HOCKENHEIM, Germany -- Mercedes has confirmed Lewis Hamilton's suspicion that the car issue which saw him eliminated from Q1 in Germany started moments before he ran wide at Turn 1.
In the closing stages of the opening qualifying session, Hamilton ran wide at the opening corner and across the kerbs. He immediately encountered car trouble as hydraulic fluid started leaking from his car, forcing him to stop on track, meaning he could not continue in qualifying despite comfortably progressing through to Q2.
When asked by Sky Sports after the session if that mistake had caused the issue, Hamilton said: "No, we use the kerb the same every lap. We got to the kerb and just before the kerb the steering broke, so that was the issue."
Speaking immediately after the session, team boss Toto Wolff suspected the jumps over the kerb had been the cause of the issue, but after an investigation the team later confirmed they were a result of the hydraulic leak.
"We had a failure at Turn 1 as Lewis ran the 'normal' kerb which all the drivers use in that stage of qualifying," a Mercedes spokesperson confirmed. "Then, with failed power steering as a result of the hydraulic failure, he had the 'jumping' moments that were seen on TV and which people understandably thought might have been the cause of the issue -- but were in fact a consequence of it."
Hamilton looked dejected after the stoppage, kneeling alongside his car in similar fashion to his famous reaction after an engine failure robbed him of victory of 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix -- the moment widely regarded as costing him that year's championship.
However, Wolff insisted the four-time world champion was in better spirits by the time he had returned to the paddock.
"He was actually in a great mood. It was all good, we had quite a laugh in the debrief."
Hamilton's failure was followed by Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel romping to pole position in front of his and Mercedes' home crowd. Wolff refused to make excuses for the final outcome.
"At the moment we are losing on the straights, but I don't want to sound sore about it," Wolff said. "We just need to improve."
The team later confirmed the gearbox and engine survived the hydraulics failure and would not result in a grid penalty on Sunday.