Vettel must look to Barrichello for inspiration to save Ferrari's weekend

If it can go wrong for Sebastian Vettel, then, right now, it does.

While some of his mishaps from the past year have been his fault - his shunt of Max Verstappen at Silverstone this month, for one - his experience at Hockenheim on Saturday must have left him wondering who has cursed him.

After setting the pace in practice, Ferrari had a qualifying session from hell. Charles Leclerc, at one stage top of the board, could only manage 10th place after a fuel system problem prevented him from setting a time in Q3.

Vettel, at his home grand prix, did not even complete a lap. An engine issue, his second in qualifying in the past three race weekends, saw to that.

"Something broke with the turbo, and that was game over from there," he sighed to reporters. "Obviously very bitter, I think the car was great, and I lost out on a big chance, but hopefully we'll have a big one coming [on Sunday].

"I'm looking forward to the race, but obviously it would've been nicer to start at the very front than the very back, but we'll see what happens."

The idea of a "big chance" might seem a bit of a stretch for a driver who has reached the podium only four times this year and not won a race since last August, but Ferrari have produced something special at this circuit before.

In 2000, Rubens Barrichello won the first race of his Formula 1® career at Hockenheim after starting 18th on the grid. A light fuel load, a bold two-stop strategy and rain in the closing stages combined to help the Brazilian craft a stunning victory.

Vettel might settle for the top six at this stage, but the 50th podium of his Ferrari career is not out of the question given their pace early on this weekend. He just needs Lady Luck to lend a hand.

HAMILTON UNDER THE WEATHER - AND UNDER PRESSURE

Mercedes struggled for pace in practice, but Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas made the most of Ferrari's woes to take first and third respectively, separated by Red Bull's Verstappen.

Championship leader Hamilton has been unwell in recent days and admitted he was a bit surprised to land pole, although he said it was "just incredible" to mark Mercedes' 125th anniversary in fitting style.

A third consecutive win in Germany is far from certain, though. Verstappen will be a real nuisance, particularly in the wet, and Bottas knows he has a huge margin for improvement as he attempts to close the 39-point gap at the top of the drivers' standings.

"I struggled with the consistency in the braking zones in turn two, six and eight - all of the heavy braking events," said the Finn, who is enjoying a career-best run of finishing fourth or better in the past 10 races.

"I just didn't have a consistent feeling under braking, so I couldn't really put a good lap together. It certainly wasn't the best session, but starting from P3 tomorrow is not a disaster either."

THE GRID

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
4. Pierre Gasly (Red Bull)
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo)
6. Romain Grosjean (Haas)
7. Carlos Sainz Jr (McLaren)
8. Sergio Perez (Racing Point)
9. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault)
10. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

WEATHER FORECAST 

Temperatures are expected to drop to 24 degrees Celsius, having inched towards 40 on Friday, but with the cooler air comes the greater chance of rain.

Although the wettest weather seems likeliest in the morning, there is a good chance of showers throughout Sunday's race. That could help Vettel, of course, but it will be music to the ears of Verstappen, who will start on soft tyres after a power problem in Q2.

"I have to be on a different strategy, which I actually didn't want, with that little issue in Q2, but we can fight with that tyre as well. Maybe a little bit of rain as well will be spicing things up!" he said.

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