After Lewis Hamilton’s heroics at his home grand prix two weeks ago, the shoe is on the other foot this weekend as AMG Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg will be hoping for the same result as his and the team’s home race at Hockenheim.
The build up to the weekend has been dominated so far with talk surrounding the sudden banning of the FRIC (Front and rear interconnected suspension) systems, which all 11 teams are running this year. It seems the FIA has decided they have become far too complex and too much of an moveable aerodynamic device, leading to their ban starting this weekend.
There was much anticipation therefore in the paddock to see what kind of effect this ban had on the order, although the session would have to go some to be more entertaining than the mixed conditions in Britain two weeks ago provided. Q1 hadn’t even began before Caterham were struggling as a hydraulic problem with Marcus Ericsson’s car left him unlikely to compete in the session at all, something which was later confirmed halfway through the session.
At the front however, it was the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton that set the first truly competitive lap time with a 1.18.693, a cool 0.7 seconds quicker than the rest halfway through Q1. On the other hand, a small shockwave was sent through the paddock a minute later as Finland’s Valtteri Bottas confidently put his Williams-Mercedes top of the times by a cool 0.4 of a second over the rest. For Rosberg, it appeared his home race was proving a burden rather than an advantage, as he made two separate mistakes on successive qualifying laps.
The drama of Q1 was soon provided as Hamilton suffered a front right brake disc failure, which pitched him into the banked stadium section Turn 13 tyre wall. The fast impact left Hamilton sounding slightly winded in the aftermath, and sent the red flags flying with 7 minutes left.
After the small delay a frantic final 7 minutes was set up as everyone ventured back out on track with the one lap super soft tyres. The action proved fast and frantic, with the unfortunate casualties of Q1 being firstly Adrian Sutil who is resigned to 17th in his Sauber-Ferrari for his home grand prix.
Alongside him in 18th is Jules Bianchi in his Marussia-Ferrari, with row 10 containing usual suspects Pastor Maldonado in his troublesome Lotus-Renault and the Caterham-Renault of Kamui Kobayashi. Sitting 21st and 22nd for tomorrow will be Max Chilton in his Marussia and the unfortunate Marcus Ericsson in the second Caterham.
After a quiet opening few minutes of Q2 as the teams waited to save their tyres, Q2 sparked into life with Bottas again setting the early pace with a blistering 1.17.353. HIs time last roughly 30 seconds at the top however, as a far more dialled in Rosberg stole top spot with a 1.17.109. After this lap time the track went relatively quiet before the final runs began with a few minutes remaining.
With a seemingly small amount of improvement in the track, the final two minutes proved a constant flurry of changing times and places, of which the final order was only settled well after the session was over. When the dust settled, it showed that from those eliminated it was Jenson Button who fell in 11th for McLaren-Mercedes, with fellow champion Kimi Raikkonen alongside him in 12th.
Behind them it was Jean Eric Vergne in his Scuderia Toro Rosso-Renault in 13th, from Esteban Gutierrez in the leading Sauber in 14th. The final two eliminated were Romain Grosjean for Lotus-Renault in 15th and Hamilton who couldn’t take part in Q2 because of his accident.
The stage was not set for the final 12 minute Q3 showdown for pole, with first runs meaning the action started from the moment the pit lane light turned green. Once these times filtered through it was Rosberg who was unsurprisingly on top with a 1.15.540, with the two Williams-Mercedes cars close behind. From here the session calmed down before the final runs for pole began with a few minutes left on the clock. These runs proved a damp squib however, as the top 3 remained the same with Rosberg claiming a popular home pole, from the impressive Williams twins of Bottas and Felipe Massa in second and third.
4th was a brilliant result for McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen, with popular Aussie Daniel Ricciardo piloting his Red Bull-Renault to 5th. Reigning World Champion Sebastien Vettel will again be disappointed to be behind his team mate in 6th, with Fernando Alonso for Ferrari and Daniil Kvyat for Scuderia Toro Rosso behind Vettel in 7th and 8th. Rounding out the top 10 were the two Sahara Force-India-Mercedes team mates, with Nico Hulkenberg winning their battle in 9th from Sergio Perez in 10th.
This German GP qualifying session has provided plenty of story lines for tomorrow, with Hamilton’s recovery drive already being eagerly anticipated. Up front, it appears Rosberg will at the very least have to fend off what should be a stern challenge from the Williams of a determined Valtteri Bottas. It should be a thrilling race indeed.