Lewis Hamilton maintained his advantage over Nico Rosberg as he finished practice on Friday afternoon with nearly three tenths over his team-mate. At a track where Rosberg has never finished about fourth but where Hamilton has won four times, the latter is looking to take victory in order to reel in the gap to his Championship-leading team-mate. The other Mercedes man was predictably second and held a four-tenth lead over the-best-of-the-rest Sebastian Vettel, whose pace became evident after he swapped to the softer, quicker tyre compounds mid-session. Fernando Alonso was three-tenths shy of Vettel, losing time to the Red Bull in the first two sectors where the several sweeping corners put the Red Bull at an advantage. Kevin Magnussen in fifth split Alonso from his team-mate in sixth, while Daniel Ricciardo narrowly took seventh from Williams’ Valtteri Bottas who looked a lot faster than he had this morning. Jenson Button and Felipe Massa finished ninth and tenth respectively, as they did in the first session.
The Toro Rosso duo narrowly missed out on the top ten and thus qualified eleventh and twelfth, Kvyat leading Vergne, who is celebrating his fiftieth Grand Prix this weekend. Nico Hulkenberg couldn’t better thirteenth while his team-mate Perez sandwiched former Force India driver Adrian Sutil, who finished fourteenth. Pastor Maldonado survived an early spin to finish seventeenth, but his team-mate was forced to sit out most of the session as his car underwent work in the Lotus garage. Esteban Gutierrez finished eighteenth, ahead of Kamui Kobayashi, who proved to be the quickest of the back-markers. The Marussias of Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton finished twentieth and twenty-first, leaving Marcus Ericsson to fill out the back of the grid.
Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG F1 Team.