Rosberg was to be the first Mercedes driver to set a hot lap at the beginning of Q3, but an electronics problem forced him to return to his garage despite setting fastest times in the first two sectors.
“I don’t know what it was, I just suddenly lost the throttle,” explained Rosberg. “The engine just cut completely, just at the end of the lap.
“I’m sure we’ll fix it for tomorrow – it’s never happened before, so I’m sure it’ll be okay.”
He was able to return to the track shortly afterwards, but with just one opportunity to extract the most from his new supersoft tyres.
The German didn’t disappoint his home Hockenheimring crowd. He took provisional pole before having his supremacy confirmed when teammate Lewis Hamilton’s second attempt at pole fell one-tenth short of usurping the sister car.
“It was a great feeling, just a great lap,” Rosberg said.
“Not only was it just one lap that I had, but I also had extra fuel to make sure that I would have an extra shot if a mistake happened, so I was really satisfied with that one.”
Daniel Ricciardo qualified third, 0.36 seconds behind Rosberg and 0.25 behind Hamilton.
The gap between Red Bull Racing and Mercedes waxed and waned dramatically across the weekend, appearing significant on Friday (July 29), tight on Saturday morning (July 30), large again early in qualifying, and reasonable by the end of Saturday in the final qualifying classification.
“I think we got pretty close, to be honest,” said Ricciardo. “I said yesterday that if we could be within half a second, it’s not a bad day in qualifying, so hopefully it means something tomorrow.
“My first lap in Q3 was really good and I knew there probably wasn’t that much more on the table in the second run – there was maybe a tenth or so in it with the perfect lap, but not enough to challenge for pole.”
However, the Australian will carry a minor disadvantage into today’s (July 31) race by starting on tyres more worn than those of his rivals.
Ricciardo completed five laps on his supersofts in Q2 whereas Rosberg and Hamilton needed only three apiece to progress to the top 10.
Max Verstappen’s fourth-quickest time enabled Red Bull Racing to lock out the second row ahead of Ferrari in the battle for second in the constructor’s championship.
The two teams, separated by one point in Ferrari’s favour in the title standings, have been evenly matched in recent races, but Red Bull Racing’s margin around the Hockenheimring was almost half a second.
“I think the car was pretty okay,” Kimi Räikkönen, who qualified fifth, said. “We need to put more downforce on the car to go faster.
“It’s disappointing where we are, but this is how it is today. We’ll keep working and improving, and that’s about it.”
Räikkönen was faster than Sebastian Vettel on the third row, and the duo held a 0.2-second buffer to the battling Force India and Williams cars.
Force India pair Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Perez were split by Valtteri Bottas’s Williams from seventh to ninth, while the second Williams, driven by Felipe Massa, set the tenth-best time. All four were separated by just one tenth of a second.
Nico Hülkenberg, however, will start the race from eighth after the stewards penalised him one grid place for the team fitting his car with a set of tyres that were supposed to be returned to Pirelli before qualifying.
Williams leads the two-team midfield championship battle by 20 points, but Force India has outscored the Grove-based outfit by 31 points since it made a significant upgrade to its car at Spanish Grand Prix in May.
P. Driver Team Time Gap
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:14.363
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:14.470 +0.107
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:14.726 +0.363
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:14.834 +0.471
5 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:15.142 +0.779
6 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:15.315 +0.952
7 Nico Hülkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:15.510 +1.147
8 Valtteri Bottas Force India-Mercedes 1:15.530 +1.167
9 Sergio Perez Williams-Mercedes 1:15.537 +1.174
10 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:15.615 +1.252
11 Esteban Gutierrez Haas-Ferrari 1:15.883
12 Jenson Button McLaren-Honda 1:15.909
13 Carlos Sainz* Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:15.989
14 Fernando Alonso McLaren-Honda 1:16.041
15 Romain Grosjean* Haas-Ferrari 1:16.086
16 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:16.665
17 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:16.716
18 Pascal Wehrlein Manor-Mercedes 1:16.717
19 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:16.876
20 Rio Haryanto Manor-Mercedes 1:16.977
21 Felipe Nasr Sauber-Ferrari 1:17.123
22 Marcus Ericsson Sauber-Ferrari 1:17.238