Hockenheim, Germany: Lewis Hamilton secured a record-extending 87th pole position on Saturday when he made the most of a double disaster for Ferrari in qualifying at the German Grand Prix.
The defending five-time world champion, who had struggled for pace and consistency in his Mercedes in practice, improved to clock a best lap in one minute and 11.767 and outpace Max Verstappen of Red Bull by 0.346 seconds.
Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas was third ahead of Pierre Gasly in the second Red Bull while Charles Leclerc, who had been fastest for Ferrari in final practice, failed to run in the Q3 top-ten shootout due to a technical problem with his car.
The Moneqasque will start 10th, 10 places ahead of his luckless Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel who was unable to take part in qualifying due to a turbo problem and will start at the back of the grid for his home race.
Kimi Raikkonen was fifth for Alfa Romeo ahead of Romain Grosjean of Haas, Carlos Sainz of McLaren, Sergio Perez of Racing Point and Nico Hulkenberg of Renault.
“Congratulations Lewis - you never stop amazing us,” said Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff as the Briton drove his slow-down lap.
“Thanks, Toto,” he replied. “A great job guys - I don’t know how we did that.”
Ferrari is winless in 10 races this season and that terrible run looks to continue, while Hamilton is aiming for a sixth win in seven races.
Vettel, who crashed at last year’s German GP despite leading from pole, looked visibly upset as he climbed out of his car in the team garage.
The incident happened during the first part of qualifying, making him one of five drivers eliminated from Q1. The issue appeared to be related to a turbo problem, even more surprising given Ferrari had topped all three practice sessions heading into qualifying.
Worried faces in the Ferrari garage turned to sheer horror as mechanics then detected a problem on Leclerc’s car, ruling him out of the top-10 shootout in Q3.
Team principal Mattio Binotto looked pensively down at the floor, with his hands in his pockets. After two disappointing - yet relatively competitive seasons - things have gone from bad to worse for Ferrari since Binotto replaced Maurizio Arrivabene.
Leclerc is only in his second F1 season - his first with Ferrari - and has four podiums in the past four races. But for Vettel, a four-time F1 champion, it’s yet another setback after capitulating against Hamilton in the last two title battles.
Vettel has not won since last year’s Belgian GP, a barren run which now looks likely to reach 19 races. Two weeks ago at the British GP, he crashed into the back of Verstappen after misjudging a routine overtaking move - the latest in a growing list of errors by the German.
Daniel Ricciardo was another notable rider eliminated in Saturday’s qualifying, failing to make it into Q3 as his frustrating first season with Renault continued.
Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes)
Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull-Honda)
Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Mercedes)
Pierre Gasly (FRA/Red Bull-Honda)
Kimi Raikkonen (FIN/Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari)
Romain Grosjean (FRA/Haas-Ferrari)
Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP/McLaren-Renault)
Sergio Perez (MEX/Racing Point-Mercedes)
Nico H|lkenberg (GER/Renault)
Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari)
Antonio Giovinazzi (ITA/Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari)
Kevin Magnussen (DEN/Haas-Ferrari)
Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Renault)
Daniil Kvyat (RUS/Toro Rosso-Honda)
Lance Stroll (CAN/Racing Point-Mercedes)
Lando Norris (GBR/McLaren-Renault)
Alexander Albon (THA/Toro Rosso-Honda)
George Russell (GBR/Williams-Mercedes)
Robert Kubica (POL/Williams-Mercedes)
Sebastian Vettel (GER/Ferrari)