Rosberg and team mate Lewis Hamilton carried on where they left off in Baku, with the German dominating and the Englishman checking out the limits with several off-track moments. They were the only two drivers to get below 68 seconds for this ultra-short lap, Roberg with 1m 07.373s, Hamilton 0.37s slower with 1m 07.730s after offs in Turns 1 and 8.
Sebastian Vettel, running with a further modified Ferrari which boasts a revised MGU-K unit, got closest with 1m 08.022s, ahead of team mate Kimi Raikkonen on 1m 08.222s. All four used Pirelli’s ultrasoft tyres. Vettel, however, is facing a possible five-place grid drop after metal filings were found in his SF16-H’s gearbox after Baku, which may need changing.
Daniel Ricciardo was fifth on the supersofts for Red Bull, with 1m 08.528s as stablemate Carlos Sainz completed the top six with a lap of 1m 08.803s on ultrasofts for Toro Rosso. Williams’ Felipe Massa, Verstappen, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and Williams’ Valtteri Bottas completed the top 10.
There was action aplenty during the 90 minutes. It started when Hamilton spun early on at Turn 3, obliging Romain Grosjean to spin his Haas in avoidance. Meanwhile, the Frenchman’s partner, Esteban Gutierrez, was in trouble with a sick-sounding Ferrari motor.
Then Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson got into a big slide coming into the pits too fast, obliging Ricciardo to run off the track exiting Turn 8 (the Rindtkurve). Later, the Australian had to take avoiding action when Rio Haryanto spun his Manor there and rejoined right in front of the Red Bull. Both Ericsson and Haryanto were subsequently reprimanded by the stewards for their indiscretions.
The new kerbs here raised some controversy, too, and after losing a front wing endplate over one early on, Verstappen went over the kerb at Turn 5 and ended up in the gravel at Turn 6 with another broken wing as well as broken right-front suspension. “They are unbelievable, these yellow things,” the Dutchman grumbled as he was returned to base on a motorcycle.
Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein was reprimanded following the session for speeding when the Virtual Safety Car was deployed as Verstappen’s car was recovered.