Sebastian Vettel took his first pole since the Canadian Grand Prix at his home event at the Hockenheimring with a record breaking lap.
Vettel’s 1 minute 11.212 seconds was two-tenths faster than Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport‘s Valtteri Bottas, with Kimi Räikkönen three-tenths off the pace in third.
Championship contender Lewis Hamilton failed to celebrate his new Mercedes contract with a 77th career pole, after a suspected gearbox failure in the late stages of Qualifying 1 left him starting from fourteenth position at best.
Bottas had secured provisional pole on his last lap, to the disbelief and joy of Toto Wolff in the Mercedes garage, before Vettel’s last gasp effort ensured Ferrari’s first pole at Hockenheim since Fernando Alonso in 2012.
Max Verstappen had been in contention for a front row start throughout Q1 and Q2, but a lack of pace on the straight cost him dearly in Q3. The Dutchman lines up fourth, meaning that Aston Martin Red Bull Racing still have a chance of a podium finish with one car.
The Haas F1 Team had the measure of the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team – Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean locked out the third row, with Magnussen over three-tenths ahead of the Frenchman. Nico Hülkenberg continued his good run of form to take seventh, ahead of team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr.
Charles Leclerc put all the media speculation behind him to reach Q3 for the third time in four races, with Sergio Pérez rounding out the top ten for the Sahara Force India F1 Team.
Ericsson spin sees disrupted Q2 session
With neither Hamilton or Daniel Ricciardo taking part in Q2, through force or choice, only 13 drivers battled for a place in the top ten shootout. Marcus Ericsson’s spin at Sachskurve and resulting recovery saw a red flag period halt running, whilst gravel was cleared from the racing line.
When the acton resumed, Alonso, Sergey Sirotkin and Ericsson could not make the cut; Alonso six-tenths away from Sergio Pérez’s tenth place time. Verstappen was forced into changing his strategy midway through the session, initially opting to use the soft compound tyres, in order to set the second best time, three-hundredths behind pace-setter Bottas.
Q1 misfortune sees Hamilton having to push
The biggest scalp from the first session of the afternoon proved to be Hamilton. Having set the fifth best time, the Brit ran wide on his next attempt at a fast lap at Turn 1 and bounced over the kerbs at the perimeter of the track, causing damage to his gearbox.
Despite his attempt to coast back to the pits – even trying to push the car from Turn 9 onwards – the issue left him stranded on track, out of qualifying and crouching by the side of his Mercedes.
Ferrari left their mark on Q1, Kimi Räikkönen leading Sebastian Vettel, with Bottas four-tenths behind in third. Romain Grosjean was the surprise performer, sitting in fourth just behind Bottas.
Esteban Ocon failed to reach the second stage of qualifying for the first time since the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix and was joined by both Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda cars, Pierre Gasly beating Brendon Hartley, Lance Stroll and Stoffel Vandoorne. The Belgian is yet to move off the foot of the timing screens in a session where every driver has set a time this weekend.
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*= Gearbox failure in Q1 saw Hamilton take no further part in qualifying
**= Grid penalty for multiple PU component changes