Lewis Hamilton expected to have a “really, really close” fight with Charles Leclerc for pole position at Hockenheim on Saturday prior to the Ferrari driver’s issue that sidelined him from Q3.

Leclerc had been in contention for his third F1 pole after topping two practice sessions and the opening stage of qualifying, only for a fuel system issue to prevent him from getting out on-track in Q3.

This paved the way for Hamilton to sweep to his 87th career pole and fifth of the 2019 season by three-tenths of a second from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Leclerc’s Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel also failed to feature in the final battle for pole after a turbo issue left him last on the grid.

“It was a relatively straightforward session, very clean. The team did a great job in terms of timings and getting us out at the right times,” Hamilton said.

“We saw both Ferraris drop out. Obviously that made it a little bit different in terms of the battle that we had at the end.

“Nevertheless, I think I had pretty good pace and it would have been close between myself and Leclerc. They’ve been quick all weekend.

“The [Ferrari] car seemed to be working really well, so I imagine it would have been really, really close between us at the front.”

Asked where he saw the biggest threat coming from on Sunday, Hamilton made note of the weather forecast after a changeable weekend following Friday’s heatwave in practice.

“I think it’s weather, because there’s the threat of spots of rain, even today, tomorrow potentially more so,” Hamilton said.

“I’ve not looked at the long-runs, so I don’t know how strong we are in the long-runs, but it’s not the easiest of tracks to always overtake. But yeah, just maximising, depending on the temperature, I felt like yesterday makes it quite a difficult race, and today, it started getting hotter towards the end.

“It’s going to be a real challenge. I think the real challenge is just making sure we do all our procedures to make sure we operate at the level we’ve been operating today.”

Hamilton revealed after the session that he had not been feeling well, with Mercedes making arrangements for a replacement driver – likely to be Esteban Ocon – just in case he had been unable to take part in qualifying.

“I wasn’t feeling good this morning, bit of a sore throat, so we just prepped just in case I wasn’t going to be able to do the session,” Hamilton said.

“I did the practice, and then we were prepared to be able to put the second driver in, in the worst-case scenario.”



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