F1: Lewis Hamilton on pole in German GP qualifying
The five time world champion lapped the 4.5-kilometer long Hockenheim circuit in one minute, 11.767 seconds
Lewis Hamilton will start Sunday’s German Grand Prix from the front after problems in Saturday’s qualifying sidelined both Ferrari drivers, leaving the the way clear for the Briton to sweep to an unchallenged pole position.
The five time world champion lapped the 4.5-kilometer long Hockenheim circuit in one minute, 11.767 seconds, comfortably beating Max Verstappen, who will start alongside the 34-year-old on the front row in his Red Bull, the pair lining up next to each other at the front for the first time.
Valtteri Bottas in the other Mercedes was third.
Hamilton’s route to his 87th career pole and fourth of the season was eased greatly by his Ferrari rivals running into trouble.
The Maranello-based squad had led all three sessions of practice, locking out the top-two spots in two of those, leading up to Saturday’s qualifying.
Mercedes, who have won all but one race this season and are celebrating 125 years of motorsport involvement and their 200th Formula One start as a constructor with a one-off livery and team kit this weekend, had struggled in comparison.
But it all went wrong when it mattered.
Home hero Sebastian Vettel was the team’s first casualty.
The German, hoping for a happier homecoming than last year when he crashed out of the lead, failed to even set a time after being forced out by a turbocharger issue. He will start dead last.
Already reeling from Vettel’s early exit, the sport’s glamour team were dealt another blow when Charles Leclerc failed to make it out of the pits due to a fuel system issue for the final pole-position shoot out phase of qualifying.
The Monegasque, who had ended Friday fastest and also set the pace in the final practice session ahead of qualifying, was among the favourites for what would have been his second pole from three races.
“I don't know really how we did it today,” said Hamilton, who was nursing a sore throat, after the session.
“It's such an important race for us, it's just incredible to celebrate this week in this way.
“The car's been feeling good, if (Leclerc) had been able to complete a lap, I think it would have been close between us.”
Hamilton, winner of seven of the ten races so far, leads Bottas by 39 points in the overall standings.
The Finn, itching to hit back after an ill-timed safety car dashed his victory hopes at the last race in Silverstone, had been faster than Hamilton in the final practice session but couldn’t match his team-mate in qualifying.
“A disappointing qualifying, I couldn't find the grip I found in FP3,” said Bottas.
“Obviously I'll try to come up from the third place.”
The race at Hockenheim has only been won from outside the front row twice since the track was redesigned in 2002.
That should boost Verstappen’s hopes of challenging for his second win in three races.
“We could have been closer,” said the Dutchman who won last month’s race in Austria.
“But I went a bit wide and bottomed out, but like I said - it's a good result.”
Behind the top three Pierre Gasly, who crashed heavily in Friday’s practice, was fourth for Red Bull.
Kimi Raikkonen was fifth for Alfa Romeo ahead of Romain Grosjean in the Haas and McLaren’s Carlos Sainz.
Sergio Perez was eighth for Racing Point ahead of Germany’s Nico Hulkenberg who will start his home race alongside Leclerc in ninth.
Lance Stroll, in the other Racing Point car, made it out of the opening phase of qualifying for the first time this season. The Canadian will start 15th.
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