As pre-quali shots of the Mercedes garage at their home GP showed the hydraulic lines of their cars’ FRIC suspension system capped off, the question buzzing in the paddock air was ‘will the negating of this system reduce the team’s advantage?’. Both drivers were dismissive of the possible damage to their pace, with Hamilton expressing the view that this suspension methodology is more common across the teams than might be expected.
Free practice running showed it was pretty much business as usual around the Hockenheim circuit, with Rosberg leading the way from his team mate, although the Mercedes appeared to have difficulty getting the best out of the prime tyre. It was Ferrari and Williams bringing the fight to the Silver Arrows ahead of qualifying.
With an air temperature of 32 degrees and a track temperature in the mid-50s, engine and brake temperatures were likely to be at the upper end of their operating tolerances and the supersoft option appeared to be the faster tyre package. This being the case, the qualifying dilemma would be whether to burn a set of the option tyres to guarantee quali success.
It was Lotus who blinked first, sending Maldonado out on the option tyres. The car had been a handful all weekend and the team had to gamble on the faster tyre to se them through to Q2. As Q1 progressed, it was clear that Caterham would not be able to reassemble Ericsson’s car after an hydraulic problem caused a rebuild.
With seven minutes left of the session, Hamilton suffered a suspected brake failure and put his Mercedes into the barrier in front of the grandstand, causing the session to be red-flagged. It was Rosberg who was first out in the restarted session, opting to run the option tyre to guarantee his progression to the next session. This proved to be the trend, and improving times soon had Hamilton sliding down the rankings as times improved.
With Q2 underway, Mercedes confirmed it was the failure of Hamilton’s front right brake disc that causd his crash. The option tyre was the default choice for the session, with four teams filling the top four slots for most of the session. It was Rosberg leading the way, with Bottas’ Williams leading the chasing pack. There were mixed fortunes for McLaren: Button, having complaind of traffic, failed to progress to Q1 while Magnussen put his car into fifth spot. With Hamilton absent from the session, it was Williams chasing the top slot occupied by Rosberg’s Mercedes.
Q3 was the customary dash for position. The fresh supersoft had already proved itself as the quali tyre of choice. With the track favouring the teams with the highest straight line speed, Force India were hoping to capitalise on their speed advantage. It was Rosberg who bagged pole – his fifth of the season- with the Williams of Bottas joining him on the front row. An excellent second row slot alongside the second Williams for Magnussen brought some cheer to McLaren.
A three-place penalty for Guiterrez (14th) for a previous incident shuffled Hamilton up to start in 15th slot.