Lewis Hamilton feels Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg was handed “another gift” after a qualifying crash again put the Briton on the back foot in this year’s Formula One world title fight.
Hamilton suffered a failure of the front-right brake disc during the initial session for the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.
On approach to the left-handed loop inside the stadium complex, the failure immediately pitched Hamilton into a high-speed spin across a gravel trap, with his momentum halted by a 30G (gravity force) shunt into a tyre barrier.
Unsurprisingly winded, Hamilton was at least able to radio back to his team, pointing out: “I put my foot on the pedal and something failed.”
Hamilton eventually clambered from the cockpit of his car, raising his right hand to acknowledge he was OK, before heading off to the medical centre for a medical inspection which is routine procedure following such a crash.
The 29-year-old will now start 15th, moving up one place from his qualifying position of 16th due to Esteban Gutierrez serving a three-place grid penalty.
To rub salt into Hamilton’s wounds, Rosberg went on to claim his fourth pole from the last five grands prix, and ninth of his F1 career.
Not for the first time this season Hamilton faces another exercise in damage limitation to ensure the current four-point gap between the duo does not become too excessive.
Reflecting on his accident, Hamilton said: “I’m in a little bit of pain, but that’s what happens when you have a crash like that. Even if something is broken I will still be racing on Sunday.
“I think (the team) said I pulled something like 30G, but you never enter a corner thinking something will happen.
“Nico has now basically got another gift (with pole), but we will see what we can do.”
Hamilton and Rosberg use different manufacturers for their brakes as it comes down to feel rather than a team dictating what a driver should have on the car, with the former Brembo and the latter using Carbon Industrie.
Hamilton’s brakes were also new going into final practice earlier yesterday, but whatever the circumstances, this is the latest qualifying blow to a man renowned for his speed over one lap.
In Canada, he made minor errors in the final run that allowed Rosberg to claim pole. A fortnight later at the Austrian Grand Prix, Hamilton made mistakes on both of his fast laps in Q3, leaving him down in ninth.
And then just two weeks ago in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, Hamilton made an error of judgement in changeable conditions, opting to abort his final run.
Behind him, Rosberg sped by and went on to claim pole again, leaving Hamilton angry with himself, albeit with redemption coming his way on the Sunday with a victory to savour.
The best Hamilton can hope for this Sunday, should Rosberg at least avoid another retirement as occurred at Silverstone, is a place on the podium.
Williams, however, appear strong, with Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa lining up second and third respectively, while the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel in fifth and sixth will be no slouches.
Hamilton also has two McLarens and two Ferraris ahead of him, leaving him with an uphill struggle to score strong points.
For Rosberg, this result continued his great week after getting married, watching Germany win the World Cup and signing a new long-term contract.
“Things have been going really well, and to be at my home race and to get pole is fantastic,” said Rosberg. Sparing a thought at least for Hamilton, he added: “I would have preferred an open fight with Lewis, so I’m a little bit less happy he didn’t have a shot at it at the end. We’ve still a long way to go as we’ve the race ahead. Even so, it’s a good start.”
With temperatures soaring to a sweltering 33 degrees, it is expected to be cooler today for the race, with even the prospect of thunderstorms.
A wary Rosberg added: “The weather could play a role, so I just need to take it as it comes.”
Jenson Button could only manage 11th in his McLaren, seven places behind team-mate Kevin Magnussen who equalled his best grid slot of his rookie season with fourth, whilst Marussia’s Max Chilton starts 21st.