Qualifying for the German Grand Prix was a thrilling four way scrap between Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.
In the end it was Webber who took it, his ninth career pole and the third this season. But Lewis Hamilton shocked his rivals by taking second fastest time, just 6/100ths off the pole. He described it as a “good lap”, but this was some understatement – he was over a second faster than team mate Jenson Button.
Vettel was pushed off the front row of the grid for the first time this season in third place, ahead of Fernando Alonso.
“My form has been getting better in the last few races, ” said Webber. “We got it all together in the end. I couldn’t have got much more out of it. It was my complete limit.”
Hamilton said, “We’ve had some upgrades this weekend and there’s. I underestimated how good the car would be on light fuel. It was one of the happiest laps I’ve ever had, it felt incredible.”
Hamilton and Webber were stronger than their rivals mainly in the first sector, clearly confident in their ability to get the braking right for Turn 1. Their sector one times were the platform for their success.
The gap between the soft and medium tyre was as much as 1.5 seconds in the cool conditions of today (22 degrees track temperature), which meant that many drivers had to be careful in tyre choice in the early stages of qualifying to be sure to get through.
In Q1, Renault had to use it, Mercedes too. And so did Felipe Massa, who struggled for pace in free practice relative to team mate Alonso, six tenths of a second being the norm between them.
Kobayashi was the driver to miss the cut in 18th place. He has scored points this season from the back of the grid already.
In terms of team mate match ups, Daniel Ricciardo did very well to qualify within 0.025s of Tonio Liuzzi in the HRT, while Karun Chandhok was 0.9s slower than Heikki Kovalainen. As he explained it, before this weekend he had not driven an F1 car this year on slick tyres and not used the DRS.
In Q2 the star performers were Adrian Sutil, who got his Force India into 8th place ahead of Schumacher’s Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton, who set a fastest time of 1m 30.998, with the first sector time three tenths faster than any of his rivals.
Pastor Maldonado outqualified team mate Rubens Barrichello for the fourth time in five races.
In Q3, the Red Bulls came alive, with Webber half a second faster than Hamilton and Alonso on the first runs and Vettel just a tenth behind him.
Hamilton was the surprise of the session, his and the McLaren’s braking ability into Turn 1 being one of the decisive factors in giving him an advantage in sector 1. He got his first front row since the Malaysian Grand Prix.
GERMAN GRAND PRIX, Nurburgring, Qualifying
1. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m30.079s
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m30.134s + 0.055
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m30.216s + 0.137
4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m30.442s + 0.363
5. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m30.910s + 0.831
6. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m31.263s + 1.184
7. Jenson Button McLaren 1m31.288s + 1.209
8. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m32.010s + 1.931
9. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m32.187s + 2.108
10. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m32.482s + 2.403
11. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m32.2152 + 1.217
12. Paul di Resta Force India 1m32.5602 + 1.562
13. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m32.6352 + 1.637
14. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1m33.0432 + 2.045
15. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m33.1762 + 2.178
16. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1m33.5462 + 2.548
17. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m33.6982 + 2.700
18. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m33.786s + 1.960
19. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1m35.599s + 3.773
20. Timo Glock Virgin 1m36.400s + 4.574
21. Karun Chandhok Lotus 1m36.422s + 4.596
22. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin 1m36.641s + 4.815
23. Tonio Liuzzi HRT 1m37.011s + 5.185
24. Daniel Ricciardo HRT 1m37.036s + 5.210