HOCKENHEIM, Germany -- Not for the first time this year, Ferrari grabbed headlines for the wrong reasons at the German Grand Prix.
The Italian team looked ready to take the fight to Mercedes but two morale-sapping car issues thwarted its drivers, leaving Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc wondering what might have been. That's where our round-up of qualifying must begin.
Red faces at Ferrari: Moments before qualifying started, a journalist in the media centre asked: "I wonder how Ferrari will mess this one up?" That joke -- a sad reflection of what we've grown to expect from the Italian team this year -- became reality in shambolic fashion over the hour which followed. It was painful to watch and it's sad to see this team falling over itself time and time again.
There is no doubt Vettel and Leclerc's car failures denied the team a shot at pole position. Lewis Hamilton's final benchmark was impressive and we'll never know how they would have stacked up in comparison, but what we do know is tomorrow's race would look a lot different if the Ferrari drivers were in the mix at the front end of the grid. The team appears to be in better shape in the cooler -- but still rather hot -- conditions now that Europe's heatwave has subsided, meaning the team will fancy its chances of charging back through the field.
As we saw here last year, a lot can change on Sunday afternoon -- especially with the threat of rain showers -- but this is definitely the lowest moment of Ferrari's tough 2019 campaign.
Team boss Mattia Binotto refused to make excuses, saying: "At the moment the entire team is bitterly disappointed. We feel especially sorry for our drivers who were in with the chance of doing something special for the people back in the factory who are working so hard and for all our fans...
"We are angry with ourselves and I myself feel responsible for what has happened. But I am also aware that we must react calmly and do our best tomorrow. That's what we're here to do."
Hamilton battling more than just his rivals: Qualifying on pole position is always an impressive achievement in Formula One, but even more so in hot and humid conditions while feeling under the weather. Hamilton took a long time to climb out of his car after pulling up for the postrace interviews on the grid and was visibly wiped out by the effort of sticking the car on pole. He didn't go into details of his symptoms, other than "a sore throat," but the situation was worrying enough on Saturday morning for the team to put reserve driver Esteban Ocon on standby.
It's not only the physical side of driving a Formula One car that requires drivers to be at peak fitness, but also the concentration and clarity of thought needed to dance the car on the limit while managing factors such as tyre temperatures, differential settings and brake bias. Without any competition from Ferrari, the 87th pole of Hamilton's career might not go down as one of his most legendary, but it was clearly up there in terms of outright physical effort.
Over to you, Max...: With Ferrari dropping the ball so spectacularly, Max Verstappen appears to be the best hope of denying a Mercedes win on Sunday. The Dutchman survived a car scare of his own in Q2 after reporting a loss of power, but as soon as that was remedied, it surely came as a surprise to nobody watching that he recorded such a strong performance.
Verstappen is the only man to have beaten Mercedes to a win this season and his form is so good, it's hard to bet against him being in the mix. Making this even more tantalising a prospect is the forecast of rain hitting the circuit in time for the race -- the two drivers sharing the front row of the grid are arguably F1's best in those conditions. Red Bull will be doing its best rain dance anyway -- F1 fans should join in with their own this evening.
Hamilton vs. Verstappen is a great matchup anyway, so add a bit of rain and we could be in for some more box-office viewing on Sunday afternoon...
Slim chances slipping away from Bottas: Speaking to ESPN at Silverstone, Valtteri Bottas said he regularly looks himself in the mirror and gives himself an honest assessment of his performance. After qualifying 0.362s off teammate Hamilton and third on the grid on Saturday, he will likely have some choice words for the man staring back at him on Saturday night.
Bottas already looks up against it in the title battle after falling 39 points off Hamilton in the first 10 races, but slipping to 50 adrift before the summer break would spell disaster for his championship campaign. Yet on his current form, that is a very real possibility, and it is essential he finds a way past Hamilton at some point on Sunday afternoon.
Blink and you'll miss it: It's remarkable how close F1 drivers can be to setting identical lap times. At the end of Q2, the margin splitting eighth position and 13th position was just 0.033 seconds. That's officially less time than it takes for a human being to blink. In this instance, it helped shape the final qualifying session -- Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez progressed to Q3.
Antonio Giovinazzi, Kevin Magnussen and Daniel Ricciardo were the men left rueing whatever tiny margins they left out on the track.
Despite being on the wrong end of that equation, Ricciardo dismissed any suggestion that you could put such small gaps down to good or bad fortune.
"I have got two sayings about luck. Luck is for losers, and f--- luck," the Australian said after qualifying. "I could look at it and say, 'Man, I am unlucky, because 3 hundredths put me P8.' But also, I could say, 'If I did Turn 12 a bit better, then I was there.' When it is like that, unless I did a perfect lap, then maybe I'd say we were unlucky. I'd be more critical of myself and say I could have done a better job in a couple corners.
"When it is 2 or 3 hundredths, it is hard to blame the car for that. My Turn 12 was not great. I went in pretty hot and just hurt the exit. At least compared to Nico, that is where I lost it. So it was there, in me or in the car, so I'll try and get it right the next time."
The three who dropped into Q2 will have the benefit of choosing which tyre they start Sunday's race on, which can often be a blessing in disguise for the midfield drivers not making it through to the final portion of qualifying. Of course, if the rain comes, then all bets are off anyway...
A good day for Haas: Romain Grosjean handed Haas a morale boost by qualifying sixth for tomorrow's race. The French driver is in a car that has been stripped back to how it ran at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, devoid of all the upgrades that followed, on the back of Grosjean's feedback and feeling with the car at recent races. Kevin Magnussen missed out on joining him in Q2 by a tiny fraction of a second, but will line up 12th in the up-to-date version of Haas' car.
That result alone is likely to give the team food for thought about what steps it should take on the Dane's car for future races, although the main point of the exercise is to get a full understanding of the tyre issues that have plagued their races. A clean race is essential to help the American team arrive at a decision soon, which will no doubt be a topic of discussion in Sunday's prerace briefing.
Haas' drivers are still in the doghouse for colliding at the British Grand Prix -- team boss Guenther Steiner will be relieved the two men start a few rows apart on Sunday afternoon. Haas is still not convinced it has solved the mystery behind its lack of race pace this season but Grosjean has put them in a good position to challenge for a much-needed return to the points.
He's done it!: Lance Stroll managed to end the unenviable run of races without an appearance in Q2, which had stretched to 14 ahead of the German Grand Prix. The Canadian was able to progress past the opening qualifying segment, though he did finish bottom of Q2 timing screens. Baby steps, Lance...