Hamilton sweeps to German pole after Ferrari falter
Formula One leader Lewis Hamilton seized pole position for Mercedes in their 200th race at the German Grand Prix on Saturday after both Ferrari drivers were sidelined by engine problems.
The five-times world champion lapped the 4.5km Hockenheim circuit in one minute 11.767 seconds for a record-extending 87th career pole and his fourth of the season.
The Briton was comfortably quicker than Max Verstappen, who will start alongside the 34-year-old on the front row in his Red Bull.
Valtteri Bottas, 39 points beind Hamilton in the standings after 10 of 21 races, qualified third in the other Mercedes.
“Lewis, this is Toto. You never stop to amaze us,” team principal Toto Wolff, whose employers are also celebrating their 125th year in motorsport with a retro livery and team clothing, told him over the team radio.
Ferrari, who had been fastest in both Friday and Saturday practice with Charles Leclerc, could only lick their self-inflicted wounds.
It all went wrong when it mattered for the sport’s most successful and glamorous team, with home favourite Sebastian Vettel the first casualty when he failed to set a time in the opening phase.
The German, hoping for a happier homecoming than last year when he crashed out of the lead from pole, will start last after a problem with the air flow to the car’s turbo.
Leclerc then failed to make it out of the pits in the final top 10 shootout due to a fuel system issue.
“It’s a difficult day for the team, I hope it will be a very positive day tomorrow,” the 21-year-old Monegasque Leclerc told reporters.
“I felt great in the car and the car felt great today and all weekend so it’s a shame it ends up like this.”
Hamilton, who revealed a sore throat had left him uncertain about even taking part in qualifying, was glad to pick up the pieces.
“I don’t know really how we did it today,” declared the 34-year-old, who will be chasing his eighth win in 11 races on Sunday.
“It’s such an important race for us, it’s just incredible to celebrate this week in this way. The car’s been feeling good. If (Leclerc) had been able to complete a lap, I think it would have been close between us.”
Bottas, itching to hit back after an ill-timed safety car dashed his victory hopes at the last race in Silverstone, had been faster than Hamilton in final practice but failed to match his team mate when it mattered.
“A disappointing qualifying, I couldn’t find the grip I found in FP3,” said Bottas. “Obviously I’ll try to come up from the third place.”
The race at Hockenheim has been won from outside the front row only twice since the track was redesigned in 2002, one of those being Hamilton from 14th last year.
That should boost Verstappen’s hopes of challenging for his second win in three races.
“We could have been closer,” said the Dutchman who won in Austria last month, dealing Mercedes their only defeat so far this season. “I went a bit wide and bottomed out, but it’s a good result.”
Behind the top three, Frenchman Pierre Gasly, who crashed heavily in Friday’s practice, was fourth for Red Bull.
Kimi Raikkonen was fifth for Alfa Romeo ahead of Romain Grosjean in the Haas and McLaren’s Carlos Sainz.
Sergio Perez was eighth for Racing Point ahead of Germany’s Nico Hulkenberg who will start his home race alongside Leclerc in ninth.
Lance Stroll, in the other Racing Point car, made it out of the opening phase of qualifying for the first time this season. The Canadian will start 15th.