HOCKENHEIM, Germany: Lewis Hamilton went from poorly to pole at the German Grand Prix yesterday, revealing afterwards that Mercedes had put French reserve Esteban Ocon on standby to replace him in case he felt too unwell to drive.
The Briton, on his way to a sixth Formula One title having won seven of the season’s 10 races, said he had been nursing a sore throat.
“I wasn’t feeling good this morning,” he told reporters immediately after qualifying. “A bit of a sore throat; we just prepped in case I wasn’t going to be able to do the session.
“I did the practice and we were prepared to be able to put the second driver in, worst-case scenario. I got through it good.”
Mercedes have Ocon, who lost his seat at Force India/Racing Point at the end of last season, as their stand-in. Had Ocon stepped in for Hamilton in qualifying, the championship leader would also have been forced to sit out today’s race.
Hamilton leads team mate Valtteri Bottas by 39 points in the overall standings so would have been sure to stay top regardless. In the end, Hamilton eased to his fourth pole of the season and 87th overall after his Ferrari rivals ran into trouble.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen will share the front row alongside the five-times world champion, with Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas third. Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly qualified fourth with Kimi Raikkonen fifth for Alfa Romeo and Romain Grosjean lining up sixth for Haas.
Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel had dominated practice but the former was sidelined by a fuel system problem in the top-10 shootout while Vettel failed to even set a time after an issue with his power unit’s turbocharger.
Hamilton’s pole put Mercedes at the front of the grid for the team’s 200th grand prix start as a constructor and makes him favourite to cap the team’s celebration of 125 years of motorsport with a home victory today.