Alonso secures second pole in succession in rain-hit qualifying

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

14 thoughts to “Alonso secures second pole in succession in rain-hit qualifying”

  1. Championship leader Fernando Alonso commented that track conditions during Q3 in Germany were ‘on the limit’. Despite that, the Spaniard earned his twenty-first Formula One pole position. has the story.

    Fernando Alonso believes that running in the wet weather conditions in Q3 was ‘right on the limit’ in spite of taking his 21st career pole position in qualifying for the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.

    The world championship leader said on the radio to his Ferrari team during the break between Q2 and Q3 that he felt the conditions were not ideal to drive in, as heavy rain swept over the track.

    Q3 went ahead as planned though and as the rain abated slightly, the Spaniard took pole position with a 1m40.621s lap late in the session.

    “I think the conditions were still very on the limit, as far as it is the same for everybody, I think sometimes it is good to check the circuit conditions,” he said.

    “We did Q3 and I think going into T6 it was not easy for anybody, there was a lot of aquaplaning and we are 280/90 km/h so… but you know everything went well for us and we backed off a little bit in those aquaplaning moments and the rest of the lap was clean.”

    Alonso added that he was relieved to have made it to the end of the session: “In these conditions there are surprises and moments everywhere. It was not fun.

    “When you have these conditions its very difficult to put a clean lap together. Those are survival moments, you need to finish the session and see what you can get. Whatever the position, you are happy because you made the finish.”

    Alonso complimented his team as well for calling him halfway through Q3 to change tyres, which he said assisted his challenge for pole.

    “I think also we made a good strategy call doing a pitstop in Q3 and then have a very fresh set of tyres in the last minute. That was when the track was in a little bit better condition and that helped us a lot to improve the laptime.”

    Alonso’s initial lap at the start of Q3 appeared to be disrupted when he came upon his team-mate Felipe Massa at the hairpin, but he denied that he caused him any problems.

    “We all wanted to set a time at the start of the session,” he said. “We were all in a group and it was very close for a few corners but it was fine.”

  2. As for Sebastian Vettel, competing in front of his home fans, the defending world champion was left feeling unhappy after his qualifying performance. has the news.

    Sebastian Vettel said he was not happy with his qualifying lap in Q3, and reckons pole position for the German Grand Prix was possible for him.

    The Red Bull driver will start from second position after finishing four tenths of a second behind Ferrari rival Fernando Alonso in a session that took place on a very wet track.

    Vettel said his quickest lap of the session had been far from perfect, and was convinced his car had the pace to be on pole.

    “I was not happy with my lap,” admitted the German. “Fernando’s strategy was a bit quicker. I could have gone quicker but we don’t know if it would have been good enough.

    “In these conditions it is tricky, you lose the car a little bit over the rivers on the track and you are on a different place than you targeted to be but it’s tricky. Nevertheless we had the pace today to put the car on pole in the end. I think it was possible.

    “We need to have a look at what Fernando did at the end with the strategy, maybe that was the better way to do it but overall I think in these conditions it’s a bit of a lottery as well.”

    Vettel is hopeful his Red Bull will be stronger than on Friday following some set-up changes, but the world champion admitted it was hard to get the car right given the changeable weather.

    “The car is not bad if we get in the right window so we need to look at what we’ve done in practice this morning. With the conditions changing we can’t find consistency but I think the changes we’ve made should be a step,” he said.

    The Red Bull driver said he had lost a lap of running in Q3 because of team-mate Mark Webber, who will start the race from eighth place.

    “I lost a lap obviously running into him but it’s difficult in these conditions and you can see nothing in the mirror so probably he didn’t see me and then with two laps to the chequered flag you can’t back off to get your lap again. For sure, I lost a little bit but the track was best at the end. The last lap was not completely clean.”

  3. British Grand Prix winner Mark Webber believes he would have qualified better if he adopted the same strategy as Fernando Alonso in qualifying. has the details.

    Mark Webber admitted he would have qualified better for the German Grand Prix had he followed polesitter Fernando Alonso’s example and put on fresh wet tyres during Q3 at Hockenheim, but said he was still satisfied with third fastest.

    Alonso took pole ahead of Webber’s Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel.

    “We could have maybe, like Fernando, stopped but should have, would have, could have doesn’t count,” said Webber. “We’re third now.”

    Webber admitted that his tyres were too worn to perform when the track was at its fastest in the closing moments.

    “It was a very intense, tricky session for drivers and engineers with decisions,” said Webber.

    “It was a challenge for us. In Q3, definitely to arrive on the straights in seventh gear was sometimes not possible, to use the kerbs wasn’t possible and there was extremely heavy aquaplaning. When the car has wheelspin at 280km/h, it certainly gets your attention.

