Kimi Raikkonen was fifth in the leading scarlet car, immediately ahead of team mate Sebastian Vettel. Then came Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz and Force India’s Sergio Perez. Fernando Alonso completed the top ten as McLaren made Q3 for the first time since 2014.
In Q1, after making only one run apiece the Mercedes were fastest, Rosberg ahead of Hamilton, with the Ferraris (Raikkonen, Vettel) behind the Red Bulls (Verstappen, Ricciardo), both of those teams also conserving rubber.
The big surprise was that Felipe Massa failed to get through to Q2 after an apparent timing error from Williams left him 18th, just behind Jolyon Palmer who had improved to a respectable three tenths off Renault team mate Kevin Magnussen.
The other four who failed to get through were Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr in their Saubers, and the Manors of Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto.
Hamilton smashed Rosberg by six-tenths in Q2, as he improved by 1.1s while his team mate was only three-tenths faster than he had been in Q1. Verstappen continued to head Ricciardo and Vettel was only fourth, until Raikkonen made amends for a poor first run by squeezing ahead of his team mate, as then did Ricciardo too.
Nico Hulkenberg was the first faller for Force India, a tenth off Alonso’s time which gave McLaren their first Q3 of the season by a mere 0.011s. Jenson Button in the second MP4-31 was 12th ahead of Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso, and the Haas cars of Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez, which sandwiched Magnussen’s Renault.
Hamilton looked as if he was going to carry on where he left off in Q3, until he locked up and ran wide at Turn 10 in the final sector on his first run, handing first place to Rosberg with 1m 22.475s - and second to the sensational Verstappen, whose 1m 23.203s pipped his 1m 23.277s.
Thus Hamilton had it all to do on his final run. He redeemed himself with a superb 1m 22.000s to beat an improving Rosberg to pole by 0.280s. He described himself as very happy, and very grateful to Mercedes for a car which worked well and reliably.
Behind them, Ricciardo got it together when it mattered with a brilliant 1m 22.680s to oust his upstart new team mate, who nevertheless impressed greatly with 1m 23.087s for fourth.
The session was a disaster for Ferrari, with Raikkonen only fifth on 1m 23.113s and Vettel sixth on 1m 23.334s. Both SF16-Hs looked a handful.
Bottas salvaged seventh for Williams with 1m 23.522s as Sainz was Spain’s top dog with 1m 23.643s for Toro Rosso. That left the fifth row to Perez’s Force India on 1m 23.782s, and Alonso’s McLaren on 1m 23.981s.
Thus the provisional grid will line up: Hamilton, Rosberg; Ricciardo, Verstappen; Raikkonen, Vettel; Bottas, Sainz; Perez, Alonso; Hulkenberg, Button; Kvyat, Grosjean; Magnussen, Gutierrez; Palmer, Massa; Ericsson, Nasr; Wehrlein, Haryanto.