Mercedes AMG Motorsport boss Toto Wolff hailed Lewis Hamilton‘s fastest lap in qualifying for Formula 1‘s German Grand Prix as “incredible”, as Mercedes profited from Scuderia Ferrari‘s unreliability.
Ferrari entered qualifying at Hockenheim as favourites, but suffered technical issues on both Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc‘s cars – leaving Mercedes to claim an eighth pole position of the 2019 campaign.
Hamilton’s lap time of a 1:11.767 was 0.346 seconds faster than Red Bull Racing‘s Max Verstappen, while the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top three – 0.016s behind the Dutchman.
The reigning champion’s participation in qualifying was in doubt, after it emerged that he was suffering with a fever and could have been replaced by the team’s reserve driver Esteban Ocon.
Both Hamilton and Bottas were aided by cooler conditions on Saturday, having struggled in 38C heat on Friday, and will be boosted by Leclerc and Vettel starting from tenth and twentieth respectively.
Wolff said that F1 needs Ferrari for a “strong” title fight and that the German GP needs Vettel to perform strongly, as the event’s future looks bleaker and bleaker.
“It’s a real shame for Ferrari and a shame for Sebastian at his home grand prix,” said Wolff.
“We really need him here for the crowd, and you can see that it’s a bit subdued at the moment. We need Ferrari for a strong championship too.”
Wolff continued to express his happiness with Hamilton’s Qualifying 3 effort and explained that Bottas lacked conviction in his performance due to feeling uncomfortable with the car – something that the Finn narrowed down to a lack of faith under heavy braking.
“I’m happy because the session started poorly for us, we didn’t quite know why we were lacking pace,” he added.
“Over the course of the session it just slowly came towards us.Lewis put in an incredible lap in Q3 and deserves to be on pole.
“Valtteri was not feeling comfortable in the car, he was struggling a bit more, but he is starting third on the grid and has every chance in the race tomorrow. “
Mercedes’ chief race engineer, Andrew Shovlin, admitted that the team was left disappointed by its morning pace after making changes on Friday night to reduce the gap to Ferrari but said that he was pleased with both drivers making it into the top 10 comfortably on the medium tyre.
Both Red Bull cars of Verstappen and Pierre Gasly will start on the soft tyres and could pose an early challenge, but Leclerc may be able to make up lost ground starting on the same compound to the Mercedes.
“It’s not been a straightforward day and our pace has been a bit up and down,” said Shovlin.
“On our final runs on low fuel in the morning it was clear we’d not made the progress we had hoped for overnight.
“Obviously, Ferrari dropping out took a bit of pressure off us in the final session although Max had good pace, so we didn’t expect it to be easy.
“Lewis did a great lap on run one; Valtteri struggled a bit with the consistency on braking and couldn’t quite match Max’s time in the end.
“It should be an interesting day tomorrow, especially when you consider the risk of rain.”