Nico Rosberg gave himself the perfect chance to extend his championship lead by claiming pole for the German Grand Prix.
The Mercedes driver held off the two Williams of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa as his team-mate Lewis Hamilton crashed out following brake failure.
Hamilton in the wall
Heading into the session, it was all about who would be top dog at the Silver Arrows after the pair traded fastest times throughout the three practice sessions. In the end, the battle would not take place as Hamilton lost control of his Mercedes while under braking for the Sachskurve in the first part of qualifying, hitting the wall on the outside.
Over the radio the Brit, sounding winded by the big impact, said the brakes failed as he slowed for the left-hand hairpin and indeed the team would confirm over Twitter that a front-right disc failure was to blame.
The result of the incident means Hamilton will now start tomorrow’s race from 15th with plenty of work to do.
Bianchi impresses again
With much of the talk heading into the weekend about the loss of the FRIC suspension, Lotus appeared to be struggling more than usual although Romain Grosjean did manage to make the midfield battle in 14th.
Teammate Pastor Maldonado was the victim, however, of another fine performance from Jules Bianchi in the Marussia, as the Frenchman beat the Venezuelan by half a second to take 18th place.
Adrian Sutil was the other non-Marussia or Caterham car not to make Q2 in 17th, while Kamui Kobayashi beat Max Chilton to 20th. Marcus Ericsson failed to set a time as a hydraulics problem kept him in the garage.
Raikkonen & Button miss top 10
With Hamilton out of qualifying, it left a space free for one of the midfield teams to make an appearance in the top 10 shootout and it was the Force Indias who took full advantage by getting into Q3.
Both Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez made the cut at the expense of Kimi Raikkonen, who couldn’t put a good lap together in his Ferrari, and Jenson Button, who also struggled with a poor balance in his McLaren. Those two will start 12th and 11th respectively.
Jean-Eric Vergne was out-qualified by teammate Daniil Kvyat once again as the Russian also made the top 10. The Frenchman in the Toro Rosso was left in 13th with Esteban Gutierrez behind in 14th for Sauber, although the Mexican will drop to 17th thanks to a three-place penalty for the incident with Maldonado at Silverstone.
Rosberg holds off Williams charge
Despite the demise of his championship rival early on, Rosberg still had plenty of competition for a first pole at his home race as the two Williams looked to capitalise.
Bottas looked the most imminent threat and indeed in the final run was marginally ahead of Rosberg’s then pole position time but couldn’t quite match the German in the final sector as Nico lead ahead of the Finn with Massa in third.
Stand-out performance of the day has to go to Kevin Magnussen, who managed to claim fourth for McLaren, beating both Red Bulls. Daniel Ricciardo pulled a good final effort to beat teammate Sebastian Vettel by three tenths of a second.
Despite claiming pole at the last two German Grands Prix at Hockenheim, Fernando Alonso was unable to do the same this year as his Ferrari again lacked the pace to battle at the front.
The Spaniard was seventh ahead of the impressive Daniil Kvyat as the two Force Indias brought up the top 10 with Hulkenberg just .021 faster than Perez.
Another win for Germany?
Looking ahead to the race on Sunday, Rosberg is obviously in a very strong position. Currently four points ahead of Hamilton in the championship standings, the 14 cars between himself and his team-mate on the grid mean anything other than an increase of the lead would be a surprise.
He will still face some stiff competition, however, as both Williams and Red Bull looked strong during the race simulation on Friday. It's whether Rosberg has more speed still to show that will make for a potentially dominant race.
As for Hamilton, he has struggled in the last two qualifying sessions yet has made brilliant starts on both occasions. The gap between himself and Rosberg is much bigger than at Austria or Silverstone, so Sunday will be all about damage limitation providing both cars run reliably.
Williams & Red Bull set to battle
Williams and Red Bull are set for a very close race with Magnussen in the mix. The Austrian team are running more downforce, however, so overtaking the powerful Williams will be very difficult as it will with the Mercedes powered McLaren.
There is a reasonable chance of rain with the hot weather of the past few days set to come to a thundery end and if that happens, then the order could be shaken up again. But if it stays dry, then Force India will be another team likely threatening the Red Bulls.
Vijay Mallya’s team has earned the tag as the best in regards to tyre degradation and with a two or three stop strategy expected, they will be a team to watch on Sunday.
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