as he was fastest for the 42nd time in his F1 career.
Rosberg really needed to turn the tables here, but the German driver underestimated Vettel’s speed and ended up qualifying behind him, while Raikkonen’s presence in fourth on the grid ensures that a Mercedes-Ferrari battle will feature large in tomorrow’s race.
Q1 saw Hamilton crush everyone on the soft Pirelli tyres with a lap of 1m 33.928s, ahead of Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and Rosberg.
The session brought instant distress for Jenson Button, as if his McLaren had not given him enough so far this weekend. The MP4-30 quit even before he’d set a time.
There was little luck too for Pastor Maldonado, whose Lotus E23 Hybrid had an engine problem. A late improvement for Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen pushed the Venezuelan out of Q2, leaving him 16th on 1m 35.677s. It was a tough session for Daniil Kvyat too, as he was only 17th for Red Bull on 1m 35.800s. Will Stevens again looked very good for Marussia, in 18th with a confident 1m 38.713s, as team mate Roberto Merhi took 19th with 1m 39.722s.
Hamilton was again super-quick with a lap of 1m 32.669s in Q2, to head Raikkonen, Felipe Massa in the Williams, Vettel and Rosberg. But a flurry of last-second improvements finally shuffled Force India’s Sergio Perez out of the mix as Carlos Sainz bounced his Toro Rosso into Q3. Perez’s best was 1m 34.704s, leaving him 11th ahead of the Saubers of Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson on 1m 34.737s and 1m 35.034s respectively. Fernando Alonso was 14th in the McLaren which worked, with 1m 35.039s, and a mistake at the end of his best lap left Verstappen 15th on 1m 35.103s.
Thus Hamilton, Raikkonen, Massa, Vettel, Rosberg, Bottas, Romain Grosjean, Daniel Ricciardo, Nico Hulkenberg and Sainz headed into Q3.
The world champion was quickest on his first run, as Ricciardo used a set of fresh soft-compound Pirellis to grab a surprise second. But the Red Bull driver soon faded on the second runs. Then Hamilton dug deep for a lap of 1m 32.571s, which dislodged Vettel who had just posted 1m 32.982s and seen Rosberg fail to beat that with 1m 33.129s.
Behind them, Raikkonen did 1m 33.227s for fourth as Bottas and Massa wrapped up the third row for Williams with 1m 33.381s and 1m 33.744s respectively.
Ricciardo’s first-run time had been 1m 33.850s, but he trimmed that only slightly to 1m 33.832s for seventh as Hulkenberg remarkably put his Force India into eighth with 1m 34.450s. Sainz just failed to dislodge him as he lapped his Toro Rosso in 1m 34.462s, while Grosjean was also close with 1m 34.484s for Lotus.
Thus the provisional grid will line up: Hamilton, Vettel; Rosberg, Raikkonen; Bottas, Massa; Ricciardo, Hulkenberg; Sainz, Grosjean; Perez, Nasr; Ericsson, Alonso; Verstappen, Maldonado; Kvyat, Stevens; Merhi, Button.