For the second week in succession, Lewis Hamilton has smashed the lap record on his way to Pole Position. The Brit continued Mercedes’ dominance in Qualifying, while initial examinations suggested a Red Bull Saturday resurgence. Both Vettel and Webber will look to heap pressure on Lewis early in tomorrow’s race as the pair line up in P2 and P3. Meanwhile, Nico Rosberg was the victim of a strategic blunder by Mercedes, as the German dropped out of Qualifying at the Q2 stage. The option to start on primes is the silver lining.
Similarly to Silverstone, Lewis Hamilton managed to take P1, yet Sebastian Vettel proved to be more of a threat this time around. The German looked set to take 40th pole position, only to be pipped by a charging Hamilton; A tenth of a second was the margin between P1 and P2. With two of Formula One’s fastest drivers locking out the front row, tomorrow’s race is set to be an explosive battle. Hopefully tyres will not rob fans of the exciting contest between the two this time around.
Following the session, an exuberant Lewis Hamilton stated, “I’m very proud to put the car on pole for Mercedes-Benz today. I have been with Mercedes for a long time and it’s a great result for us to achieve pole here in Germany. I’m a little bit overwhelmed, to be honest, because I have been struggling since first practice this weekend. We were so far off this morning that we took the set-up back to where we started, tried to analyse everything and just worked really hard to improve it.”
While Hamilton celebrated his 29th career pole position, the opposite side of the Mercedes garage were left to evaluate a hideous misjudgment. Nico Rosberg was unable to match his teammate’s performance and challenge the Red Bull’s in Q3, after the team decided to remain in the garage during the final moments of Q2. As the times tumbled, the team realised that their estimated clearance time was incorrect. Nico plummeted to P11, with no time remaining to salvage the situation and squeeze in an additional run. “I was really shocked when I saw the times falling in Q2 today and realised that I was in P11,” he stated. “I didn’t see it coming and we just underestimated how much the track would ramp up in terms of grip and lap time. I could have been on the front row today and that’s why I’m so disappointed. It’s been a tough day but sometimes that’s how racing is.” With the opportunity to start on the prime compound tyres, Nico may run an opposite strategy to the option starters. Consequently, he may have clean air early on as the front runners ditch their soft compound tyres within around six laps. With Fernando Alonso opting to run primes in Q3, it is important that Rosberg manages to overtake Alonso early in the stint to maximize the advantage that he could gain.
Meanwhile, Lotus performed uncharacteristically well on Saturday, qualifying in P4 and P5, with Raikkonen leading Grosjean. The team have been running a narrow diffuser and rear wing package this weekend, which seems to have benefited the balance of the car. While Lotus initially feared that the Kevlar construction tyres would be a disadvantage to them, they pace seems to have remained stable, if not improved.
In typical Kimi Raikkonen fashion, the Finn identified the negatives of his Q3 performance before focusing on the positive result. He stated; “My car was okay today, but in my Q3 lap on the new tyres I struggled to get the fronts up to temperature which meant I lost quite a bit of time in the first sector; probably because there was traffic on my out lap meaning I couldn’t push as much as I wanted. For sure it didn’t help and we probably should have been P3 today, but P4 is still a pretty good place to be for the race.” Lotus were undoubtedly helped by the Ferrari’s who qualified on the prime compound. However, track conditions played into their hands and if the temperatures are maintained through tomorrow, Lotus could challenge for an unexpected podium.
Worth a notable mention once again is Daniel Ricciardo. The Aussie has once again impressed his employers by qualifying in P6. Ricciardo stated, “I’m really delighted with the way qualifying went and it’s very encouraging to be sixth fastest for the second race in a row, which means we are seeing signs of progress and consistency.” While another top six position on the grid will attract the attention of Red Bull, Ricciardo may struggle tomorrow if he emerges from his first stop in medium tyre traffic.