Valtteri Bottas claimed his third pole position of the season to lead a Mercedes front-row lockout at the Eifel Grand Prix.
Bottas blitzed the field with three purple sectors on his final lap to snatch pole at the Nurburgring from teammate Lewis Hamilton, after the Briton had found two tenths on the Finn to take provisional pole on his second run.
“It’s such a nice feeling when you get it on the last lap with the last chance,” Bottas said. “The last lap of qualifying three was spot on. It’s just what I needed.”
Bottas, winner of the Russian Grand Prix last round, is 44 points adrift of Hamilton in the title standings.
Hamilton will start second with an aim not only to stretch his championship lead but to equal Michael Schumacher’s record 91 victories after failing to convert in Sochi.
“There’s a lot to play for tomorrow, so I need to get my head down,” he said.
Max Verstappen looked sure to make Red Bull Racing a pole contender after taking the lead of the session with his first lap of Q3, but he failed to keep up with the Mercedes drivers, complaining of a lack of grip on his way to third on the grid just 0.037s behind Hamilton.
“Overall, I think a decent qualifying,” he said. “Just in Q3 when it really mattered I started understeering too much. I think we are getting closer towards Mercedes, which I think is very positive.”
Charles Leclerc was a shock fourth for Ferrari, extracting the most from Ferrari’s latest upgrade package to beat Red Bull’s Alex Albon to the second row by 0.012s.
Albon will start alongside Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo on the third row, the Australian beating teammate Esteban Ocon for the 10th qualifying session in 11 rounds, this week by just 0.019s.
Lando Norris will start eighth after qualifying 1.1s off the pace for McLaren.
Racing Point’s Sergio Perez will share the fifth row with McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, the pair 1.4s adrift of pole.
Sebastian Vettel was almost 0.4s shy of a top-10 shootout berth on his way to 11th on the grid for his home race. The German only just edged AlphaTauri teammates Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat, who were closely matched to qualify 12th and 13th.
Antonio Giovinazzi progressed to Q2 for the first time this season to put his Alfa Romeo 14th on the grid, 0.2s ahead of Kevin Magnussen’s Haas.
Romain Grosjean was knocked out in 16th after having a flying lap deleted for exceeding track limits at Turn 4. His deleted time would have been quick enough to see him through to Q2; instead he missed the cut by 0.02s.
George Russell fumed he was “not good enough” on his cool-down lap after qualifying 17th ahead of Williams teammate Nicholas Latifi.
Kimi Raikkonen will start his record-breaking 323rd grand prix from 19th on the grid ahead of only Racing Point super sub Nico Hulkenberg.
Hulkenberg was called up by the team for the third time this season with only hours notice after Lance Stroll withdrew from the weekend after final practice with illness. The German completed 10 scruffy laps on the low-grip circuit to miss out on a top-15 berth by a half-second.