It’s been quite a week or two for Nico Rosberg. Since the last grand prix at Silverstone, he has got married, seen his nation win the FIFA World Cup, signed a new long-term deal with Mercedes, and now – just to put the cherry on the icing of the cake – he has secured pole position for the German Grand Prix.
However, it was not the straight dogfight that we all expected between himself and Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton. The Briton crashed hard during Q1 thanks to a right-front brake failure, wrecking his car in the process. He has qualified 15th, but is more likely to start from the pit lane tomorrow as a result of the shunt.
The real fight for Rosberg came from the Williams pair of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa, but neither could prevent the German from claiming his fifth pole of the season and his first on home soil (well, assuming Germany is “home” that is…).
- FP3 saw Rosberg start Saturday as he meant to go on. Hamilton was left trailing by six-tenths of a second come the checkered flag, with Fernando Alonso finishing third for Ferrari.
- Qualifying was all about Rosberg once Hamilton’s session had come to an early end. However, a nice sub-plot also unfolded as Bottas, Massa, Magnussen and Kvyat all impressed.
NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK
- Caterham team principal Christijan Albers is remaining tight-lipped about the future of his drivers, simply telling them that “I want to see results”.
- Pirelli’s Paul Hembery has said that the feedback for the new 18-inch tire concept has been largely positive, and they could be introduced as early as 2017.
- Lewis Hamilton’s prang was the big news from qualifying. You can watch it again here.
- Mercedes chief Toto Wolff has said that he is disappointed by the dwindling attendance figures for the German Grand Prix.
- Nico Rosberg was pleased to secure pole, but said that there are no points for Saturday.
- Sebastian Vettel is still hopeful of a podium finish despite Renault’s engine upgrade not making much difference.
- Hamilton suffered some bruising in his accident, but is otherwise okay. He spoke to NBCSN about the crash earlier today.
- Williams finished as ‘best of the rest’ once again in qualifying with Bottas and Massa in second and third place.
- Daniel Ricciardo believes that as many as eight drivers can fill the three podium positions tomorrow in Germany.
- McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen once again outclassed veteran teammate Jenson Button.
- Fernando Alonso believes that Ferrari can beat Red Bull, Force India and McLaren at Hockenheim (even if no-one else does).
THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK
For the fourth race weekend in a row, we have seen a chink in Mercedes’ armor. Lewis Hamilton’s brake failure and subsequent crash was a very scary incident indeed, and frankly, it’s testament to the incredible safety standards in the sport at the moment that he was able to walk away with nothing more than a bit of bruising.
Hamilton said to the media after the session that it was another “gift” for Rosberg, but the Briton is going to be giving it his all tomorrow. From the pit lane (where he will most probably start), he faces an almighty uphill struggle, yet you would have to think that if anyone can make up for it in a race situation, Lewis can. He should dig out a video of his charge from 19th to 2nd in GP2 eight years ago for inspiration.
So that left Rosberg all alone to take pole, right? Wrong. In fact, Williams was a lot closer than the team appears to be getting credit for. Valtteri Bottas actually looked set to steal top spot away from Rosberg when he lit up green in the second sector on the timesheets; Rosberg had backed off, and wasn’t going to improve. A sloppy final sector meant that Valtteri couldn’t quite do it, but second place is still a sensational result for the breakout racer in Formula 1 this year.
Rosberg didn’t seem too comfortable to begin with in qualifying, though. In Q1, he hadn’t actually set a lap time within the required 107% when the red flag came out for Hamilton’s crash after locking up on both of his first two flyers. When he did go out and set just one lap time – he only needed one – he finished by putting all four wheels outside of the white line at the final corner.
If we were in Austria, the stewards would have deleted it; here, it went unpunished. Nico wasn’t the only one (we’re looking at you, Seb) to do so, but once again, there seems to be a variation in the enforcing of rules such as this between races.
Mercedes is still unquestionably the team to beat in Germany, but if we get some of the forecast rain, it could spice things up. For now though, the advantage – and also the pressure – lies with Rosberg. It would be an incredible way to cap off the last two weeks.
Join us for the German Grand Prix live on CNBC and Live Extra from 7:30am ET tomorrow.