We already knew before the start of the qualifying hour that Nico Rosberg won’t be on the front row, despite looking like the fastest driver for most of the weekend after a suspension failure meant the team decided to change the gearbox, as also the case at Ferrari with Sebastian Vettel.
The lights went green, but unusually for the 2016 season nobody went out immediately. Renault and Manor were the first to go though, with Mercedes following with Lewis Hamilton on the ultra soft tyre. Wehrlein led the way at the start, only to be deposed by Magnussen and Sainz, only a tenth of a second between them. Hamilton immediately went faster, a second and a half faster than Magnussen, Perez slotting into second with teammate Hulkenberg in third. Gutierrez in the Haas then went third, seven tenths from Hamilton, Sainz went on to do a second timed lap and went fifth, teammate Kvyat in sixth.
Williams had a good first run, with Massa send and only four tenths from Hamilton. Grosjean could only go ninth, and a considerable amount of time down on his own teammate. Button went fifth.
Perez had a problem at the rear of the car, the tyres not looking like they were in alignment, while Rosberg made it out onto the track with ten minutes remaining. Raikkonen went second fastest, bringing the gap to Hamilton down to three tenths. Vettel went even faster, just a tenth to Hamilton now in second. Alonso also made it into the top ten in eighth, a place ahead of his teammate. Later than other Bottas went third, before being demoted by Rosberg who went quickest, heading towards three tenths of a second faster than Lewis Hamilton. Verstappen went fourth, while Vettel was also setting fastest sectors. The Ferrari improved and took his second place back.
At the bottom of the order – they included Grosjean, Kvyat, Ericsson, Wehrlein, Haryanto and Nasr. The cars streamed out onto the circuit with four minutes remaining. Rosberg improved yet again, bridging the gap to two tenths. Grosjean improved to 13th, with Wehrlein doing even better in 9th. A large accident by Daniil Kvyat at that point brought out the red flag. Replays showed that he went wide at the penultimate corner, running over the baguette kerbs and tearing off the right rear suspension.
The session got restarted, a number deciding to sit at the end of the pitlane. It was Nico Hulkenberg who would win that race to the end of the pitlane, followed by the Renault drivers and the two Manors, Pascal Wehrlein still retaining the top ten. It wasn’t easy though, with Carlos Sainz finishing his session early in a cloud of smoke. It brought out yellow flags along the second straight. Haryanto imptoved to 19th, although Hulkenberg also did the same to 7th. Ericsson and Nasr remained at the bottom. Sainz would get through in 11th, but not likely to rejoin after his failure on circuit.
With the Q2 session starting, cars were lining up at the end of the pitlane. Rosberg while waiting was told that rain could be possible during the session, with only Pascal Wehrlein going out on the supersoft tyre. At the same time Nico Hulkenberg was being investigated for not slowing down under yellow flags at the end of the previous session. Ferrari also went out with the supersoft rather than the ultrasoft.
Rosberg was blocked by the Haas on his opening lap, with Hamilton going two tenths faster than his teammate. Verstappen wenrt third, and Hulkenberg fourth with rain starting to fall around the circuit. Massa went fourth for Williams, bwith Ricciardo immediately going to third and Bottas in fourth. Vettel went third on the supersoft tyre, and only three tenths down on the Mercedes on the softer tyre compound. Romain Grosjean had an off track excursion, while not setting a time. Verstappen alsop went out on the supersoft tyre.
Verstappen improved to fourth on the supersofts, while Ricciardo went even faster in the sister Red Bull to depose thim. Wehrlein couldn’t improve in 11th. Gutierrez deposed Wehrlein in 11th, while with rain falling Button went off at turn 3 into the gravel track. Despite those who were struggling, Mercedes went out on the supersoft tyre. Grosjean couldn’t get out of the top ten, rain falling in the pitlane now and around the circuit bringing a premature end to the session.
Rain continued to fall during the break between sessions and cars went out on the intermediate tyres. Just as the cars went out onto the circuit, the rain stopped, with the teams being told that more rain was on the way and heavier this time. Vettel went fastest on a 1:20.7, while Raikkonen lost his first lap after going straight on at turn one. Hamilton was half a second slowe, with Hulkenberg in third, quickly to be demoted by Ricciardo. Bottas slotted in behind the Red Bull drivers.
Raikkonen went fastest, before Hamilton and then Rosberg went fastest. Button also was fast, going third fastest. The track was drying quickly which led Ricciardo going fastest and Verstappen in third place. There was also a dry line appearing in the final corner. Vettel and then Raikkonen improved again to go third and fourth. Hulkenberg briefly went fastest, only for Ricciardo went faster once again. Massa went third, with Bottas in fourth for Williams, Rosberg was still down in fifth ahead of the Ferrari drivers. Vettel then went third, with Hamilton then going fastest by a second, even over his teammate.
Red Bull couldn’t get as close to Hamilton, with Button being the closest challenger to the Mercedes. Hulkenberg went out on the supersoft tyre with the track drying really quickly. Rosberg said over the radio that the track wasn’t ready for slicks, while Hamilton did come into the pits for the slick tyre, a lap alter and the other Mercedes did come in.
On the drying track, Hulkenberg was the first on the circuit while Bottas went into the gravel. The Force India went over a second faster than Hamilton. The Mercedes driver was on the pace though. Massa went fastest, although Vettel only went second to be demoted by Raikkonen and then Hamilton. On the second lap Hulkenberg was a second faster than the Mercedes of Rosberg. Jenson Button was the last car over the line, which could be an advantage.
Massa went over the line only third fastest, Max Verstappen second, Vettel went fastest, with Raikkonen second. Hamilton then went fastest, ahead of Hulkenebrg, with Rosberg in second, and Button could only make fifth fastest.