Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says Formula 1 rivals Ferrari has an “illness” it needs to cure following its meltdown during German Grand Prix qualifying.

Ferrari, which is yet to win a race so far in 2019, had set the pace throughout the weekend and looked favourites to take pole at Hockenheim, only for its latest implosion to occur when separate reliability issues hit both its cars.

A turbo problem prevented home-favourite Sebastian Vettel from setting a laptime, leaving him 20th and last on the Hockenheim grid, while practice pacesetter Charles Leclerc is set to start 10th after a fuel-related issue curtailed his Q3 running.

Lewis Hamilton took full advantage to land the 87th career pole of his career - and fourth of the campaign - ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in third.

“It’s a shame for Ferrari and a shame for Sebastian at his home grand prix, we could really hear the crowds and you can hear that it’s a bit subdued at the moment,” Wolff told Sky Sports F1.

“Ferrari really has an illness and they need to cure that. It’s just a shame, we need them for a strong championship.

“But for us I’m happy because the session started really awfully - we did not understand why we were lacking pace and then it slowly came towards us.”

Asked to explain the three-tenth difference between Hamilton and Bottas, Wolff replied: “He’s not far off but Lewis put in an incredible lap and tomorrow is the race.

“If the temperatures stay like this it’s about making it to the end and having the right strategy and i think Valtteri has every chance.”

Wolff later clarified his comments as he felt his explanation was lost in translation regarding Ferrari’s situation.

“I would never use the word illness in connection with any other team, you can see how easy it is to fall in a trap meaning something completely different,” he said. “I can’t look into Ferrari and we respect them as a brand as one of the best brands in the world and Ferrari is one of the most important teams in Formula 1 if not the most important.

“We embrace the competition with them and we enjoy it, we get angry, we fight them, that is what the sports needs that drama and glory. When you can see the German Grand Prix is Sebastian’s home race and he is not even able to qualify and needs to get out of the car and young Charles who is able to compete for pole position can’t start Q3, you can feel for them. We had it.

“We’ve had failure and consecutive failures which seem very difficult to handle but at the end of the day this is the toughest competition that exists in motor racing and getting the balance right between chasing the ultimate performance while keeping reliability is very different.

“Having said that I am already doing them an injustice as I don’t know the reasons for failure. Mattia told me it is something different on both cars that they have not seen before. At the moment my sportsmanship prevails in saying I don’t want to wish anybody bad luck.”

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