With his arch title rival Lewis Hamilton unable to take part in the shoot-out for pole in Germany, Sebastian Vettel knew he needed to deliver in front of an expectant home crowd. That he did, and the Ferrari driver was delighted with what he has described as one of his ‘best moments’ in Formula 1.
Hamilton’s hydraulic issue in the final stages of Q1 ended the world champion’s afternoon in dramatic circumstances, and meant it was down to Valtteri Bottas in the sister Mercedes to break German hearts on Saturday.
But Vettel wasn’t to be beaten, producing a superb lap on the first run to sit on provisional pole, before bettering his time with a 1m 11.212s to push Bottas back down to second. And the German, yet to win at the Hockenheimring, couldn’t find many negatives with his performance.
“In qualifying the car was a pleasure to drive,” he said. “Some days you can feel already when you go out, and do your first flying lap, that you have something in your hands that you can play with.
“That’s the feeling I had today. And from there it just got better. It was more about tuning myself. In the sessions before sometimes I did get the laps together, sometimes I didn’t – I was trying different things.
“I knew in Q3 I could get quite a bit out of the car and myself, and made it work. Really happy, both laps on the limit. Then the adrenaline kicks in. It’s quite a good feeling when you get everything right. Really, really happy with the car and the work we’ve done overnight.”
Vettel has never finished higher than third in Hockenheim, and has only ever led three laps in F1 here, but now starts Sunday’s race as favourite.
Asked where his pole-securing lap ranks in his career, he said: “The honest answer? I don’t remember all the laps I have done in my career – I’ve done quite a lot. But, yeah today is definitely one of the best moments.
“I have a bit of a mixed relationship with this track. It seems sometimes we were really close in the past but for some reason it didn’t come together. So far this weekend has been great. The car has been behaving well. We improved it for today.
“Tomorrow we need to be sharp. Don’t know what the weather will be like, anything can happen. For now that doesn’t matter, I’m just happy. Yeah I was very happy with the lap. I think I have done decent laps, and bad laps – this is one of the better ones. I don’t think a lot fans will say this is the best I have ever done. I hope the best I will ever do is still to come.”
Vettel added that he didn’t take much notice of Hamilton’s incident in qualifying, with the Briton set to start 14th on the grid.
“Obviously we saw but I don’t know what exactly happened. It doesn’t really matter. We will see what happens tomorrow. Obviously you look after yourself. For me it was a good session and everything went smoothly.
“You always try to push the limits. Don’t wish anything bad or technical issues to happen to anyone. Sit's a shame to see him go out, and I mean it. But you look after yourself. The most important part of the weekend is the race.”
Vettel currently leads Hamilton by eight points in the drivers’ championship, and a victory in front of his home support would see him extend that advantage.