Nico Rosberg has put his Mercedes on pole position in his 200th Grand Prix by registering a stonking lap which cleared the next best finisher Daniel Ricciardo by over half a second, while Lewis Hamilton was a further tenth of a second behind in third.
Rosberg came out swinging in Q3 and set a blistering time of 1:42.584, easily clearing the rest of the field and going 0.704 seconds faster than team mate Hamilton’s best effort. Although Rosberg went out again to try and improve, his original time was good enough to secure him pole ahead of Ricciardo and Hamilton.
Both Red Bull drivers had messy flying laps and were over a second off the pace in the first half of Q3, as Ricciardo had a rough kerb ride losing him time while Verstappen experienced brakes locking and some traffic.
While Ricciardo was able to split the Mercedes and put himself on the front row of the grid, Verstappen couldn’t quite match his team mate’s pace and narrowly missed out on out-qualifying Hamilton for third.
Red Bull decided to run the super soft tyre in Q2 and were able to set their best time using the compound, which means that both Ricciardo and Verstappen will start tomorrows race the only two drivers in the top ten on the super softs.
Ferrari failed to live up to the hype that surrounded the team heading into the weekend, as the Scuderia were the team to capitalise on Mercedes’ lack of pace in Singapore last year.
Kimi Raikkonen qualified in fifth position although he was almost a full second off the pace, while the Toro Rosso pair of Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat finished in sixth and seventh beating both Force Indias and Fernando Alonso.
A shock exit in Q1 came at Sebastian Vettel’s expense when the rear anti-roll bar failed as his Ferrari struggled to keep all four wheels on the track. The German pitted with only a handful of minutes to go but failed to get the issue resolved in time, meaning last year’s winner will start at the back of the grid.
Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson posted a late time to escape Q1 for the first time since Australia while demoting Renault’s Kevin Magnussen in the process. Jolyon Palmer and the two Manor drivers of Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon were also eliminated from qualifying.
Q2 was ended prematurely when Romain Grosjean lost his car under braking and crashed into Turn 10, causing substantial damage to the Haas as well as the tech-pro barriers, which saw a 10-minute delay to the start of Q3.
The incident brought out double waved yellow flags which meant that most drivers were unable to improve on their lap time, catching out the Williams duo of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa along with Esteban Gutierrez.
Jenson Button was on a flying lap late in the session when he clipped his McLaren against the wall and received a left rear puncture, forcing the Briton to pull off to the side of the track and retire from the session.
While Button was forced out of qualifying, team mate Alonso managed to sneak his McLaren into Q3 and split the Force India pair of Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez in ninth position.
Perez improved late in Q2 to escape being eliminated after Grosjean had his incident in Turn 10, luckily escaping the drop zone without impeding yellow flag regulations.
Image via Mercedes AMG F1 Petronas