Lewis Hamilton takes pole in Germany as Ferrari suffer nightmare day
Engine problems hit both Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc during qualifying
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton during qualifying for the German Grand Prix at the Hockenheimring in Hockenheim. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters
The Italian team had been fastest throughout practice at Hockenheim, but after an engine problem prevented Sebastian Vettel from setting a lap time, a fuel-system issue then hit Charles Leclerc’s car.
Vettel will start his home race from the back of the grid, with team-mate Leclerc set to line up in 10th.
In the absence of both Ferrari drivers, championship leader Hamilton romped to the front to take pole. This, despite Mercedes having struggled for pace all weekend.
Mercedes have played second fiddle to Ferrari here, with the red cars heading into qualifying having topped all three practice sessions.
But disaster struck from the outset. In the opening minutes, Vettel reported a lack of power on his very first outing to the track, and, after returning to his garage, his Ferrari mechanics were unable to rectify the issue.
It is the latest in a succession of blows to Vettel, who would have expected to be in contention for pole at his home race, and end a winless streak which stretches back to last August’s Belgian Grand Prix.
In Vettel’s absence, Leclerc was the overwhelming favourite to claim the third pole of his career.
But, ahead of Q3 – the shootout for pole – Ferrari mechanics were scurrying all over the back of the Monegasque’s car. Under-fire team principal Mattia Binotto was seen pacing the garage.
With a handful of minutes remaining, Leclerc emerged from his cockpit, the issue terminal.
That paved the way for Hamilton to take pole, finishing a third of a second clear of Verstappen.
“I don’t know how we did it today,” said Hamilton. “I am not sure what happened to the Ferraris. This is a second home grand prix for us so it is incredible to celebrate with this.
“Ferrari have been really fast, and they were on another level, but the time at the end would have been close to compete with Leclerc if he had set a lap.”
On a poor weekend for Lando Norris, the British teenager was eliminated from Q1 for the first time in his career.
The 19-year-old, who has been second-best to Carlos Sainz in the sister McLaren throughout practice, finished only 16th. Sainz lines up in seventh.