Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was best of the rest in third, but team mate Sebastian Vettel was eliminated in Q1 after reporting an MGU-H problem.
The German was one of three big names to suffer in the opening segment, as Rosberg set the pace by two thousandths of a second from Hamilton on soft tyres before Romain Grosjean went a fraction quicker on supersofts for Lotus. Jenson Button wasn’t even in the contest, as his McLaren needed a fresh Honda motor after grinding to a halt in FP3. Williams’ Felipe Massa meanwhile complained of a down-on-power Mercedes engine throughout.
In the end, Vettel got going right at the end and managed two laps, but things still weren’t right and he ended up 16th on 1m 17.344s, three-tenths shy of McLaren’s Fernando Alonso. Massa didn’t make it either, and the Brazilian was deeply disappointed with 1m 17.886s which left him 17th. Roberto Merhi put himself back ahead of Marussia team mate Will Stevens, with 1m 19.133s to 1m 19.157s, and Button brought up the rear without a time.
Q2 saw Raikkonen set the pace for Ferrari with 1m 15.602s, before Hamilton and Rosberg went head-to-head with laps of 1m 14.661s and 1m 14.673s respectively, undercutting the red car by a whole second. Then Grosjean jumped to third late on with 1m 15.187s for Lotus.
Heading those in the drop zone this time were Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz, who got bumped in the last seconds by Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat, and whose 1m 16.042s was only fractionally beaten by Daniel Ricciardo’s 1m 16.006s in the other RB11. Max Verstappen was just behind his Toro Rosso team mate with 1m 16.245s, and was in turn just ahead of Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson on 1m 16.262s, Alonso on 1m 16.276s and Felipe Nasr in his repaired Sauber on 1m 16.620s.
Verstappen of course has two grid penalties hanging over him - a five-place drop for his collision with Grosjean in Monaco, and a further 10 for using his fifth engine of the season this weekend. With the Dutch rookie qualifying too low to take the full 15-place drop, he also picks up a compensatory 10-second stop-go penalty for the race, and will thus start right at the rear of the field.
And so to Q3, and the battle between the Mercedes team mates. As they had in the second segment, Hamilton and Rosberg traded sector times, but the verdict after the first runs was Hamilton’s, 1m 14.393s to 1m 14.702s. When neither improved on their second runs – though Hamilton was again faster – pole was his for the sixth time this season.
Behind them, Raikkonen’s 1m 15.014s left him third as Valtteri Bottas jumped up to pip Grosjean for fourth, the Williams driver recording 1m 15.102s to the Lotus pilot’s 1m 15.194s.
Pastor Maldonado was sixth in the other Lotus with 1m 15.329s, as Nico Hulkenberg’s strong form continued with 1m 15.614s for Force India. Kvyat again just headed team mate Ricciardo, with 1m 16.079s to 1m 16.114s, leaving 10th place to Force India’s Sergio Perez on 1m 16.338s.
Thus, with Verstappen’s double grid penalty taken into account, the provisional starting order will be: Hamilton, Rosberg; Raikkonen, Bottas; Grosjean, Maldonado; Hulkenberg, Kvyat; Ricciardo, Perez; Sainz, Ericsson; Alonso, Nasr; Vettel, Massa; Merhi, Stevens; Verstappen. It’s likely Button will have to start from the pit lane.