HOCKENHEIM, Germany, Jul 21 – Sebastian Vettel surged to pole for his home German Grand Prix on Saturday as Lewis Hamilton suffered a setback when his Mercedes broke down to leave him at the back of the grid.
Vettel topped qualifying with a devastating final lap in his Ferrari to pip Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes.
A distraught Hamilton limped out in the first qualifying session when his car broke down with a hydraulics failure.
Vettel rubbed salt in the British defending wporld champion’s wounds by outpacing Bottas by two-tenths of a second.
In front of a huge crowd of flag-waving Germans at the track near his Heppenheim birthplace, Vettel delivered a lap record in one minute and 11.212 seconds to top the Finn’s 1:11.416.
“Thanks to those fans,” said Vettel. “It was amazing to see so many Ferrari and Germany flags.
“It just kept getting better and I knew for the last lap I had a little bit more – I am full of adrenaline, but feel so happy.”
It is his second pole for a German Grand Prix and the 55th of his career.
Vettel’s qualifying success makes him favourite to land his first Formula One victory at Hockenheim and only his second Grand Prix win in Germany as he seeks to extend his eight-point advantage over Hamilton.
Kimi Raikkonen was third in the second Ferrari ahead of Max Verstappen of Red Bull and the two Ferrari-powered Haas cars of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean.
Another home hope Nico Hulkenberg was seventh ahead of his Renault team-mate Carlos Sainz, rising Monegasque star Charles Leclerc of Sauber and Sergio Perez of Force India.
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Hamilton, who had attempted to push his car to stay in contention, said: “It was definitely a tough one, but these things happen and all you can do is try and gather your thoughts and live to fight another day.
“I’ll give everything tomorrow to see how high I can get up, but its not going to be like Silverstone.”
Hamilton is expected to start 14th on the grid after his setback which saw him take a brief airborne excursion at Turn One and then go off again at Turn Eight.
He lost use of his gearbox and was told by the team to stop to avoid further damage, following a hydraulics failure.
After trying to push the car, he crouched over it as if praying before taking a motor-cycle ride back to the paddock.
It came two days after Mercedes confirmed he had signed a blockbuster two-year contract extension and followed other unexpected disappointments in Canada, Austria and Britain where Hamilton and his team had been unable to match expectations.
After heavy rain had washed out final practice in the morning, the session began in improved conditions and on a drying track, the two Saubers again setting the pace as they had in the rain.
The atmosphere was sultry with a track temperature of 27 degrees Celsius, air at 21 and humidity at 84 per cent.
The two Ferraris were soon on top of the times ahead of the Mercedes before Verstappen entered the fray, Vettel having set an early lap record in 1:12.538 that was soon trimmed by his team-mate’s 1:12.505.
The Q1 segment ended with Ferrari on top and the elimination of Esteban Ocon of Force India, Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley of Toro Rosso, Lance Stroll of Williams and Stoffel Vandoorne of McLaren.
Hamilton clocked the fifth best time before his problems forced him to abandon.
Q2 began with Bottas on top before Ericsson went off in the stadium section, leaving gravel on the circuit as he recovered. The session was red-flagged for eight minutes.
Out from Q2 went Fernando Alonso of McLaren in 11th ahead of Sergey Sirotkin of Williams, Ericsson, Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo, who will start from the back of the grid after taking penalties for engine parts changes and did not clock a lap.
Raikkonen set the pace for Ferrari in Q3, but was outdone by Vettel and then Bottas to set up a final showdown for the big crowd.