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Alonso grabs first pole for two years as British stars struggle in rain
Posted By: James Allen  |  07 Jul 2012   |  5:25 pm GMT  |  236 comments

Fernando Alonso survived a spin in Q1, a yellow flag in Q2 and picked the right moment in Q3 to set the pole lap for the British Grand Prix.

It was the Spaniard’s first pole position since Singapore 2010, as he edged out Mark Webber by 5/100ths of a second with Michael Schumacher third.

In a rain delayed qualifying session Alonso used all his experience and guile to be in the right place at the right time to take his 21st pole position. During the 10 minute final shoot out the timesheets changed constantly with Webber, Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton each holding provisional pole.

Hamilton faded however; he could not match the pace he had shown in Q2 and ended the session in 8th place. The McLaren team’s fortune was even worse with Jenson Button, who struggled with front tyre warm up on wet tyres in Q1 and ended the session in 18th place, his worst of 2012.

The rain delay came during Q2, lasting almost two hours. FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting was concerned about aquaplaning on the standing water.

When the cars went back out on track the conditions were treacherous but improving, with track position being the key to making it into Q3.

As the cars re-emerged for the final 6 minutes times dropped immediately with every car improving their previous time, making for a mighty scrap to find good track position as the chequered flag was dropped. Hamilton managed to claim the top spot at the climax of the session as Alonso and Vettel scraped through in the dying seconds, with their place in the final shoot-out being made secure by Romain Grosjean who spun in to the gravel at the final corner and ceased any chance of progression for those outside the top ten.

The beginning of Q3 saw the teams split on tyre choice, some opting for extreme wets whilst the majority chose the intermediate compound; the latter proved to be best suited to the drying track. Alonso looked threatening throughout the final ten minutes and used his ever wearing intermediate tyres to suit the track conditions.

Behind the top 3, Sebastian Vettel had a fairly quiet session and put in a late flying lap to join Schumacher on the second row. Felipe Massa had a very good session, although he was 1.3 seconds off Alonso, taking 5th place and managing to keep his nose clean in the terrible conditions. He is to be joined on the third row by Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen, the Finn putting in a very solid performance, considering he had no KERS for the duration of qualifying.

Pastor Maldonado once again proved his prowess for qualifying, jointing Hamilton on row four in 7th place.

The final top ten places were filled by Nico Hulkenberg and Romain Grosjean. However, Hulkenberg will receive a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change. Whilst Grosjean did not run in the final part of qualifying as he beached his car in the final seconds of Q2 and had to be rescued by the marshals.

Nico Rosberg was third in Q2 before the rain delay and didn’t get back into the groove, he exited the session in 13th place. However, due to grid penalties for Hulkenberg and Kamui Kobayashi, he will begin the race in 11th position with an extra set of intermediate tyres should the conditions allow it.

Alonso almost exited in Q2 as well, he was outside the top ten when he came across the zone of Romain Grosjean’s spin, but examinations of the data showed that he did slow down in that sector.

Someone who is sure to be disappointed is Sergio Perez, topping the timesheets in Q2 before the rain delay but finding himself down in 17th place by the end of the session.

The promised rain chose to play mind games with the Formula One paddock; staying dry all day until just ten minutes prior to the qualifying session meaning that all cars used the intermediate tyre in Q1. With the threat of more rain the first phase of qualifying became very chaotic as the showers briefly stopped and the track began to dry. And this stop in the rain proved crucial as a short burst of heavy rain fell with five minutes remaining meaning that no cars would improve for the remainder of the session, and therefore with Jenson Button sat in 18th place at this time he was the biggest loser as he would be unable to improve on his position. Although, the Briton chose to try his luck on a final set of intermediates and was set to reach Q2 were it not for yellow flags in the final sector of his final lap.

[Additional Reporting: Matt Meadows]

BRITISH GRAND PRIX, Silverstone, Qualifying
1. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m51.746s
2. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m51.793s + 0.047
3. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m52.020s + 0.274
4. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m52.199s + 0.453
5. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m53.065s + 1.319
6. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m53.290s + 1.544
7. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m53.539s + 1.793
8. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m53.543s + 1.797
9. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m54.382s + 2.636
10. Romain Grosjean Lotus no time
Q2 cut-off time: 1m56.931s Gap **
11. Paul di Resta Force India 1m57.009s + 2.112
12. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m57.071s + 2.174
13. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m57.108s + 2.211
14. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m57.132s + 2.235
15. Bruno Senna Williams 1m57.426s + 2.529
16. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m57.719s + 2.822
17. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m57.895s + 2.998
Q1 cut-off time: 1m47.105s Gap *
18. Jenson Button McLaren 1m48.044s + 1.765
19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1m49.027s + 2.748
20. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1m49.477s + 3.198
21. Timo Glock Marussia 1m51.618s + 5.339
22. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1m52.742s + 6.463
23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m53.040s + 6.761
24. Charles Pic Marussia 1m54.143s + 7.864

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Hmm, looks like it gonna be a dry race. di Resta mentioned in qualy yesterday that they went with a dry setup on the car (which compromised wet qualy). di Resta a joker in this race. Not sure if more ppl took the same approach..


Did Hamilton not say it was too dangerous on the team radio as well??


Yes, regrettably from McLaren’s point of view


C´mon guys, have you not noticed that this is the SANTANDER British Grand Prix and who sponsors Ferrari and Alonso!


It doesn’t work like that, really!


If Alonso was Perez, bet all the Ferrari fans would be saying the session should not have been red flagged.

Can help wondering what Alonso would be saying as well!!


The top teams are now so closely matched that the turkeys in the paddock are looking more out of place every day. Losing out on Q2 because you slowed down due to a parked Marussia seems as randomly unlucky as a man can get. But as gutted as I was for Jenson, I was delighted that Alonso chose the path more travelled by.


Great drive by alonso, but I’m with Gary Anderson – session shouldn’t have been stopped and ferrari would have had egg on their faces. Everyone had a chance to set a lap and they didn’t have to go out in it. Should be a good race, alonso looking good for back to back victories I think.


No, for a number of reasons you can read all along this thread. In brief: Red flag in quails is ruled for avoiding accidents that may end with casualties and sure in losing cars to the race (though my be you like Circus Maximus entertainment more than F1 racing); pilots and teams agreed with this particular red flag, it is documented; every pilot equally had 6+ minutes to improve times after red flag; spectators at home and in situ with enough patience/love for the race waited and eventually had the full civilized spectacle.


A very simple question James. Imagine Lewis Hamilton winning UK GP and no image at all of Macca garage. Imagine Englishman overtaking during race and no images at all of Macca garaje; imagine HAM reaching pole and no images of Macca garage. Can you? I don’t think so. FOM infinged art 27 of General Prescriptions.


C’mon guys…. please get live timing; Alonso’s sector 3 was Yellow(not green) so no penalty there. And as much as I like to watch the race on BBC I have to say they are pretty biased. It almost made me laugh the way Eddie j wouldn’t stop about proving there was no need for a red flag… and on top of that insinuating it was to give Ferrari an advantage….. PLEASE…. what do you want then? A severe crash to happen? Red Flags are for safety. If anything he should be complaining about Silverstone’s water drainage system!! It’s not like it never rains in England 😉 … And BTW, yes Alonso has been “lucky” these last races but luck is what happens when hard work meets opportunity.

Sterling Mindenhall

What he said.

James, it’d be nice if you could do a feature on timing and scoring, to how many decimal places it’s tracked, some historical examples of when that’s been a factor, etc. A non-trivial subset of your readership seems to think that time is only measured in tenths.


When you have four or more cars doing piroettes on the same lap that’s defintely not driveable and I for 1 commend Charlie Whiting and the stewards for red flagging when they did . It was spot on ! Who wants to see cars doing 2.10+ laps even if they weren’t spearing of the track ! Great effort by the fans their enthusiasm was truly endearing!

Now all that’s left is to congratulate Fernando and Mark for a good quali. I still think mercedes , Mclaren will be good in the race but I still wish Kimi will pull off a win that would make me smile:)


I will put it the other way round. The lap was good enough (under the preasure of getting the pass), Alonso was clever as to slow down just but the necessary under the yellow flag, hence Alonso managed eventually to pass to Q3. Driving excellence, knowledge of the rules, quick thinking and a bit of champion’s fortune.


Shows that old timers are still great in the wet. Today it would be nice to have the experienced drivers on podium again!


So glad Q2 was red flagged. I managed to spot my FacesForCharity photo on Seb’s car during a close up in the pits. Seriously….

Tom in adelaide

That’s awesome, i’ve trying to spot my daughter – no luck yet!


British fans won’t be happy at all. The red flag called was triggered by Alonso and many drivers agreed it was the right call. Enjoyed Q3 with all the wobbling and drivers trying very hard to stay on track. On raceday it could be a different story. Just hope rain stays light and they’ll have a good fight. Who knows it might be blue sky and a heated track.


So, if they start from their grid slots, rather than behind the SC…. what is/should be the situation with those starting on the racing line? Would they get a better start in damp conditions?


I guess that the racing line position is not relevant (gives no advantage) once the track has been washed out.


Great qualifying.

Alonso deserves pole, if only for that save he pulled off when he nearly stuck it in the wall in an earlier session.

I kind of see Martin Brundle’s point about JB backing off too much, but my mind is drawn back to Suzuka in 2009 when he and Barrichello got penalised for not lifting under yellows. Shame, because he looked as though he was getting to grips with the tyres.


If there was any doubt as to the legality of Alonsos’ Q2 performance, you can bet your bottom dollar that Ferrari’s opposition would have been the quickest to protest. They didn’t and one has to accept that the stewards and Charlie Whiting were similarly quite satisfied that Alonso had not infringed the yellow flag rules.

The suggestions that there is a conspiracy not to punish Ferrari and Alonso for so called infringements are baseless. It’s worth remembering that in 2010 Alonso had a bad run of luck with the stewards; following a brief outburst at Valencia, he shut up and nearly won the 2010 WC. Hamilton on the other hand felt persecuted last year and let himself down badly by the end of the year.

Let’s just enjoy the spectacle of these great drivers performing at the top of their game. By the way, Alonso’s peers on the F1 grid voted him the best amongst their illustrious ranks last year. That said, we are witnessing a great era of wonderful talent and numerous ex-WCs and we the spectator and fan should enjoy the spectacle whilst it lasts.


It surely shows that the Teams are generally very sporting in their attitude to protesting others.

‘Gamesmanship’ used to be more prevalent than it is now (in F1, not football), although there was one particular Team who used to protest everything, sometimes getting a judgment in their favour.

They don’t do it so much now.


I cannot agree more with you. Thanks for putting this balanced opinion in words.


Anyone who is stating that throwing the Red Flag during Qual is ridic. The track was not suitable for driving. Plain and simple, FP, Q or the Race itself. Do not think for one second that they did it to spare the Ferrari’s. HAM VET and a bunch of others said that it was a good idea to stop the session.


I think Alonso showed Jenson that by knowing the rules he could have progressed into Q2. Jenson backed off and lost about 3 seconds when he saw the yellow flag in the last few corners on a lap that up to then was quick enough to get him thru. He should have known his previous laps sector 3 time and stayed under that and hope it was enough. Which it would have been.


Yes, a small lift for a fraction of a second would have shown up on the telemetry and that should have been enough avoid any penalties.

Tom in adelaide

Anyone smarter than me care to calculate the on-track distance between MAL and HAM based on those Q3 times?


james who is your money on for the victory tomorrow ?

im going with “mick the shoe” or kimi .


Red flag or not, there was 6:19 left in the session. It was the same for all 17 cars left, 6:19 to advance to Q3. Alonso did his job. Then there was 10:00 in Q3 for the final 10 cars to take pole. Alonso got it done. It’s silly to carry on about the red flag. It was a lake out there and they were right to stop it. Even Hamilton, amongst the bravest in hard rain, was in favor of it.


Strange that every time the cameras showed Kimi sitting in his car in the Lotus garage, they switched to thermal imagery, so all his engineers glowed with bright thermal colours. But Kimi himself didn’t show up on the thermal pics: he’s just a guy that’s cool as ice!


Congatulations to schu, not bad for a old timer!! Schu for the win….. Want to see that victory jump:):)

michael grievson

Great qualifying. I have to say though I disagree with the commentary that Q2 should not have been red flagged. If a driver had a huge accident Eddie Jordan and co would have been the first to say Charlie Whiting should have red flagged. Best to avoid an accident than wait until one happens


Completely agree – in a sport that is so competitive you need somebody to save the teams and drivers from themselves.

It’s all well and good to say that “if it’s too dangerous, don’t go out” – but somebody would risk it, and probably have an almighty crash.

I also disagree with the calls from Eddie Jordan to abort qualifying and take the grid based on the Q2 results “because the delay is frustrating for the fans”.

Although inconvenient for TV schedules, we need to remember that there are people at the track who have paid hundreds of pounds to watch qualifying, and they should take priority.

It is right in my view that they make every effort to complete qualifying.

Tornillo Amarillo

My reasonable dream on Sunday, I would sign for:

1. Schumi

2. Webber

3. Alonso

4. Hamilton

5. Raikkonen

6. Massa

7. Vettel

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