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Vettel 'bitter' as Ferrari endures qualifying nightmare in Germany

HOCKENHEIM, Germany -- Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc had no doubt the team let a shot at pole position slip through its fingers after suffering car issues on both cars in qualifying at the German Grand Prix.

Ferrari appeared well-placed to take the fight to Mercedes on Saturday afternoon, having not suffered as badly in the cooler conditions as many had expected. Leclerc had topped the final practice session of the week and the red cars looked likely to set up a thrilling battle for the front spot on the grid -- however, it wasn't to be.

Vettel's qualifying session lasted just one lap before he returned to the pit lane with an issue. After an agonising wait in the garage, he soon climbed out of his car as Q1 neared its conclusion, meaning he is set to start at the back of the grid. Ferrari's afternoon continued to unravel later in the session -- at the start of Q3, the team's mechanics scrambled around Leclerc's car in a similar fashion. Leclerc soon climbed out too, meaning he would not set a lap time in the top-10 shootout.

The double failure gave Lewis Hamilton a comfortable stroll to pole position, with Max Verstappen finishing in second ahead of the championship leader's teammate Valtteri Bottas. Vettel could only think of an opportunity lost.

"I don't know what happened," the German driver said. "Something broke in the turbo and it was game over from there. So obviously very bitter. I think the car was great. Lost out on a big chance but hopefully we'll have a big one coming again tomorrow."

Reflecting on starting his home race from the rear end of the grid, he said: "For sure I'm looking forward to the race but obviously it would've been nicer to start at the very front and not the very back."

Ferrari later confirmed Vettel's problem was linked to the airflow to the turbo, while Leclerc's was a fuel system issue. Leclerc said the focus for Ferrari now must be on the issues not repeating themselves on Sunday.

"It is a shame but we will try to understand what happened to not reproduce it. It is a difficult day for the team and I hope it will be a very positive day tomorrow.

"I felt great in the car and the car felt great. Today and all weekend. It is shame it ends up like this."

As things stood after qualifying, Leclerc will start from 10th on the grid. Ferrari may well opt to make wholescale changes to Vettel's car, which would mean he starts from the pit lane, rather than the back spot of the grid.