Vettel takes home pole in Germany as Hamilton’s car stalls on track
Defending world champion suffers dramatic setback at Hockenheim
Lewis Hamilton returns to the garage on the back of a motorbike after his Mercedes stopped on the track during qualifying for the German Grand Prix in Hockenheim. Photograph: Charles Coates/Getty Images
Formula One world championship leader Sebastian Vettel put Ferrari on pole position for his home German Grand Prix on Saturday after title rival Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes broke down on track.
The pole, in a track record time of one minute 11.212 seconds, drew a huge roar from the crowd on a damp day at Hockenheim.
“It was amazing to see so many red flags, German flags, so much support around the track,” said the four-times world champion, who has yet to win at the circuit nearest to his birthplace.
“It just kept getting better and better and I knew in the last lap I had more in me and I was able to squeeze everything out.”
Hamilton, also a four-times champion and eight points behind Vettel, qualified 14th after being sidelined by an hydraulics problem early on.
The Briton tried in vain to push the stricken car back to the pits, with the help of some marshals, before then crouching in some distress next to it after it had been wheeled off.
“I didn’t really understand exactly what had happened so in my mind I was thinking get the car back to the track, but they asked me to turn the car off,” said Hamilton, his dreams of a record-equalling fourth German GP win seemingly in tatters.
“I jumped out and wanted to push it back but it was so far to go.
“I saw there was leaking oil and I knew that I had to stop and let them put the car away somewhere. I have the will to not want to give up, I just want to keep pushing.”
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said the car could have been damaged jumping over a kerb. Hamilton felt the problem was evident before then, however.
Denmark’s Kevin Magnussen made the most of Hamilton’s absence from the final phase by putting his Ferrari-powered Haas in fifth place with French team mate Romain Grosjean sixth.
Renault’s pairing of Nico Hulkenberg, the only German driver other than Vettel, and Spaniard Carlos Sainz were seventh and eighth.
Sauber’s Moneqasque rookie Charles Leclerc produced another fine performance with ninth on the grid for the Swiss team, ahead of Mexican Sergio Perez in 10th for Force India.