    “So we had to juggle a few balls. We arrived at the end of the lap in reasonable shape. It was becoming obvious that that times were going to be done at the end but our tyres weren’t in the best shape at the end.”

    The Australian will be put down to eighth on the grid as a penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change on his Red Bull on Saturday morning.

    “We wanted to be on the front row but eighth with the penalty is OK and we can race from there,” Webber said. “We’re going to aim to go forward. It’s not the best position to start from, it’s not ideal, but we have to aim to come forward and let’s see how the race goes.

    “I did a better job than the other guys who got a five-place penalty.”

  4. Kamui Kobayashi is convinced he would have easily qualified in the top 10 for the German Grand Prix had it not been wet during the grid-deciding session.

    The Sauber driver made it into Q2 without having to use the medium tyres, but he struggled for pace when the rain hit the track during the second qualifying segment.

    In the end Kobayashi had to settle for 13th position.

    “It is a pity because I’m sure in dry conditions we would easily have been in Q3, as we had a very good pace,” said Kobayashi. “I even refrained from using soft tyres, and the lap I did on the medium compound was good enough for Q2. But then in the wet we didn’t make it.

    “In dry conditions my car is really good. In the wet it is a lot better than it was on Friday when I struggled badly. We found something wrong and did some changes, but it is still not completely right.”

    Team-mate Sergio Perez, 12th in qualifying, also believes his team would have enjoyed a much stronger day had it not rained.

    “It is such a shame,” said Perez. “It looked really promising for us until the rain set in. After I changed to soft tyres I ended up second fastest in Q1.

    “Then we went out late on intermediates in Q2 and I was stuck in traffic. I had cars in front of me, but could not back off as there were some behind me as well.”


  5. HRT driver Pedro de la Rosa wants more respect out on track. has the news.

    Pedro de la Rosa called for more respect for drivers in slower cars after being impeded by a rival during qualifying for the German Grand Prix.

    The Spaniard, driving for back-of-the-grid squad HRT, said a faster car had ruined his quickest lap in Q1, leaving him down in 23rd position.

    De la Rosa believes his lap would have been good enough to finish ahead of the two Marussias.

    “It could have been a very good qualifying session, because towards the end I was nine tenths under my time, but on the last two corners I had another car ahead and we lost two positions,” said de la Rosa.

    “We must all respect each other but now we have to look ahead.

    “Leaving that aside, I think we did a good practice session this morning and a good qualifying session; the car performed well and we would have been very close to the Marussias.

    “But the important stuff comes tomorrow and we have to focus on getting off to a good start and fighting until the end. We expect a dry race, but on the evidence of these last few days anything is possible.”

    HRT team-mate Narain Karthikeyan qualified in 24th.

  6. Heikki Kovalainen insists his Caterham team will need more dry running before it can extract the full potential from its recently-introduced upgrades.

    The team ran several new parts at Silverstone, but the lack of running in the dry meant it was unable to get them to work to its maximum.

    After rain hit both Friday and Saturday sessions in Germany this weekend as well, Kovalainen reckons there is still more to come from the upgrades.

    The Finn qualified in 19th position, nearly a second behind his closest rivals, after what he labelled as a perfect lap.

    “For where we are right now that was pretty much the perfect lap,” said Kovalainen. “I didn’t make any mistakes, nailed every apex and had a clean lap, so I’m pleased with what I got out of the car today. Closing the gap to the cars ahead is obviously our target and I think we are still finding out how to unlock the real potential of the upgrade package we first ran in Silverstone.

    “Taking the package as a whole there are a lot of elements we need to get right to really use its potential and I think we still need more dry running to really understand what it will really give us.

    “We’ll keep working on achieving that and perhaps we’ll see more of its value tomorrow as it’s due to be sunny, and in Hungary where the hotter conditions will definitely suit us better than the cold, wet weather we’ve had in Germany and at the last race in Silverstone.”

    Team-mate Vitaly Petrov qualified right behind, albeit nearly a full second off Kovalainen.


  7. Lotus driver Romain Grosjean is concerned about his car’s lack of pace in qualifying. has the details.

    Romain Grosjean is worried about his car’s lack of pace after a disappointing qualifying for the German Grand Prix.

    The Lotus driver was only 15th in Q2, and he will move further down the grid as one of three drivers taking penalties for gearbox changes. But he said he was more concerned with the performance of his car rather than his grid drop.

    “A penalty is bad in any case,” Grosjean told reporters in the Hockenheim paddock. “But what worries me today is the lack of performance in the dry in Q1. I didn’t feel any grip, so we need to work, to analyse, and to get better for tomorrow.

    “It felt like the rain came down on my car before the others. No grip in Q1, it was a very difficult session.”

    Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen topped Q1 in the dry, which Grosjean feels highlights how much trouble he was in on Saturday afternoon.

    “Kimi was fastest, so his car was good,” Grosjean added. “But we were almost one second behind, which is far too much. So we will try to understand it.

    “We need to find the pace. If we want to come back in any way then we have to get the pace in the car. At the moment we don’t have it, so hopefully we find it through the night.

    “We have to analyse what was wrong, and get back to the level we know from the last few races in the dry. And then we can overtake people.”

  8. Lewis Hamilton admitted he was confused about where his pace went at the end of German Grand Prix qualifying after only managing eighth place in Q3.

    The result marked the first time all season that Hamilton had been outqualified by his McLaren team-mate Jenson Button, who was seventh fastest.

    Hamilton had been quickest by 0.6 seconds in Q2, which was hit by a shower at the start, so could not understand why his speed faded in similar conditions in the following qualifying segment.

    “It does have to come together and we have to put in the laps but I was doing alright for a while and I don’t understand what happened in the end,” he said.

    “It was looking good until it got really wet but I don’t know what happened at the end. I was quite quick and then I don’t know if the tyres went off or lost temperature. The track was drying up so we should have gone faster but we didn’t.”

    The Briton did not think the timing of his final lap was a factor.

    “For sure, the track was drying so it would be better [to have another lap] but I had one lap at the end and I went straight off so it was like driving on ice for us,” said Hamilton.

    He is determined to make progress in Sunday’s grand prix.

    “Tomorrow will be a tough race and I plan to hunt down everyone in front,” Hamilton said.

    He added: “The great thing about here is that you have big DRS down the back so hopefully we will do some big overtaking tomorrow.”


  9. For the first time this season, Jenson Button has outqualified his McLaren team-mate, although the 2009 world champion is sure that Sunday’s race will be much stronger for the team than its qualifying’s performance. has the story.

    Jenson Button is undaunted by McLaren’s grid positions for the German Grand Prix as he believes the team’s dry weather pace is far superior to what it managed in the wet in Hockenheim qualifying.

    Button and team-mate Lewis Hamilton were seventh and eighth quickest in the rain-hit Q3, having struggled to make their wet tyres work.

    But having concentrated on his race set-up in the morning’s mostly dry practice session, where he posted the slowest time, Button thinks the McLaren is in very good shape for the race.

    “I definitely think we should aim for [a podium] and I think we should aim even higher, in dry conditions we have made some good improvements to the car aerodynamically and mechanically and it is just in the wet where we struggle with tyre temperature,” said Button.

    “The car feels good in the dry and I have done a lot of high-fuel running so we have a lot of information other people don’t.

    “On Friday we did three long runs and today I did two long runs so I feel we are more ready to race than anyone,” he added.

    Despite his optimism for the race Button says he is still unsure why he cannot make the tyres work in wet conditions.

    “The tyre isn’t working, it is just skating and you spend the whole time so fearful that it is just going to send you off into the goonies,” he said.

    “It wasn’t very good really, just really struggling with the same issues we always have in these conditions. We just can’t get the tyres working and I’ve driven F1 cars for 12 or 13 years and I know what it is like to drive in the wet and I know what it feels like when you can’t get the tyres working.”

  10. Sauber’s Sergio Perez will be demoted five places on the German Grand Prix after stewards ruled that he had impeded other cars in qualifying.

    The Mexican had qualified 12th, but was found guilty of blocking both Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso in Q2.

    A statement from the stewards said the penalty was “imposed due to the driver being involved in two similar offences in the same session.”

    Perez is the fourth driver to be given a grid penalty for the Hockenheim race. Mark Webber, Romain Grosjean and Nico Rosberg are already facing five-place drops for unscheduled gearbox changes on their cars.


  11. Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg has said holding on to fourth spot will be tough in the German Grand Prix. has the story.

    Nico Hulkenberg believes holding on to fourth position will be a big challenge in Sunday’s German Grand Prix tomorrow.

    The Force India driver secured his best qualifying result of the year when he finished as fifth fastest in the wet session. He will start from fourth, however, after third-placed Mark Webber was handed a penalty for a gearbox change.

    Hulkenberg said he was happy with the result, but he is aware that staying in that position will be difficult given the pace of the cars behind in the dry.

    “I’m fairly happy, to be honest, although in Q3 I felt better in the car in the beginning when it was wetter and in the end when it was drier I was struggling a bit more,” said Hulkenberg.

    “To bring it back home in that position is the challenge tomorrow, and it’s quite a big task. We will try to defend as best as we can, but the pressure is always there because is ahead and we are in need to score points. We can only do what we can and get the maximum out of this weekend.”

    The German downplayed the effect luck had on his result, however, saying his team had done a very good job in managing the conditions.

