Red Bull were the surprise of the morning practice session, setting the pace ahead of Mercedes, but could we see a surprise upset in the afternoon for qualifying?
With the lights going green, it was Force India the first at the end of the pitlane, with Manor already heading out on the circuit. The Manor of Wehrlein went straight out on the supersoft tyre, although not expected to go beyond the first session. He was quickly demoted by the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson, with his teammate over half a second behind. He complained over the radio that something didn’t feel right with the brakes as Romain Grosjean headed to the top of the order with some help from his teammate by giving him a tow down the long straight.
Lewis Hamilton went straight out on the supersoft tyres, as he got a lot of traffic at the end of the lap, Rosberg was still slower by a tenth though. Verstappen was three tenths down on Hamilton, Ricciardo then going fourth. Ferrari went fifth with Raikkonen, and sixth with Vettel, although a good lap from Nico Hulkenberg meant that Force India drivers went fifth.
In the drop zone, Button had to go again. He only improved to 16th on his second run, which was quickly pushed out by Marcus Ericsson who went 13th. Kvyat improved to 11th, just behind teammate Sainz. Magnussen only stayed in 16th, while Massa went 9th. Magnussen went out by Gutierrez improving, while Palmer also couldn’t improve.
Grosjean, Magnussen, Button, Wehrlein, Nasr and Ocon went out in the first part of qualifying.
At the start of the second session Mercedes went out on the soft compound tyre to see if they could gain an advantage at the start of the race. Rosberg went over the line first, with Hamilton a tenth of a second slower. Red Bull decided to split the strategy, Verstappen going out on the soft and Ricciardo on the supersoft. In the battle between Force India and Williams it was first blood to Williams – Bottas ahead of Perez.
Ricciardo on the supersoft was only a tenth faster than Rosberg, while Verstappen went fifth fastest on soft soft tyre, but ahead of Hulkenberg and Bottas. On the supersoft tyres, Ferrari slotted in the gap behind the Mercedes drivers.
The first six didn’t go out for another run, with the final four places up for grabs between Force India, Williams, Toro Rosso and McLaren. Although he was all over the circuit, Fernando Alonso couldnt improve in 9th. Bottas stayed 9th, with Perez improving to 9th. Sainz put together a great lap to go 8th, although teammate Kvyat could only go 13th, with Massa going into 10th – that meant Perez dropped out.
Those out in the second session included Perez, Alonso, Kvyat, Gutierrez, Palmer and Ericsson.
Rosberg was the first to set a fast lap, although it was a poor lap by the German. Hamilton was a tenth faster than his teammate, with Verstappen loosing time in third. Both of the Ferrari drivers were a long way behind the Red Bull, with Ricciardo the last on the road to beat the Dutchman. Only the top three teams went out for a early run.
First out on the final run was Williams, with Force India and Rosberg returning to the circuit with three and a half minutes of the session remaining. It was a great first sector from Lewis Hamilton, by faster than anything else so far this weekend. Rosberg was faster, but Hamilton took it back again to take pole position.