Hockenheim: Nico Rosberg drove to an unchallenged pole position in qualifying for his home race after Mercedes teammate and title-rival Lewis Hamilton crashed out early on in the qualifying session for the German GP. Rosberg lapped the 4.5 km Hockenheimring circuit in one minute 16.540 seconds to take his fifth pole in ten races this season.
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton crashes into a wall during the qualifying session yesterday at Germany's Hockenheimring racing circuit. Pic/AFP
Hamilton meanwhile qualified only sixteenth, though the Mercedes driver will start fifteenth — his lowest starting position of the season — after a penalty for Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez moves him one place forward on the grid.
The Briton, who was last on pole position at the Spanish Grand Prix in May, spun off the track due to a brake failure and crashed into the barriers at the stadium section.
The former world champion, who got out of his car unhurt, had been second when he crashed, four tenths behind the pace-setting Williams of Valtteri Bottas with a little over seven minutes of the first session still to run.
"I can't believe it, but things like this happen," Hamilton told television reporters shortly after the session.
"It takes you by complete surprise: when you're driving, you always have to have 110 percent confidence in the car, and then you hit (the brakes) and it's a real shock."
The accident comes as a massive blow to Hamilton's title hopes. He trails Rosberg by four points in the overall standings and, having won the last race at Silverstone, was hoping to seize the championship lead from his teammate by taking his sixth win of the season today.
"We'll figure something out. There are still a decent amount of races to go and we'll do what we can tomorrow," he said.
With Hamilton out, the way was clear for Rosberg to score his third pole in four races. "It's great you know, home race here, to be on pole is fantastic," Rosberg said.
"Of course I would have preferred if it was an open fight with Lewis. But overall, yeah, fantastic day up to now," he added.
Also taking advantage of Hamilton's crash were the two Williams drivers. Bottas boosted his chances of scoring a hat-trick of podium finishes by setting the second fastest time.
Bottas' teammate Felipe Massa made it two Williams in the top three. Force India's Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez finished ninth and tenth respectively.