Kimi Raikkonen was third fastest in the second Ferrari, a fraction up on Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat. Then came the beleaguered Silver Arrows of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, followed by Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen, Felipe Massa in the second Williams and the Lotus of Romain Grosjean.
Q1 had seen Kvyat pip Hamilton for fastest time, 1m 45.340s to 1m 45.765s, but while they had to use supersoft tyres for that, Vettel was third with 1m 46.017s on the softs. Jenson Button squeaked through in the dying moments for McLaren, 1m 46.891s giving him 15th place at the expense of Sauber’s Felipe Nasr on 1m 46.965s. His partner Marcus Ericsson also failed to make it on 1m 47.088s and Pastor Maldonado couldn’t better 1m 47.323s for Lotus.
In the Marussia camp, Will Stevens jumped ahead of new team mate Alex Rossi on their final runs, with 1m 51.021s to 1m 51.523s. Both have five-place grid penalties for unscheduled gearbox changes.
As Vettel beat Kvyat with 1m 44.743s to 1m 44.979s, Carlos Sainz clobbered the wall with the left-rear of his Toro Rosso in Turn 19 as he, the McLaren drivers and the Force India drivers battled to get through to Q3. The resultant yellow flags ruined that, leaving the order outside the top 10 as Nico Hulkenberg 1m 46.305s, Fernando Alonso 1m 46.328s, Sergio Perez 1m 46.885s, Sainz 1m 46.894s and Button 1m 47.019s.
As Vettel set the pace on the first Q3 runs with 1m 44.305s, things got worse for Mercedes as Hamilton aborted his after running wide over the kerb in Turn 7. Ricciardo was second, Raikkonen third and Kvyat fourth.
The second runs merely confirmed the order, as Ricciardo trimmed down to 1m 44.428s for second, Raikkonen stayed on 1m 44.667s, and Kvyat improved only marginally to 1m 44.745s. Hamilton, however, jumped from ninth to fifth with 1m 45.300s, as Rosberg failed to improve on 1m 45.415s.
Right at the end, Vettel emphasised his superiority when he slammed round in 1m 43.885s to take his first pole since Brazil 2013. Ferrari’s last pole was Germany 2012.
Bottas took seventh for Williams with 1m 45.676s, as Verstappen’s 1m 45.798s gave Toro Rosso eighth. Massa was a disappointing ninth on 1m 46.077s, as Grosjean completed the top 10 for Lotus with 1m 46.413s.
Thus the provisional grid will line up: Vettel, Ricciardo; Raikkonen, Kvyat; Hamilton, Rosberg; Bottas, Verstappen; Massa, Grosjean; Hulkenberg, Alonso; Perez, Sainz; Button, Nasr; Ericsson, Maldonado; Stevens, Rossi.