Sebastian Vettel celebrates home pole in Hockenheim, woe for Lewis Hamilton

Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel celebrates after winning the qualifying session on the eve of the German Formula One Grand Prix. (AFP)
Updated 21 July 2018

Sebastian Vettel celebrates home pole in Hockenheim, woe for Lewis Hamilton

  • German outpaces Bottas by two-tenths of a second
  • Hamilton set to start from 14th on the grid

HOCKENHEIM: Sebastian Vettel surged to pole for his home German Grand Prix on Saturday as Lewis Hamilton suffered a setback when his Mercedes broke down to leave him at the back of the grid.
Vettel topped qualifying with a devastating final lap in his Ferrari to pip Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes.
A distraught Hamilton limped out in the first qualifying session when his car broke down with a hydraulics failure.
Vettel rubbed salt in the British defending world champion’s wounds by outpacing Bottas by two-tenths of a second.
In front of a huge crowd of flag-waving Germans at the track near his Heppenheim birthplace, Vettel delivered a lap record in one minute and 11.212 seconds to top the Finn’s 1:11.416.
“Thanks to those fans,” said Vettel. “It was amazing to see so many Ferrari and Germany flags.
“It just kept getting better and I knew for the last lap I had a little bit more — I am full of adrenaline, but feel so happy.”
It is his second pole for a German Grand Prix and the 55th of his career.
Vettel’s qualifying success makes him favorite to land his first Formula One victory at Hockenheim and only his second Grand Prix win in Germany as he seeks to extend his eight-point advantage over Hamilton.
Kimi Raikkonen was third in the second Ferrari ahead of Max Verstappen of Red Bull and the two Ferrari-powered Haas cars of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean.
Another home hope Nico Hulkenberg was seventh ahead of his Renault team-mate Carlos Sainz, rising Monegasque star Charles Leclerc of Sauber and Sergio Perez of Force India.
Hamilton, who had attempted to push his car to stay in contention, said: “It was definitely a tough one, but these things happen and all you can do is try and gather your thoughts and live to fight another day.
“I’ll give everything tomorrow to see how high I can get up, but its not going to be like Silverstone.”
Hamilton is expected to start 14th on the grid after his setback which saw him take a brief airborne excursion at Turn One and then go off again at Turn Eight.
He lost use of his gearbox and was told by the team to stop to avoid further damage, following a hydraulics failure.
After trying to push the car, he crouched over it as if praying before taking a motor-cycle ride back to the paddock.
It came two days after Mercedes confirmed he had signed a blockbuster two-year contract extension and followed other unexpected disappointments in Canada, Austria and Britain where Hamilton and his team had been unable to match expectations.
After heavy rain had washed out final practice in the morning, the session began in improved conditions and on a drying track, the two Saubers again setting the pace as they had in the rain.
The atmosphere was sultry with a track temperature of 27 degrees Celsius, air at 21 and humidity at 84 percent.
The two Ferraris were soon on top of the times ahead of the Mercedes before Verstappen entered the fray, Vettel having set an early lap record in 1:12.538 that was soon trimmed by his team-mate’s 1:12.505.
The Q1 segment ended with Ferrari on top and the elimination of Esteban Ocon of Force India, Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley of Toro Rosso, Lance Stroll of Williams and Stoffel Vandoorne of McLaren.
Hamilton clocked the fifth best time before his problems forced him to abandon.
Q2 began with Bottas on top before Ericsson went off in the stadium section, leaving gravel on the circuit as he recovered. The session was red-flagged for eight minutes.
Out from Q2 went Fernando Alonso of McLaren in 11th ahead of Sergey Sirotkin of Williams, Ericsson, Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo, who will start from the back of the grid after taking penalties for engine parts changes and did not clock a lap.
Raikkonen set the pace for Ferrari in Q3, but was outdone by Vettel and then Bottas to set up a final showdown for the big crowd.


Djokovic not worried about blisters ahead of US Open

Updated 25 August 2019

Djokovic not worried about blisters ahead of US Open

  • When the year's last Grand Slam tournament begins Monday, Djokovic will be in Arthur Ashe Stadium during the afternoon session, facing Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain

NEW YORK: During a break in practice two days before opening his US Open title defense, Novak Djokovic pulled off his blue shoe and white sock so a trainer could look at his right foot.

Did it again a little while later.

And then, toward the end of Saturday’s training session in Louis Armstrong Stadium with 2014 runner-up Kei Nishikori, Djokovic stopped a sprint and pulled up short of a ball, raised his right leg off the ground entirely and hopped repeatedly on his left, wincing. Nothing to worry about, Djokovic said later at his pre-tournament news conference: Just blisters.

“A minor thing,” Djokovic called it. “Like anybody has ... Nothing major that is causing a concern for the event.”

When the year's last Grand Slam tournament begins Monday, Djokovic will be in Arthur Ashe Stadium during the afternoon session, facing Roberto Carballes Baena, a 26-year-old from Spain whose career-best ranking was 72nd.

Carballes Baena has an overall career record of 43-50. That includes 2-7 at major tournaments, 1-1 at Flushing Meadows, where he made his debut a year ago and lost in the second round.

Djokovic, meanwhile, has won 33 of his past 34 Grand Slam matches en route to collecting four of the past five major titles. That allowed the 32-year-old Serb to raise his career haul to 16 trophies, putting him just two away from second-place Rafael Nadal’s total of 18, and Roger Federer’s 20, which is the record for men.

He’s not shy about trying to catch those guys.

“More or less everything is about Grand Slams, in terms of how I see tennis and how I approach it, because they matter the most,” Djokovic said. “So I will definitely try to play my best tennis — and aim to play my best tennis — at these events.”

And while many would attribute Djokovic's success to his ability to return serves, say, or his mental strength and propensity for coming up big in the biggest moments — such as saving two match points along the way to edging Federer in a fifth-set tiebreaker in the Wimbledon final last month — there's something else the man himself would point to as his most vital quality.

That's the way Djokovic can cover a court, which is why the state of that right foot is actually a rather big deal.

His movement, Djokovic said Saturday, is "the base of everything" and "the most important thing."

"It just allows you to be more in balance. And at the end of the day, that is what you're looking for as a tennis player," he explained. "How can you hit the ball, being in the right balance, so you can penetrate the ball with the right speed, accuracy and precision?"

Watch Djokovic during a match, and you'll see him change direction in a heartbeat, twist and turn, contort his limbs, slide — on clay, on grass, even on hard courts — always getting to the right spot at the right time.

He attributes his strength in that area to the flexibility of his ankles and is grateful he used to participate in another sport while growing up back home in Serbia.

"I credit my childhood spent on the skis. I used to spend a lot of time skiing," Djokovic said. "That had an effect as well, with kind of coordination and changing movement from one side to another. Even though they're different sports, in essence, you're using some major muscle groups and joints and stuff like this in most of the sports."

It is Djokovic's right elbow that gave him the most trouble a couple of seasons ago.

He missed the last half of 2017, including that year's US Open because that arm was bothering him, then wound up having surgery in February 2018. It took some time for Djokovic to get going after that. All's good these days, though.

"Novak had a couple years where he didn't seem like the same guy," ESPN's John McEnroe said. "Now he's back with a vengeance."

Only 1½ months have passed since Djokovic edged Federer in that classic title match at the All England Club.

Not a lot of time to savor the victory. Not a lot of time to rest a weary body.

"This sport can be a little bit 'cruel,'" Djokovic said, using fingers to indicate air quotes, "when it comes to, I guess, marveling or celebrating your own success. You don't have that much luxury of time to really reflect on everything because the season keeps going."