HOCKENHEIM (Germany) • Sebastian Vettel surged to pole for his home German Grand Prix yesterday as Lewis Hamilton's 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, rubbing salt in Hamilton's wounds by outpacing Bottas by two-tenths of a second.
The British defending world champion was distraught after he limped out in the first qualifying session when his car broke down with a hydraulics failure.
In front of a huge crowd of flag-waving Germans at the track near his Heppenheim birthplace, Vettel delivered a lap record in 1min11.212 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.
GERMAN GRAND PRIX
1 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari
2 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes
3 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari
4 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull
5 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas
6 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas
7 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault
8 Carlos Sainz (Esp) Renault
9 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Sauber
10 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India
14 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes
15 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull
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.
Hamilton, who tried 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."
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said the car could have been damaged after jumping over a kerb.
Hamilton, however, felt the problem was evident before then.
"You use the kerb the same every lap. Just before the kerb I think the steering broke so I think that's the issue," he told Sky Sports television.
"This is one of the worst tracks for overtaking, so I'll do what I can from there."
He is expected to start 14th on the grid after his setback which saw him briefly airborne 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. After trying to push the car, he crouched over it as if praying, before taking a motorcycle ride back to the paddock.
"I didn't really understand exactly what had happened so in my mind I was thinking of getting the car back to the track, but they asked me to turn the car off," he said. "I jumped out and wanted to push it back but it was so far to go.
"I saw there was leaking oil and I knew that I had to stop and let them put the car away somewhere. I have the will to not want to give up. I just want to keep pushing."
The incident 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.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS