The Mercedes team confirmed that a right front brake disc failure caused former world champion Lewis Hamilton’s high-speed crash in qualifying for the German Grand Prix on Saturday.
The 29-year-old Briton, who is just four points behind his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg of Germany in their duel for the drivers title, lost control of his car when it spun at the Sachskurve during the first part of qualifying.
He hit the barriers heavily but was able to climb from his wrecked car and walk away.
Rosberg went on to take pole for the fifth time this season, for his home race, but admitted it was not as satisfying as if he had enjoyed a fair and full fight with his teammate.
Hamilton, 29, will start from 15th position on the grid.
Finland’s Valtteri Bottas was second fastest ahead of his Williams teammate Felipe Massa of Brazil while Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was fifth ahead of his world champion teammate Sebastian Vettel.
“I think other people were able to get more and more out of the track whereas we seemed to stabilise around a certain lap time,” said Vettel.
“It’s a long race, anything can happen.”
Success in qualifying gave Rosberg a 5-4 advantage in poles over Hamilton this season.
It also came in a memorable week when the 29-year-old German married his long-term girlfriend Vivian Sibold, signed a new contract with Mercedes and cheered Germany to World Cup victory.
“For now, it’s been going really well,” said Rosberg.
“I would have preferred if it was an open fight with Lewis so I’m less happy as a result.
“Tomorrow, it is supposed to be a bit colder, so it should make it easier on the tyres. The weather could play a role, so I just need to take it as it comes.”
Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff revealed that the brake disc had been fitted for qualifying following morning practice, when Hamilton was six-tenths of a second slower than Rosberg.
Hamilton was taken to the medical centre after the crash, having complained of hurting his knees, but was given the all clear by doctors.
Afterwards, asked how he felt, he said: “A little bit sore, but I’ll be OK. I’ve got a little bit of pain, but that’s what usually happens when you have a crash like that.
“When you’re driving, you always have to have 110 per cent confidence in the car, and then you hit [the brakes] and it’s a real shock.”
Hamilton officially qualified a provisional 16th, but a penalty for Esteban Gutierrez of Sauber lifts him up a place on the grid.
Rosberg did not allow doubt into his mind as he delivered fastest laps in all three sessions, culminating in a blistering one minute and 16.540 seconds to seize his fourth pole in five races.
It gives him a huge advantage for Sunday’s 67-lap race as only three times since 1987 has the winner at Hockenheim qualified from behind the front row.
Hamilton and Mercedes will have to overcome one dilemma before Sunday’s race – not only do they need to repair the 2008 champion’s car, but they have to resolve what braking system to use.
Hamilton and Rosberg employ different brake manufacturers and it is therefore possible that, following Saturday’s failure, the team will consider suggesting to Hamilton that he switches to use the same brakes as Rosberg as a precaution.
If he does switch, it will mean having to learn how to adjust to a very different system.