HOCKENHEIM: Sebastian Vettel said it was "a shame" that Lewis Hamilton was unable to fight him for pole position in Saturday's qualifying for the German Grand Prix.
And, he added, "I mean it."
Two weeks after the acrimonious aftermath to his victory for Ferrari at the British Grand Prix, the championship leading German was careful not to gloat over his title rival's misfortune.
A distraught Hamilton, like Vettel seeking a fifth world championship, limped out in the first qualifying session when his Mercedes car broke down with a hydraulics failure.
"Obviously, we saw, but I don't know what exactly happened," Vettel told reporters after the session.
"It doesn't really matter. We will see what happens tomorrow.
"Obviously, you look after yourself. For me it was a good session and everything went smoothly.
"You always try to push the limits...and don't wish anything bad, or technical issues, to happen to anyone. It's a shame to see him go out - and I mean it.
"The most important part of the weekend is the race."
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, landing his fifth pole of the season and 55th of his career.
Hamilton could only watch and will start Sunday's race from 14th on the grid.
"In qualifying, the car was a pleasure to drive," Vettel said. "Some days, you can feel already, when you go out and do your first flying lap, that you have something in your hands that you can play with.
"That's the feeling I had today and from there it just got better. It was more about tuning myself. In the sessions before, sometimes I did get the laps together, sometimes I didn't – I was trying different things.
"I knew in Q3 I could get quite a bit out of the car and myself and made it work...Really happy, both laps on the limit..."
Vettel outpaced Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas by two-tenths of a second in a pulsating final showdown.
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 took a brief airborne excursion at Turn One and then went 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.
"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," said Hamilton.
"I'll give everything tomorrow to see how high I can get up, but its not going to be like Silverstone."
The setback 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.
Vettel's pole position makes him favourite 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.
"We are quite confident for tomorrow, but there's a lot of things that can happen that can bite you. So we need to be sharp and awake.
"For now, I think I will just enjoy the pole and then tomorrow when I wake up I will look forward to the race and try to be there. That's what counts." - AFP