Nico Rosberg has captured pole position for his home German Grand Prix despite an electronics problem preventing him from completing more than one lap.
Rosberg was to be the first Mercedes driver to set hot lap at the beginning of Q3, but an electronics problem forced him to return to his garage despite setting fastest times in the first two sectors.
“I don’t know what it was, I just suddenly lost the throttle,” explained Rosberg. “The engine just cut completely, just at the end of the lap.
“I’m sure we’ll fix it for tomorrow — it’s never happened before, so I’m sure it’ll be okay.”
He was able to return to the track shortly afterwards, but with just one opportunity to extract the most from his new supersoft tyres.
The German didn’t disappoint his home Hockenheimring crowd. He took provisional pole before having his supremacy confirmed when teammate Lewis Hamilton’s second attempt at pole fell one-tenth short of usurping the sister car.
“It was a great feeling, just a great lap,” Rosberg said.
“Not only was it just one lap that I had, but I also had extra fuel to make sure that I would have an extra shot if a mistake happened, so I was really satisfied with that one.”
Daniel Ricciardo qualified third, 0.36 seconds behind Rosberg and 0.25 behind Hamilton.
The gap between Red Bull Racing and Mercedes waxed and waned dramatically across the weekend, appearing significant on Friday, tight on Saturday morning, large again early in qualifying, and reasonable by the send of Saturday in the final qualifying classification.
“I think we got pretty close, to be honest,” said Ricciardo. “I said yesterday that if we could be within half a second, it’s not a bad day in qualifying, so hopefully it means something tomorrow.
“My first lap in Q3 was really good and I knew there probably wasn’t that much more on the table in the second run — there was maybe a tenth or so in it with the perfect lap, but not enough to challenge for pole.”
Red Bull Racing’s long-run pace on Friday looked promising relative to Mercedes’s times, and Ricciardo believes there might be reason for optimism on Sunday.
“From what I understand, we might have different tyres available for us for the race, so hopefully that makes it interesting,” he hinted.
However, the Australian will carry a minor disadvantage into Sunday by starting on tyres more worn that those of his rivals.
Ricciardo completed five laps on his supersofts in Q2 whereas Rosberg and Hamilton needed only three apiece to progress to the top 10.
Max Verstappen’s fourth-quickest time enabled Red Bull Racing to lock out the second row ahead of Ferrari in the battle for second in the constructors championship.
The two teams, separated by one point in Ferrari’s favour in the title standings, have been evenly matched in recent races, but Red Bull Racing’s margin around the Hockenheimring was almost half a second.
“I think the car was pretty okay,” Kimi Räikkönen, who qualified fifth, said. “We need to put more downforce on the car to go faster.
“It’s disappointing where we are, but this is how it is today. We’ll keep working and improving, and that’s about it.”
Räikkönen was faster than Sebastian Vettel on the third row, and the duo held a 0.2-second buffer to the battling Force India and Williams cars.
Force India pair Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Perez were split by Valtteri Bottas’s Williams from seventh to ninth, while the second Williams, driven by Felipe Massa, set the tenth-best time. All four were separated by just one tenth of a second.
Nico Hulkenberg, however, will start the race from eighth after the stewards penalised him one grid place for the team fitting his car with a set of tyres that were supposed to be returned to Pirelli before qualifying.
Williams leads the two-team midfield championship battle by 20 points, but Force India has outscored the Grove-based outfit by 31 points since it made a significant upgrade to its car at Spanish Grand Prix in May.
The second segment of qualifying cleaned up the order by eliminating the midfield drivers who escaped Q1 elimination.
Esteban Gutierrez was the quickest, finishing 0.2 seconds ahead of McLaren’s Jenson Button and more than two-tenths ahead of his teammate, Romain Grosjean, in fifteenth.
Grosjean, however, is carrying a five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change.
Carlos Sainz qualified thirteenth, but was handed a three-place grid penalty and two penalty points for blocking Felipe Massa on his fastest lap.
Fernando Alonso qualified fourteenth in the second McLaren ahead of the second Haas, while Jolyon Palmer couldn’t promote his Renault any higher than sixteenth place.
Mercedes made a bold statement of pace early when it fit both its cars with soft compound tyres after every other team chose the supersofts.
Both Hamilton and Rosberg easily finished ahead of the rest of the field despite the difference in grip, and both set their fastest laps of the weekend on their first attempt.
While the top of the time sheet was uninspiring, the battle to keep out of Q1 was a tightly-fought affair.
McLaren, Toro Rosso, Renault, Manor, and Sauber all rotated through the elimination zone, but late laps by Button and Sainz pushed Kevin Magnussen down to P17 and set the order.
Magnussen outqualified Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein by 0.001 seconds after the German looked impressive in the opening 18 minutes of his first home grand prix qualifying session.
Daniil Kvyat was distraught in nineteenth after learning his teammate, Sainz, had set a time half a second faster than his.
Rio Haryanto qualified twentieth, meaning both Manor cars outqualified Sauber, which locked out the back row with Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson in P21 and P22.
2016 GERMAN GRAND PRIX QUALIFYING RESULTS
|3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:14.726||+0.363|
|4||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:14.834||+0.471|
|7||Nico Hülkenberg#||Force India-Mercedes||1:15.510||+1.147|
|8||Valtteri Bottas||Force India-Mercedes||1:15.530||+1.167|
|13||Carlos Sainz*||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1:15.989|
|19||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||1:16.876|
#Nico Hulkenberg will take a one-place grid penalty for using a set of tyres in qualifying that should have been returned to Pirelli after free practice
*Carlos Sainz will take a three-place grid penalty for impeding Felipe Massa in Q2.
^Romain Grosjean will take a five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change.