German GP - Saturday - Qualifying Session Report
A topsy-turvy qualifying
Qualifying for the German Grand Prix was decidedly odd. The weekend had seen Lewis Hamilton setting times which seemed out of kilter with what we have seen so far this year. The team said it was down to new parts, but there was a suspicion, of course, that the team was doing things to keep Mercedes-Benz happy. That might have seemed short-sighted but given the team's performances in recent races it would not have been surprising. Practice times mean little these days and so we waited for the qualifying session. Everyone was struggling a little as the temperatures were well below what had been predicted. The Eifel region is fanous for its bizarre weather bu this is mid-July and normally the temperatures would be in the mid-20s of higher, but the mercury did not climb above 11 or 12 degrees.
It was clear that the hard tyres were very hard to warm up and that the soft tyres were very delicate. Push too hard too fast and they began to misbehave. So it was a gaint juggling act for the drivers and things became really complicated when rain began to fall at the start of Q2.
The Q1 session had been a little surprising with Mark Webber fastest from Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel. Robert Kubica and Timo Glock were knocked out. It was no surprise to see the two Toro Rossos and Giancarlo Fisichella's Force India also in the bin.
The Q2 session is always stressful and very close and so things went wild very quickly as rain began to fall as the cars headed out. There were moments for several drivers, including Heikki Kovalainen, who bounced off a tyre barrier but was able to keep going. The drivers all went in for intermediate tyres but Rubens Barrichello decided that it was dry enough for slicks - and the rain had eased. He went for it with slicks. And it worked. Everyone else then rushed in to try slicks but as they did so the rain came back and there was lots of fun in the final moments of the session, including a big spin for Fernando Alonso. He was out of the top 10. So too were Nick Heidfeld, Jarno Trulli and the two Williams-Toyotas of Kazuki Nakajima and Nico Rosberg. A bad weekend for them...
This gave us a very odd selection of people in Q3 with Nelson Piquet having scrambled to second fastest in Q2, ahead of Adrian Sutil, Webber, Button, Hamilton, Vettel, Kovalainen, Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikonen.
The weather calmed down again before Q3 got under way but it was a terrific fight for pole position as everyone tried to get their tyres to heat up. The final moments were really exciting as pole changed hands. At one point there was an all-British front row with Button and Hamilton but then Webber, Barrichello and Vettel all waded in. It was Webber who grabbed pole by a tenth, with the Brawns of Barrichello and Button second and third and poor Vettel being pushed back to fourth. The two McLarens were fifth and sixth, but with a big gap between them and then came Sutil, ahead of the Ferraris of Massa and Raikkonen and Piquet's Renault. Obviously fuel weights will give a clearer indication of what to expect on Sunday.
Nonetheless, the grid held much promise...
But then again, much would depend on the weather.