It was drama all around in the 2018 Formula 1 German Grand Prix qualifying at Hockenheim as Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel fought hard to beat Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen to take pole at his home grand prix.
The first part of the qualifying pretty much decided the course as Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton was forced out of action due to a gearbox issue after a loss of hydraulic towards the end of the session. The British driver was fifth but took no further part in qualifying.
He wanted to go on but Mercedes asked him to stop the car and retire. Replays showed he had big moment at Turn 1 on the kerbs before the issue. At the same time, Raikkonen topped the session from Vettel and Bottas as Force India’s Esteban Ocon (1m13.720s) became one of the biggest casualty in Q1.
The Frenchamn missed Q2 by 0.018s after his teammate Sergio Perez made the improvement. The two Toro Rosso drivers also had a tough run with Pierre Gasly (1m13.749s) only 17th ahead of Brendon Hartley (1m14.045s) – both out in Q1 itself.
For Williams, while Sergey Sitokin made it through to Q2, Lance Stroll (1m14.206s) was only 19th with McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne (1m14.401s) last – the Belgian had some issues with downshift at the start of the session, but he managed to still set a laptime.
The second part of qualifying had to be red-flagged after Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had a moment on the gravel. The Swede brought a lot of stones on track which forced the FIA to stop the session so as to remove them from the racing line.
By that time, it was Renault’s Carlos Sainz, Ericsson, Sirotkin along with Hamilton and Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo who had no time set. Bottas topped the session from Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen and Raikkonen in the end.
The Dutchman did his initial run on the soft tyres alongwith McLaren’s Fernando Alonso but both switched to ultrasoft tyres for their quickest laptime. As expected, both Hamilton and Ricciardo didn’t set a laptime to finish 14th and 15th respectively.
In the end, Alonso (1m13.657s) didn’t make it in Top 10 but there was improvement as he finished 11th ahead of Sirotkin (1m13.702s) – who impressed with his performance in the Williams. With a slightly damaged car, Ericsson (1m13.736s) finished 13th.
The final part in qualifying saw Vettel take provisional pole with a 1m11.539s ahead of Bottas (1m11.709s) and Raikkonen (1m11.880s) – the latter went slightly wide in the last sector which cost him few tenths to end up behind the Mercedes.
The pole battle went right to the end when Bottas snatched provisional pole from Vettel with a 1m11.416s with a storming last sector, but it was only for a brief moment as the German took it back with a 1m11.212s on his final lap.
He had a purple first sector and a purple in second sector which helped him in the end as he made a mistake on the final sector, despite that he finished 0.204s up on Bottas. Raikkonen was third after his improvement to 1m11.547s.
Behind Verstappen (1m11.822s) was fourth ahead of the Haas pair with Kevin Magnussen (1m12.200s) beating teammate Romain Grosjean (1m12.544s) – but more importantly the American outfit were able to beat the Renault on outright pace.
Nico Hulkenberg (1m12.560s) with the new front wing was seventh with Carlos Sainz (1m12.692s) – without the new wing – was eighth ahead of Sauber’s Charles Leclerc (1m12.717s) and Perez (1m12.774s).