    “It was not just luck,” he said. “I think it was a good performance by us. We were on the track in the right moments and I did the laps in the right moments. It’s the second row only because Mark has a penalty, but even fifth place we can be quite happy with that.”

    And the Force India driver said his car was set up for a dry race.

    “We didn’t change the car for the wet,” he added.

  12. Felipe Massa has ruled out fighting for a strong result in the German Grand Prix after a poor qualifying on Saturday.

    The Brazilian was caught out by the weather conditions and failed to complete a flying lap at the start of the second qualifying segment.

    When he did manage a lap, the track was already too wet and he was unable to set a competitive time that would allow him to reach Q3.

    Massa qualified down in 14th place, 13 positions behind Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso.

    “It’s a real shame, because the car was and is competitive, both in the wet and in the dry, but tomorrow I will start too far back to fight for the top places,” said Massa.

    “I will do my very best, as always. It will be important to choose the right tyres at the right moment. We have some idea, but it’s a fact we were unable to do many long runs over these two days.”

    The Ferrari driver admitted it had been a mistake at Turn 8 that cost him the chance to set a lap early on in Q2.

    “I did not manage to do a time at the start of Q2 because I went wide at Turn 8 and so was unable to put together a good lap in the only window available to do so. At that point on the track, the Tarmac is different and it is very easy to lock the wheels and thus lose a lot of time.

    “Then, it was raining so hard that there was aquaplaning. I had to try and stay on track while also trying to improve my time, but the conditions meant this was absolutely not possible, even when I tried with the extremes.”


  13. Williams driver Bruno Senna has commented that tiny tyre temperature issue caused his poor German Grand Prix qualifying result. has the story.

    Bruno Senna says the gap to his Williams team-mate Pastor Maldonado was down to a very small difference in tyre temperature in qualifying for the German Grand Prix.

    While Maldonado went on to make Q3 and qualify sixth-fastest, Senna was eliminated in the previous session, setting the 16th best time after the rain fell just before Q2.

    But Senna explained afterwards that his intermediate tyres fell out of the ideal operating temperature window, which meant he was powerless to fight higher up the grid.

    “It was a bit of a lottery, as it is with these conditions,” Senna told AUTOSPORT. “The difference between my tyre conditions and Pastor’s was absolutely minimal. It just proves how small the window is with these tyres.

    “The smallest difference in temperature can make the biggest difference in laptime, and if you are in the wrong window you are nowhere.

    “I absolutely hate making excuses, but sometimes you have to accept that the window is very, very small, and you need to get that right to do anything competitive.”

    The Brazilian added that the struggles endured by Nico Rosberg and Romain Grosjean, who also fell out in Q2, proved how tricky it was to get the intermediate tyres working.

    “Rosberg was behind me,” he said. “Grosjean was quick yesterday but he struggled today. It’s not really a situation that rewards driving, it’s more luck. If you are in the right window then suddenly you are fast.

    “We were competitive in the dry in Q1 so we can look forward to the race. But starting from where I am, instead of scoring 10 or 12 points, we can score one or two maximum. You can only overtake so many cars.”

  14. McLaren sporting director Sam Michael believes victory is a realistic goal in the German Grand Prix despite Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton starting back in sixth and seventh.

    The British duo struggled in wet qualifying, although both gained a place from Mark Webber’s gearbox-change penalty.

    But with the weather expected to clear up for race day, Michael is very confident about what the upgraded McLaren can do on a dry track.

    Asked to assess McLaren’s dry pace, he replied: “Very competitive for us, we were very strong in P1 and in P3 on all the tyres and on race fuel loads in particular.”

    Michael declined to compare McLaren’s likely race speed with top qualifiers Ferrari and Red Bull, but said: “All I know is what we did and what we normally do compared to them and all our data shows that we should have a very strong race car tomorrow.”

    When asked if McLaren could win on Sunday, Michael said: “Yes, that is our target.”

    He does not think the fact that the team has very little dry mileage on its major upgrade package will be any kind of disadvantage because he is confident the performance gain available from the new parts has been accurately predicted.

    “Our correlation this year has been really strong,” said Michael. “I don’t think there has been one item that in the end we have been confused about so the correlation has been good.”

    The McLarens were 3.5 seconds off the pace in the wet Q3 session at Hockenheim, which Michael put down to not getting the Pirelli wets working correctly.

    “I think operationally we managed everything right so it is just a matter of understanding how to get the tyres working better because when you are 3.5 seconds off pole that is not ‘chip away and find a couple of tenths’, that is a switch between it working and not working,” he admitted.

    “Our dry pace in P1 and P3 has been good so our focus right now is on tomorrow and then in the background understanding how to improve our performance on wets.”


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