On Friday, the temperatures at the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim was very hot but come Saturday, the temps were lower and if Mercedes wanted to celebrate their home grand prix and 125th year in motorsport, then the lower temps would be better for their tightly packaged car. At least that was the assumption heading into qualifying.
Ferrari looked very strong all Friday and early Saturday during the Free Practice sessions while Mercedes looked stiff and struggling for rear grip. It was also a bit of change from FP3 onward when the FIA race stewards told the drivers and teams that they’d be discounting any lap time if the driver went beyond the blue/white curb in the last and first turn on the circuit.
During FP3, we saw a host of lap times negated due to the drivers going beyond the blue/white curbing including Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. Could Mercedes recover from their struggles during Friday or was it a case of manufactured Merc drama and sandbagging? Time would tell as Q1 began.
First out were the Williams cars and given their new upgrades were falling off their car, there was little hope that the upgrades would deliver a performance gain. Racing Point brought a host of changes for the weekend and were hoping the changes would deliver in Germany as they set initial times in the 1:13’s. That was just a tenth down from the McLaren and as they are the best-of-the-rest benchmark, that’s not a bad sign for Racing Points upgrades.
With 11 minutes left, Sebastian Vettel was set to make his first run but radioed the team with news of a loss of power. It was shame as his teammate, Charles Leclerc leapt to the top of the time sheets with a 1:12.229s just ahead of Max Verstappen’s Red Bull in second. As this was all happening, the engine cover was being removed from Vettel’s car and there was just 7 minutes left for the team to find and fix the issue.
Mercedes were out with 7 minutes left as Lewis Hamilton only managed 16th quickest and ran wide on the final turn. His teammate, Valtteri Bottas, jumped up to 4th quickest behind the likes of Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen. Tragically for Vettel, he got out of his car and qualifying was over due to a turbo issue while Hamilton jumped to 3rd.
Another unfortunate storyline was McLaren, currently best-of-the-rest, struggling to keep Lando Norris in the top 15 with Carlos Sainz running in 9th. A reversal of performance fortune as Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo was in 6th. The presence of Racing Point as a Q2 contender left a McLaren and a Toro Rosso out.
A complete reversal of fortune for Haas F1 who managed to get Kevin Magnussen up to 7th and Romain Grosjean in 9th.
Out in Q1- Vettel, Russell, Kubica, Albon, Norris
Leclerc and Hamilton out early setting their initial laps. Charles was the lone Ferrari left to fight a brace of Mercedes cars and aborted his initial lap while Lewis and Valtteri set top times in Q2.
Leclerc managed to get his first lap deleted due to track limits but his second lap was second quickest behind Hamilton on Yellows (Mediums). Verstappen radioed that he was losing power on his hot lap too and he aborted the lap and boxed.
Meanwhile, Pierre Gasly, who crashed in practice, managed to get his Red Bull up to 3rd. With 5 minutes to go, Verstappen came out on Reds (Soft compounds) to set his Q2 lap time. His teammate made his run on Yellows so was the move to Reds a strategy call for Verstappen or just desperation from a team who needed to get a lap in and didn’t want to take any chances? Regardless, he jumped to 4th and will start the race on a different strategy on Reds.
As time ran out in Q2, the Racing Points were trying to get out of the elimination zone but Stroll couldn’t. Neither could Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo or Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat. Magnussen, who had been running strong, had a lockup on his final lap and was out in Q2.
Out in Q2- Giovinazzi, Magnussen, Ricciardo, Kvyat, Stroll
As Q3 started, the teams came out on Reds for the initial runs. Both Mercs out first as there was work happening on Charles Leclerc’s car with an FIA delegate inspecting the work being done. This was not looking well for Ferrari as the Mercs lumbered around slowly on their warmup laps.
While Lewis Hamilton just blew the previous lap times away with a 1:11.767s, Ferrari’s Leclerc got out of his car and abandoned his Q3 session in a galactic failure for the team. Max Verstappen split the Mercs with a second fastest lap and Galsy in 4th.
The battle for best-of-the-rest saw Hass F1’s Romain Grosjean was just ahead of Carlos Sainz in 5th and the Racing Point of Sergio Perez bringing the team a decent Q3 effort jumping ahead of Sainz and giving the team a shot at best-of-the-rest.
For the final runs, Lewis came out ahead of Bottas which was a reversal of the initial lap running order. He couldn’t improve his time but it didn’t matter as his initial lap was good enough for pole with Max splitting the Mercs in 2nd.
|2||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Honda||0.346s|
|4||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull/Honda||0.755s|
|5||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||0.771s|
|7||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren/Renault||1.130s|
|8||Sergio Perez||Racing Point/Mercedes||1.298s|
|11||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||1.019s|
|14||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso/Honda||1.368s|
|15||Lance Stroll||Racing Point/Mercedes||1.683s|
|17||Alexander Albon||Toro Rosso/Honda||1.694s|