Lewis Hamilton ended another tight qualifying session as barely more than two tenths of a second had covered the top 4 drivers after the first runs in Q2, with Vettell fractionally ahead of Hamilton although Raikkonen eventually went fastest by doing second run when the others didn’t.
But Hamilton moved into the ascendancy at the start of the third session beating Vettel by almost two tenths of a second after the first runs despite running wide out of Turn 3 and getting a bit greedy on the throttle at the exit of Turn 11.
The Mercedes driver improved to a 1m31.6 best on his final run with a cleaner lap on his 2nd run grabbing pole by just 0.186 seconds.
Vettel joined Hamilton on the front row and when informed he had missed pole by two tenths, Vettel reckoned “I didn’t have that” time in the car.
Bottas came through on 3rd missing out on beating Vettel to the front row by just one thousandth of a second with Raikkonen ending up fourth, nearly three tenths back from Bottas.
Daniel Ricciardo got squeezed everything out of his Red Bull posting the fifth quickest time, nearly 1.5s away from pole but nearly half a second clear of Felipe Massa’s Williams. Who most would have expected to beat the Red Bull this weekend.
Nico Hulkenberg chose to complete his solitary Q3 run at the start of that session instead of the end this was still good enough for an encouraging seventh place for Renault.
Force India’s Sergio Perez was eighth fastest, ahead of Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso, while Lance Stroll rounded out the top 10 in the second Williams.
The battle to make it into the top-10 shootout was just as tight as the front of the grid and the battle was between Stroll, Sergio Perez, the two Toro Rossos, and Kevin Magnussen
Sainz missed the top 10 cut by fractions after failing to improve on his second Q2 run, while Magnussen was only a whisper away in 12th.
Fernando Alonso put in another monumental effort by wringing the neck of the McLaren to make the top 10 in Q1 but couldn’t repeat it in Q2 eventually qualifying 13th fastest, just under seven tenths clear of Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber.
Sauber got both cars through to Q2, mainly due to Antonio Giovinazzi crashing heavily at the final corner just as the chequered flag came out at the end of Q1 meaning a handful of drivers couldn’t improve on their first runs.
He took no part in Q2 so was classified 16th, ahead of Romain Grosjean’s Haas, Jolyon Palmer’s Renault, and Esteban Ocon’s Force India, which all had to abort their final flying laps in Q1.
The other McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne was unaffected, but his best was just not good enough.
Max Verstappen struggled with a suspected engine problem in the first part of qualifying which saw him out in the first session and if the forecast for rain is accurate for tomorrow will be great to watch coming through the field should Red Bull manage to diagnose the issue before the start.
Some good news for the young Red Bull driver is that Grosjean and Palmer are both under investigation by the FIA, for failing to slow sufficiently under yellow flags.
photo credit BBC Sport