Sebastian Vettel will start from pole position at the German Grand Prix while title rival Lewis Hamilton will line up no higher than 14th place after hitting trouble in qualifying.
With Hamilton out of the battle, Vettel was on provisional pole but then saw Valtteri Bottas beat him on his final lap as the track continued to improve after earlier rain. With teammate Kimi Raikkonen also within 0.008s of his time, Vettel delivered when it mattered on his final lap to take pole for his home race by a little over 0.2s, much to the delight of the Hockenheim crowd.
The result is made all the more important with Vettel’s main rival in the championship dropping out early in qualifying. On his second run in Q1, Hamilton had already aborted a flying lap when he ran wide at Turn 1, bumping over the curbs on the exit of the corner. The car became momentarily airborne and he immediately backed off, being told to stop the car as he had lost hydraulic pressure.
While Hamilton initially didn’t want to stop on track, he was forced to do so on the straight between Turn 10 and 11, the latter being the entrance to the stadium. Hamilton jumped out of his moving car and tried to push it back to the pits at the end of Q1 but eventually had to admit defeat and allow marshals to remove it from the track.
The defending champion was visibly upset at his early exit, crouching down against the front of his car and resting his head against the chassis while he composed himself.
Hamilton will start from 14th position if he doesn’t need to replace any damaged parts, with Daniel Ricciardo opting against running in Q2 as a result of his power unit penalty that will see him start from the back of the grid.
Ricciardo’s teammate Max Verstappen secured fourth place alongside Raikkonen but was never in the hunt for pole, while Haas again delivered in qualifying with Kevin Magnussen taking fifth ahead of Romain Grosjean. The key for the U.S. outfit now will be to convert those starting positions into points after a number of missed opportunities.
Row four is an all-Renault affair with Nico Hulkenberg beating Carlos Sainz, although the German was just 0.016s adrift of Grosjean who failed to improve on his final attempt. Charles Leclerc will start from ninth after another strong qualifying, with Sergio Perez 10th as less than 0.1s separated the bottom three cars in Q3.
With two cars not taking part in Q2, only three drivers needed to join Hamilton and Ricciardo in elimination. Marcus Ericsson marked himself out as a prime candidate with a spin at the Sachskurve — from which he did well to recover but deposited gravel all over the circuit, causing the session to be red-flagged for nine minutes.
When running resumed, Ericsson was first back out but made a number of errors and dropped out in 13th place in what was ultimately not a close battle to progress. The McLaren and Williams were still largely uncompetitive, and while Fernando Alonso’s 11th place was an impressive return in terms of grid position, the Spaniard was over 0.6s adrift of P10.
Of more note was the performance of Sergey Sirotkin, who managed to advance to Q2 and was then just 0.045s slower than Alonso as he secured 12th on the grid.
Hamilton’s incident occurred at the end of Q1, which saw Esteban Ocon drop out in 16th place ahead of Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley. Toro Rosso was the only team to lose both of its drivers in the first part of qualifying, with Lance Stroll and Stoffel Vandoorne the slowest two drivers as the Belgian has ended all three dry sessions so far this weekend at the bottom of the standings.