Championship leader Fernando Alonso earned his twenty-first pole position in Formula One with a superb performance during a tricky wet qualifying session at Hockenheim.
This was the Spaniard’s second straight pole following similar wet conditions at Silverstone. The last-minute scramble to cross the finishing line with the quickest lap time made the top ten shootout really exciting.
The Red Bulls qualified in second and third with home crowd favourite Sebastian Vettel ahead of team-mate Mark Webber, although the latter will drop five places on the grid due to a penalty for a gearbox change.
This promotes Michael Schumacher up a position. The seven-time world champion was on provisional pole for a while before ending up fourth quickest for Mercedes.
Three of the top four positions on the grid will go to German drivers, as Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg delivered a spectacular fifth-fastest time to give himself a Formula One career-best starting slot on row two. His team-mate Paul di Resta also reached Q3 and will start ninth.
Pastor Maldonado completed the top six for Williams, ahead of the McLarens. Jenson Button was quicker than Lewis Hamilton, as the 2009 champion delivered his best qualifying performance since Bahrain.
Kimi Raikkonen was the final Q3 qualifier and rounds off the top ten for Lotus.
The rain had arrived just before Q2 began, leading to a scramble to get a fast time in on the one or two laps that were always going to be the quickest of the session.
Among those who missed out were two of the drivers with five-place gearbox change penalties: Romain Grosjean and Nico Rosberg. The pair will start in P15 and P17 respectively.
Felipe Massa slid off the wet surface on his first Q2 lap before rejoining right in front of his Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso. Despite being blocked, this did not stop Fernando reaching Q3, and yet Felipe’s error consigned him to P14.
Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo almost made it into the top ten as the rain he wanted arrived, missing the Q3 cut by just 0.06 seconds. Also out in Q2 were the Saubers and Bruno Senna’s Williams.
The first qualifying session was fully dry and fairly predictable, although Schumacher, Button and Webber all cut it a little close in either timing or pace terms.
In the event, the eliminated midfielder was Jean-Eric Vergne for the sixth time in his nine Grands Prix.
Heikki Kovalainen was nearly a second fastest than Caterham team-mate Vitaly Petrov, while Timo Glock found himself outqualified on his home ground by Marussia team-mate Charles Pic, despite the rookie’s lack of practice mileage.
Sunday’s race should take place in the dry conditions and despite the grid penalties applied to three drivers, overtaking at Hockenheim is possible thanks to the long straights.
And yet all eyes will be focused at the front with championship leader Alonso and home crowd favourite Vettel on row one. Can Sebastian finally take his first win in Germany or will Fernando earn his third win, extending his title lead? We will find out on race day.
Qualifying times from Hockenheim:
1. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m40.621s
2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m41.026s
3. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m42.459s
4. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m43.501s
5. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m43.950s
6. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m44.113s
7. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m44.186s
8. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m41.496s*
9. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m44.889s
10. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m45.811s
11. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m39.789s
12. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m39.985s
13. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m40.212s
14. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m40.752s
15. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m16.741s
16. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m17.620s
17. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m39.933s**
18. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m18.531s
19. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m40.574s*
20. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m19.220s
21. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m41.551s*
22. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m19.291s
23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m19.912s
24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m20.230s
*Five-place grid penalty for gearbox change.
**Five-place grid penalty for impeding Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen during qualifying.
107 per cent time: 1m20.991s