With top director Ron Howard visiting their pitlane garage for the day, Mercedes enjoyed and endured all the drama of a Hollywood movie in qualifying.
German Rosberg, who won in Britain last weekend to send the Silver Arrows second in the constructors' championship, failed to make the final phase of qualifying and will start from a lowly 11th on the grid on Sunday.
"It was just a misjudgement we made. We had a cutoff time that we thought would be reasonably comfortable, he achieved it but the track seemed to get a lot quicker at the end and we hadn't anticipated it," Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn told reporters.
"He didn't have the greatest of laps anyway so that was added to the frustration but we didn't make the right call on that one so we'll have live with it and see what benefits it might bring for the race, because of course Nico's now got free tyre choice."
Rosberg had gone well in practice at the Nuerburgring and was second quickest in all three sessions.
But his hopes of following up his Silverstone steal - when he won after triple world champion Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull broke down while leading 11 laps from the end - with home heroics looked unlikely after the big bungle.
"The team just did a mistake because they underestimated the track ramping up, so that's a big disappointment. I didn't see that coming. I thought it would be easy to be on the front row today," Rosberg, son of 1982 champion Keke, told Sky Sports television.
"It's definitely tough to digest that one. It's going to take a bit of time. Tomorrow from 11th I don't know, it's not going to be possible to do much but I'll give it everything anyway."
Rosberg, who also won in Monaco this year, was asked at the Thursday news conference whether a run at the title was now possible given his recent form but he has a 50-point gap to German rival and championship leader Vettel after eight of 19 races.
His chances of cutting that gap this weekend look remote with Vettel qualifying second on the grid behind Hamilton and confident his car is quicker and more reliable than it was at Silverstone.
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