Lewis Hamilton secured an unlikely pole position for the German Grand Prix after a double mechanical blow for Ferrari.
The Italian team had been fastest throughout practice at Hockenheim, but after an engine problem prevented Vettel from setting a lap time, a fuel-system issue then hit Leclerc’s car.
Vettel will start his home race from the back of the grid, with team-mate Leclerc set to line up in 10th.
In the absence of both Ferrari drivers, championship leader Hamilton romped to the front to take pole. This, despite Mercedes having struggled for pace all weekend.
The British driver will be joined on the front row by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. Valtteri Bottas will line up from third.
Mercedes have played second fiddle to Ferrari here, with the red cars heading into qualifying having topped all three practice sessions.
But disaster struck from the outset. In the opening minutes, Vettel reported a lack of power on his very first outing to the track, and, after returning to his garage, his Ferrari mechanics were unable to rectify the issue.
It is the latest in a succession of blows to Vettel, who would have expected to be in contention for pole at his home race, and end a winless streak which stretches back to last August’s Belgian Grand Prix.
In Vettel’s absence, Leclerc was the overwhelming favourite to claim the third pole of his career.
But, ahead of Q3 – the shoot-out for pole – Ferrari mechanics were scurrying all over the back of the Monegasque’s car. Under-fire team principal Mattia Binotto was seen pacing the garage.
With a handful of minutes remaining, Leclerc emerged from his cockpit, the issue terminal.
That paved the way for Hamilton to take pole, finishing a third of a second clear of Verstappen.
“I don’t know how we did it today,” said Hamilton. “I am not sure what happened to the Ferrari’s. This is a second home grand prix for us so it is incredible to celebrate with this.
“Ferrari have been really fast, and they were on another level, but the time at the end would have been close to compete with Leclerc if he had set a lap.”
On a poor weekend for Lando Norris, the British teenager was eliminated from Q1 for the first time in his career.
The 19-year-old, who has been second-best to Carlos Sainz in the sister McLaren throughout practice, finished only 16th. Sainz lines up in seventh.
British rookie George Russell out-qualified Robert Kubica for a 11th consecutive time. The young Englishman finished a tenth clear of his team-mate, and is set to start from 18th.
Lewis Hamilton was celebrating putting his name alongside Formula One’s immortals after driving to a record sixth British Grand Prix victory.
Hamilton lapped up the adulation of the 141,000 fans who flocked to Silverstone in the hope of seeing their man surpass Jim Clark and Alain Prost as the king of the British race.
Hamilton, aided in part by the timing of a safety car, took the chequered flag by 25 seconds from Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
It was his seventh win from 10 races this year, and his 80th in all. Hamilton is now 39 points clear at the halfway mark in his quest for a sixth world triumph. This is his best-ever start to a season.
Hamilton slowed down on his in-lap to collect a Union Jack from a marshal. He held it aloft from his Mercedes cockpit before declaring his love for the Silverstone crowd over the radio. As has become customary here, he then leapt into the arms of his adoring faithful who chanted his name.
“Today was one of the best days I can remember having,” said Hamilton, 34. “This is the greatest single moment for an athlete, to raise their flag as the number one.
I can’t tell you how incredible this feels guys. Everyone’s support and energy out there, that was crazy. I can’t express how grateful I am to all the fans, and to my incredible team. This moment will stay with me for the rest of my life 🙏🏾Thank you #wewinandwelosetogether pic.twitter.com/j2SgjYxbND— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) 14 July 2019
“I remember growing up watching this sport, watching a lot of the greats, meeting a lot of the greats and even, in Niki Lauda, working with one of the greats. To now be among them is so special.
“I’ve done so many races now, and you would think that you’d get used to winning, and the feeling would numb down – but today felt like the first victory I ever had.
“One day, I will have that picture of me in the car holding the British flag. I will always be able to look at that and smile about it for the rest of my life.”
Hamilton’s fine display, capped off by sealing a bonus point with a track record on his final lap, ensured the perfect response for Mercedes following their poor showing in Austria a fortnight ago.
“To bounce back from our worst weekend of the season with a one-two finish at our home race is a great feeling,” said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.
“Lewis was struggling a bit yesterday, but drove a very strong race today and even managed to get the point for the fastest lap on 30-lap old tyres.
“We’re still not quite sure how he managed that. It’s a great result for him in front of his home crowd.”
An emotional Lewis Hamilton put his Mercedes on pole for the Monaco Grand Prix and said: “This is for you, Niki.”
Hamilton will start as the overwhelming favourite to win on Monte Carlo’s tight streets on Sunday after he edged out team-mate Valtteri Bottas by 0.086 seconds with his final lap.
The exuberant world champion yelled over the radio in delight, before leaping out of his silver machine and jumping on to the catch fencing at Rascasse to celebrate with fans.
After securing his 85th career pole, Hamilton spoke for the first time about Niki Lauda – the non-executive Mercedes chairman who died on Monday – after he skipped his media commitments earlier this week, saying he was too upset.
“Niki would have wanted us to get in the car, and he would say ‘give it a***holes’,” said Hamilton. “He says that all the time.
“We wanted to do him proud and so far we have done that. We will try to pull out something special for him tomorrow.
“We have had a lot of success over the years, but I cannot remember a pole lap that means as much as this. It has been a difficult week for the whole team, and personally, too.
“There has been a cloud over us, but we have been trying to lift each other up and deliver for Niki.”
Hamilton danced his way around the principality with the painted red halo, in tribute to Lauda, standing out on his silver car.
Lauda has been absent from the F1 scene since he underwent a double lung transplant last August.
“I was in touch with Niki a lot over the past eight months,” added Hamilton. “We would send videos back and forth.
“Some days he looked good and was really perky. But there were other days where you could see he had lost a lot of weight – it was tough to see from afar.”
Hamilton then reflected on the phone call he received from the outspoken Austrian – urging him to turn his back on McLaren and move to Mercedes.
The British driver has won four of his five world championships, and 54 of his 75 career victories with the Silver Arrows. In contrast, McLaren have not won a single race since the British star left.
“I was down by the pool where I live here in Monaco, and I remember getting a call from Niki,” said Hamilton.
“We had never really spoken before, but he said to me, ‘you should come to Mercedes, this is where you should be’.
“Over the years he became my partner in crime, involved in negotiations, pushing for improvements on the car. He was such a racer. He would be back at the team factory giving them a***holes.
“He was a part of the process of changing my life. If I didn’t receive the call, I would be a one-time world champion, probably with 21 wins. Now, I sit here as a five-time world champion and I owe him a lot for that.
“We all love him, miss him and it is hard to think I will never see him again, and have another conversation with him. He will live long in all of our memories.”
Mercedes have had it all their own way this year, starting the campaign with a record five one-two finishes. The Silver Arrows are on course to make it six in six after another dominant performance. It would be the perfect tribute.
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen lines up third ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. His team-mate Charles Leclerc is set to start 16th after a woeful Ferrari miscalculation eliminated the Monegasque from the opening phase of qualifying.