Sebastian Vettel continued his quest for his fifth world championship by grabbing a last-minute track record pole position time of 1:11:212 to beat Finns Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen Saturday afternoon for Sunday’s German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.
Vettel’s time was done with seconds to go in the final session, as Raikkonen previously cracked a 1:11:880, only to be broken seconds later by Bottas, who set a 1:11:539. But Vettel had a clear track ahead of him, and topped Bottas’ time by three tenths less, sending the home crowd into a roar of approval.
“Thanks to the fans,” he said. “It was amazing to see so many red flags, Ferrari flags, so much support, German flags all around the track. I felt in Q1 that the car can do it. Sometimes you just know but you still have to do it.”
Both Raikkonen and Bottas set the fastest times respectively in the opening sessions, with Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson flying off the track in the stadium sector in the mid-session, collecting gravel as the Swede recovered and returned to the circuit. The spread small rocks all over that section, bringing out a red flag with seven minutes to go.
Once the track was clear, Fernando Alonso, Daniel Ricciardo, who saved his car’s tires because he will start from the back because of an engine change failed to qualify for the last session. The pair joined popular names like Stoffel Vandoorne and Esteban Ocon, who failed to advance for the first time since Monaco of last year.
But the surprising event of the whole day occurred in the opening session when Lewis Hamilton suffered hydraulic issues while in fifth. The Briton was ordered to stop the car by his engineer, pulling off on the back straight. Hamilton attempted to push his car before he stopped and pushed it off the track. The marshals then took over the responsibility as Hamilton kneeled next to his car for a few moments, before rising and finally leaving the scene.
Max Verstappen took fourth in the remaining Red Bull, while the American Haas F1 Team continues to impress, with Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean finishing fifth and sixth, respectively. The Renaults of Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr. took the next two positions, while Charles LeClerc and Sergio Perez rounded up the top 10.