Mercedes prepared Esteban Ocon to replace Lewis Hamilton on Saturday at the German Grand Prix before the championship leader took pole position.
Hamilton was feeling unwell on Saturday morning, resulting in Mercedes preparing his car for reserve driver Ocon in case the Frenchman was required to step in. Hamilton says it was only precautionary, but admits there was some doubt over whether he’d feel well enough to qualify.
“I wasn’t feeling good this morning,” Hamilton said. “Bit of a sore throat, so we just prepped just in case I wasn’t going to be able to do the session. I did the practice, and then we were prepared to be able to put the second driver in in the worst-case scenario.”
In the end, Hamilton went on to secure the 87th pole position of his career as Ferrari — quickest in all three practice sessions — hit trouble. First, Sebastian Vettel failed to set a time in Q1 due to a turbo issue, and then Charles Leclerc could not take part in Q3, although Hamilton believes he had the pace for pole position even if both had been participating.
“It was a relatively straightforward session, very clean. The team did a great job in terms of timings and getting us out at the right times, and we saw both Ferraris drop out; obviously made it a little bit different in terms of the battle that we had at the end.
“Nevertheless, I think I had pretty good pace and it would have been close between myself and Leclerc. They’ve been quick all weekend. But I was really, really happy with the laps from Q2 onwards.
“The team worked so hard, and it’s really great for Mercedes with the 125 years’ celebration this weekend. It’s been a great way to start the weekend.”
While he will start alongside Max Verstappen, with Ferrari out of position Hamilton believes the biggest threat to victory is going to come from the conditions on Sunday.
“I think it’s weather, because there’s the threat of spots of rain — even today, but tomorrow potentially more so. I’ve not looked at the long runs, so I don’t know how strong we are in the long runs, but it’s not the easiest of tracks to overtake on.
“It’s just maximizing it, depending on the temperature. I felt like yesterday makes it quite a difficult race with more stops, and today, it started getting hotter towards the end. It’s going to be a real challenge. I think the real challenge is just making sure we do all our procedures to make sure we operate at the level we’ve been operating today.”