Kimi Raikkonen led team mate Sebastian Vettel for an all-Ferrari third row, with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, the Williams of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa, and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz completing the top ten.
It was Hamilton’s ninth pole position of the season and though all the fast times were set on Pirelli’s supersoft tyres, the Silver Arrows crucially used the more durable softs in Q2, and can thus potentially gain further advantage by starting the race on them. So can Verstappen…
Hamilton led Rosberg by 0.101s in Q1, chased another few tenths down by the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Ricciardo, as Hulkenberg went ahead of Raikkonen and Vettel.
At the end Jenson Button briefly squeaked into Q2 for McLaren, only to be bumped immediately by Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, and then to complain about traffic on the racing line in the final corner. With Jolyon Palmer getting the Q2 nod by three tenths for Renault, Romain Grosjean was the first of those left behind, with 1m 38.308s for Haas.
Palmer’s team mate Kevin Magnussen was next on 1m 38.317s ahead of Button on 1m 38.327s, Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein on 1m 38,548s, Sauber’s Felipe Nasr on 1m 38.583s and Manor’s Esteban Ocon on 1m 38.806s.
As Ricciardo set the Q2 pace with 1m 36.255s on supersofts, Mercedes cannily ran Rosberg and Hamilton on softs and they were second (1m 36.31s) and third (1m 36.450s); they will thus be able to start on the harder and more durable rubber. Verstappen also ran them.
A late run to 1m 37.214s put Massa 10th and into Q3 at the expense of Force India’s Sergio Perez (1m 37.353s) and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso (1m 37.417s). Joining them were Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat (1m 37.480s), Esteban Gutierrez in the Haas (1m 38.773s), Palmer (1m 38.935s) and Ericsson (1m 39.356s).
Back on supersofts, Mercedes dominated Q3 - or at last, Hamilton did. He aced Rosberg in their first runs, 1m 35.370s to 1m 35.442s, as Rosberg ran a little wide exiting Turn One, and again in their second, 1m 34.999s to 1m 35.215s, to take his first pole since Malaysia.
Red Bull were left a little breathless as Ricciardo took third on 1m 35.509s from Verstappen on 1m 35.747s, but this time the Ferraris were ahead of Hulkenberg. Once again Raikkonen out-qualified Vettel, with 1m 36.131s to 1m 36.358s, with the Force India driver seventh on 1m 36.628s.
Bottas eased ahead of Massa for eighth with 1m 37.116s to 1m 37.269s, as Sainz took 10th on 1m 37.326s.
Thus the provisional grid lines up: Hamilton, Rosberg; Ricciardo, Verstappen; Raikkonen, Vettel; Hulkenberg, Bottas; Massa, Sainz; Perez, Alonso; Kvyat, Gutierrez; Palmer, Ericsson; Grosjean, Magnussen; Button, Wehrlein; Nasr, Ocon.