Kimi Raikkonen consolidated a strong start to the weekend for the Scuderia in third, also on the soft tyres, while Force India’s Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg used the supersofts to go fourth and fifth respectively.
Valtteri Bottas was sixth for Williams on softs, ahead of championship leader Nico Rosberg, who clocked his best lap on the mediums. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, Williams’ Felipe Massa and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat - all on softs - completed the top ten.
Everyone struggled with a dirty surface and unexpectedly low track and ambient temperatures. The former peaked at 26 degrees Celsius, the latter at 13.
Once Manor’s Esteban Ocon and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso had made the early running, Hamilton set the pace. On the soft Pirellis he beat Rosberg’s 1m 22.748s with 1m 21.936s, and stayed in front as his challenger replied with 1m 22.395s. Having backed off in sector three after a subsequent run had seen him go faster in the first two, Hamilton did a further lap and improved to 1m 21.633s as Rosberg cut down to 1m 21.846s.
Then a nine-minute red flag stoppage occurred after a heavy run over the kerbs was followed by the right front wing on Felipe Nasr’s Sauber exploding into fragments, deluging the track with shards of sharp carbon fibre.
Once that was all cleaned up, Hamilton and Rosberg went at it again, this time on the medium tyres. Again Hamilton set the pace, with 1m 20.914s. Rosberg’s response was 1m 21.673s, but he complained of tyre vibrations and switched thereafter to long runs.
Meanwhile, Force India, Ferrari and Williams stayed on the soft rubber. After Perez and Hulkenberg had moved ahead of Rosberg, with 1m 21.347s and 1m 21.607s, Vettel got his Ferrari wound up to go second on 1m 20.993s. He was later joined by team mate Raikkonen in third on the same rubber, with 1m 21.072s, as Perez and Hulkenberg ended up fourth and fifth with 1m 21.200s and 1m 21.409s. Bottas also squeezed ahead of Rosberg, with 1m 21.447s for Williams, leaving the German seventh.
Behind him, Ricciardo took eighth for Red Bull with 1m 21.727s as Massa put the second Williams ninth on 1m 21.836s, complaining of brake locking, and Kvyat completed the top 10 for Toro Rosso, despite a spin in Turn 1 before his rear tyres were hot enough, with 22.215s.
Max Verstappen had a tough morning, with his rear brakes catching fire and losing him a lot of track time due to resulting electrical damage. He was 14th.
The other talking point of the cool and breezy 90 minutes was the two McLarens, struggling in 16th (Alonso) and 18th places (Jenson Button).