Nico Rosberg bounced back from an early Q3 electronics problem to claim pole position for his home race, the German Grand Prix, ahead of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo.
After breezing through the first two sessions (the Mercedes drivers were the only drivers to qualify from Q1 having used only soft tyres), Rosberg set off on his first run in Q3 only to have to abandon the run at the end of his first lap when his Mercedes suffered an electronics issue.
“It just suddenly lost the throttle,” he said. “It just cut completely the engine, just at the end of the lap. That was disappointing but I’m sure we’ll fix it for tomorrow. It’s never happened before, so I’m sure it will be OK.”
Rosberg dived towards the pit lane for repairs and out on track team-mate Lewis Hamilton set the early Q3 pace with a lap of 1:14.486 with Ricciardo slotting in P2 with a time of 1:14.724 to sit 0.240 off Hamilton.
As the rest of the field returned to the pit lane to plot their final runs, Rosberg headed out again and with an almost clear track he posted a superb lap of 1:14.363 to take provisional pole. And as Hamilton made a small mistake in Sector 2 and went slower in Sector 3, Rosberg took his 27th career pole position and his fifth of the season.
“Just a great lap,” said the German. “Not only was it just one lap that I had, but I also had extra fuel to make sure that I would have an extra shot if a mistake or something happened. So I had fuel for three laps. That was some more time in the bag there, so I was really satisfied with that one. That was really cool.”
Ricciardo took P3 behind Hamilton and admitted that though he had got close, he did not feel he had to pace to compete for pole.
“My first lap in Q3 was really good and I knew there probably wasn’t that much more on the table in the second run and in the end a couple of mistakes in that run,” he said. “There was maybe a tenth or so in it with the perfect lap, but not enough to challenge the pole. We’re close enough. I said yesterday that if we could be within half a second that’s not a bad day in qualifying, so hopefully it means something tomorrow. From what I understand we might have different tyres available for us for the race, so hopefully that makes it interesting.”
Ricciardo will be joined on row two of the grid by team-mate Max Verstappen, while row three will be filled by Ferrari’s fifth-placed Kimi Raikkonen and P6 man Sebastian Vettel.
Behind them, Nico Hulkenberg will line-up in seventh place alongside Williams Valtteri Bottas, with Sergio Perez ninth in the second Force India ahead of the second Williams of Felipe Massa.
The earlier sessions had progressed largely as expected. Q1’s only somewhat unforeseen elimination was that of Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat. The Russian driver qualified in P19 behind 17th-placed Renault driver Kevin Magnussen and Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein and ahead of Manor’s Rio Haryanto and the Saubers of Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson. P19 was all the more frustrating for Kvyat after he was informed that team-mate Carlos Sainz had made it through to Q2 in P12.
That was as far as Saing got however and in Q2 the Spaniard took P13, though he was also placed under investigation for allegedly impeding Massa during the session.
Haas’ Esteban Gutierrez almost made it through to Q3 for the first time since the Korean Grand Prix of 2013. The Mexican was in P9 after his final run of Q2 but Massa eventually beat him to the final Q3 slot by 0.184s.
Behind Gutierrez, Jenson Button was 12th for McLaren ahead of Sainz, Fernando Alonso in the second McLaren, Romain Grosjean in the second Haas and Renault’s Jolyon Palmer. Grosjean is set to take a five-place penalty for tomorrow’s race after he had to switch gearboxes following problems in FP3.
2016 German Grand Prix – Qualifying
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:15.485 1:14.839 1:14.363
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:15.243 1:14.748 1:14.470
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:15.591 1:15.545 1:14.726
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:15.875 1:15.124 1:14.834
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:15.752 1:15.242 1:15.142
6 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:15.927 1:15.630 1:15.315
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:16.301 1:15.623 1:15.510
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:15.952 1:15.490 1:15.530
9 Sergio Perez Force India 1:16.169 1:15.500 1:15.537
10 Felipe Massa Williams 1:13.503 1:15.699 1:15.615
11 Esteban Gutierrez Haas 1:15.987 1:15.883
12 Jenson Button McLaren 1:16.172 1:15.909
13 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:16.317 1:15.989
14 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:16.338 1:16.041
15 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:16.328 1:16.086
16 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:16.636 1:16.665
17 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:16.716
18 Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1:16.717
19 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:16.876
20 Rio Haryanto Manor 1:16.977
21 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:17.123
22 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:17.238