Sebastian Vettel achieved his 55th career pole position in Formula 1 with a brilliant Q3 lap at Hockenheim. As for his title rival, Lewis Hamilton was only P15 after stopping with a hydraulic problem in Q1.
The Ferrari driver held pole position after the first runs in Q3, with all drivers on the ultrasofts compound, but faced a challenge from the remaining Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas on the second runs.
Bottas briefly claimed pole position with a lap of one minute, 11.416 seconds, helped by a mighty run through the final sector, the stadium section.
But Vettel, who was faster in the first two sectors before losing a quarter of a second to Bottas in the final sector, did enough to take pole by 0.204 seconds on his final lap.
Kimi Raikkonen was third in the other Ferrari, 0.335 seconds off his team-mate, having again looked like a potential threat for pole position.
The Iceman made a mistake at Turn 12 on his first run that cost around three tenths after he hit the inside kerb, then couldn’t quite find the pace on his second run.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was fourth, just under three tenths behind Raikkonen, and benefitted from the absence of Hamilton.
Hamilton was ordered to stop on his second Q1 run after losing gear selection, which followed immediately after he ran wide in Turn 1.
In rejoining, he struck the rumble strip at the exit of the corner, which kicked the car up and appeared to cause the problem that manifested itself on the run to Turn 2 – although he reportedly subsequently said the problem had appeared before this moment.
Hamilton attempted to get the car back to the pits but eventually stopped at Turn 10 after being ordered to do so by the team.
Currently P15 thanks to setting a time good enough to escape Q1 before the problem, he will move up a place thanks to Daniel Ricciardo’s penalties – subject to incurring any grid drops himself.
The Haas duo of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean locked out the third row with fifth and sixth, with the lead Renault of Nico Hulkenberg missing out on splitting the pair by 0.016 seconds.
The second Renault of Carlos Sainz was eighth, ahead of the Sauber of Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez’s Force India.
Fernando Alonso was quickest of those eliminated in Q2 in P11, with a gap of six tenths to Perez ahead in that segment of qualifying.
That put him ahead of Williams driver Sergey Sirotkin, who posted the team’s best qualifying result since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in P12.
Sauber driver Marcus Ericsson was P13 and slowest of those to set a time in Q2 after causing a nine-minute red flag period when he spun into the gravel at the Turn 13 left-hander.
Ericsson was able to dig himself out of the gravel, but in doing so pulled it onto the track and led to the session being stopped two minutes later.
After his second run, the Sauber driver suggested that he lost grip on his final qualifying attempt and speculated he might have sustained some minor damage when he hit a kerb.
Esteban Ocon was bumped into the drop zone late in Q1 when Force India teammate Perez improved on his second push lap on his second set of ultrasofts.
Ocon went into qualifying with only one dry free practice session under his belt, having sat out FP1 to allow Nicholas Latifi to drive then been hit by rain in FP3.
Toro Rosso pair Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley were P17 and P18, separated by three-tenths of a second.
Lance Stroll was P19, while Stoffel Vandoorne’s troubled weekend continued as he brought up the rear, two tenths slower than the Williams driver.
So a perfect qualifying result for Sebastian Vettel. Pole position in front of his home crowd. His 55th in Formula 1 and Ferrari’s 218 in P1. With title rival Lewis Hamilton near the back, this play into the hands of Vettel to score big in the championship race.
Qualifying positions, German Grand Prix:
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m11.212s
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m11.416s
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m11.547s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Renault 1m11.822s
5 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m12.200s
6 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 1m12.544s
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m12.560s
8 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m12.692s
9 Charles Leclerc Sauber-Ferrari 1m12.717s
10 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1m12.774s
11 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Renault 1m13.657s
12 Sergey Sirotkin Williams-Mercedes 1m13.702s
13 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1m13.736s
14 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes –
15 Esteban Ocon Force India-Mercedes 1m13.720s
16 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso-Honda 1m13.749s
17 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso-Honda 1m14.045s
18 Lance Stroll Williams-Mercedes 1m14.206s
19 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Renault 1m14.401s
20 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault –