Fernando Alonso will start on pole for tomorrow’s German Grand Prix at Hockenheim after another rain affected qualifying session; another day for making the right decisions and being on the track at the right moment.
It was Alonso’s 22nd career pole and his second in a row after Silverstone, as he looks to consolidate his position at the top of the drivers’ world championship.
Sebastian Vettel was second and Mark Webber third. The final stages of qualifying were all about timing and tyre temperature and Alonso got it spot on, setting two fast laps as others struggled to get on his pace. He had done a pit stop for a new set of full wets just prior to his final run and it made the difference, a strategic decision which he and Ferrari were delighted with.
“It has been a strange weekend for conditions on the track,” said Alonso. “The forecast should be a little bit better for tomorrow, so we are quite optimistic.”
Meanwhile there are 5 place gearbox change penalties for Grosjean, Webber and Rosberg. Webber’s penalty means that Schumacher will start 3rd with Nico Hulkenberg fourth and Pastor Maldonado fifth. Schumacher said, “We cannot look ahead, we have to look behind us. It will be a tough race.”
Heavy rain started falling during Q2, as it had at Silverstone two weeks ago, but not so bad that the session needed suspending at that point, as it had in Great Britain.
The track was dry for the start of Q1 and Alonso was quickly into the groove, with the updated McLarens of Hamilton and Button also quick out of the traps.
Most of the front runners started with the medium tyres, but those who needed a second run went for the soft tyre on the whole. Raikkonen, Rosberg and Schumacher were the exceptions using mediums. Raikkonen set the fastest time.
Hamilton and Button got through Q1 with only one run, showing some confidence at this stage.
Schumacher just squeaked through in 17th place, eliminating Vergne once again.
Rain was forecast for half way through the session and it duly fell before Q2 started.
Button went straight out on intermediates, hoping that the first laps on the track before it got too wet would be the fastest.
As the rain came down more heavily, Hamilton set the fastest time from Schumacher, Vettel and Alonso. Rosberg was the first to switch from intermediates to full wets, followed by Hulkenberg. Webber improved to P7 with seven minutes to go, showing it was still possible, but the conditions were too bad to improve in the closing minutes.
This put Ricciardo, Perez, Kobayashi, Massa, Grosjean, Senna and Rosberg out. Rosberg said that he had been unable to get temperature into the tyres, despite two runs.
Q3 started on time, with everyone going out on full wets, but Hulkenberg showed that aquaplaning was a real problem, with a high speed 360 degree spin, luckily he didn’t hit anything.
Schumacher said on radio that it would be very tough to “survive” the session. A message from Vettel, meanwhile, seemed to suggest frustration that Webber had not let him through.
The margins in the final stage of qualifying were large; 1.78 seconds between the pole and P4. Alonso timed it perfectly at the end, getting the temperature into the wet tyres and setting two laps faster than his rivals in the closing stages.
McLaren’s updates looked like they had made a real difference for the dry conditions, but weren’t able to impact much on their performance in the wet and they qualified 7th with Button and 8th with Hamilton. Hamilton said that he didn’t have enough grip in the wet, indicating that tyres and temperature were likely to blame.
GERMAN GRAND PRIX, Hockenheim, Qualifying
1. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m40.621s
2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m41.026s
3. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m41.496s
4. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m42.459s
5. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m43.501s
6. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m43.950s
7. Jenson Button McLaren 1m44.113s
8. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m44.186s
9. Paul di Resta Force India 1m44.889s
10. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m45.811s
11. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m39.789s + 2.424
12. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m39.933s + 2.568
13. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m39.985s + 2.620
14. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m40.212s + 2.847
15. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m40.574s + 3.209
16. Bruno Senna Williams 1m40.752s + 3.387
17. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m41.551s + 4.186
18. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m16.741s + 1.048
19. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1m17.620s + 1.927
20. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1m18.531s + 2.838
21. Charles Pic Marussia 1m19.220s + 3.527
22. Timo Glock Marussia 1m19.291s + 3.598
23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1m19.912s + 4.219
24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m20.230s + 4.537