Sebastian Vettel has beaten Valtteri Bottas to a home pole position at the German Grand Prix after Lewis Hamilton bowed out with hydraulics problems in Q1.
Vettel looked comfortable after seizing provisional pole position with his first lap, and though Bottas stole it back when the Finn logged a second lap 0.3 seconds faster, the Ferrari driver improved by an equal amount, securing his fifth pole of the season.
“I felt from the start that the car could do it, but you still have to do it,” he said. “I knew for the last lap I had a little bit in me, and I was able to squeeze everything out.”
Bottas admitted he didn’t have anything left to give in pursuit of P1.
“I think it was a good lap,” he said. “I gave it all and unfortunately they were a bit too quick today, but we’ll see tomorrow.”
Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari threatened to enter the title fight, but both his Q3 laps featured key errors that left him out of contention.
“Not ideal,” Raikkonen said. “For sure there was more, but today it didn’t come.”
Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen qualified fourth but 0.6 seconds off Vettel’s pole time.
Kevin Magnussen led Haas teammate Romain Grosjean in fifth and sixth, and Nico Hulkenberg led Renault teammate Carlos Sainz in seventh and eighth.
Sauber’s Charles Leclerc outqualified Force India’s Sergio Perez in ninth and 10th places respectively, though the Mexican set only one lap for the session.
The middle segment of qualifying should have been straightforward thanks to two leading drivers not taking part — Daniel Ricciardo was to start at the back of the grid regardless thanks to a power unit change penalty, while Lewis Hamilton’s car suffered an hydraulics failure in Q1, preventing him from taking part in the rest of qualifying despite setting a time good enough for Q2 — but halfway through the 15-minute session Marcus Ericsson triggered a red flag.
The Sauber driver ran wide over some gravel at the stadium section, and though he didn’t damage his car, he dumped a load of stones onto the racing line when he rejoined the track.
Race control stopped the session to allow marshals to clear the gravel, leaving less than half the allotted time for the 13 competing drivers to set their best laps.
Fernando Alonso was the fastest man knocked out. He qualified 11th for McLaren, just 0.045 seconds ahead of Williams’s Sergey Sirotkin in 12th. Marcus Ericsson was 0.03 seconds further behind, but the Sauber drivers was 0.8 seconds off his teammate, Leclerc.
Neither Hamilton nor Ricciardo set a time, meaning both will start from the back.
Heavy rain cleaned the circuit during Saturday morning practice, meaning lap times improved rapidly throughout the 18-minute first qualifying session, with Force India estimating an improvement of almost a second.
Stoffel Vandoorne was the first driver to count himself out of Q2 contention when he radioed his team that he was having gearbox sync problems. The Belgian was subsequently told to help his McLaren teammate, Fernando Alonso, by giving the Spaniard a slipstream.
The Belgian qualified last, compounding a miserable weekend so far for the 26-year-old.
Lance Stroll qualified ahead of him for Williams in 19th, behind Toro Rosso pair Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley in 17th and 18th respectively.
Esteban Ocon was the fastest driver knocked out of the session, the Frenchman missing out on progressing by less than a tenth of a second.
All five will be bumped up one place by Daniel Ricciardo, who will start from the back with a power unit change penalty.
The first qualifying segment ended on a sour note when Lewis Hamilton stopped his car on the circuit with a hydraulics failure that prevented him from changing gears.
The Briton attempted to coast home, but his engineers commanded him to switch off the car to prevent power unit damage. He then attempted to push his car home, knowing that stopping on track would prevent him from partaking in subsequent qualifying sessions, but the marshals dissuaded him.
Hamilton was seen launching himself over the kerbs at turn one, landing with a wallop on the exit, and though he told reporters afterwards it was unrelated to the failure, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff told British TV suggested that the car lost hydraulic pressure after making contact with the kerbs.