German GP - Saturday - Qualifying Session Report
Webber and Hamilton share Nurburgring front row
Mark Webber claimed his second successive pole position when he set quickest time (1:30.079) for tomorrow's German GP, round 10 of the F1 World Championship.
After team mate Sebastian Vettel had enjoyed such superiority while Webber struggled more to come to terms with the characteristics of F1's new Pirelli tyres, it is a little ironic that the Australian always produces such strong performances in the world champion's back yard.
"It was a good session, tight between all of us," Webber said. "I had to be accurate and spot on, was happy with my laps and it was enough, but Lewis was right with us and very nearly took pole off us. We should be cool on race pace. I haven't led a lap yet this year and I want to put that right tomorrow by leading the last one."
While the free practice sessions led one to suspect that Webber might be the man to beat, it was the pace of Lewis Hamilton (1:30.134) that was the real surprise. Silverstone winner Fernando Alonso who was expected to offer the stiffest threat to the Red Bulls but, when it mattered, Hamilton produced two superlative Q3 laps and almost stole the show.
Lewis, after a couple of races of apparent tension, made sure he thanked the team.
"It's been a fantastic effort and a constant push to bring updates and improve the engine modes," he said. "I underestimated how good the car would be on light fuel. It felt fantastic and the lap was beautifully flowing.
"Getting on the front row was beyond my expectations. We found a really good balance with the set-up. I was comfortable we'd be more competitive with the rule changes (back to Valencia spec for exhaust blown diffusers) but nobody expected to split the Red Bulls. Before, we were struggling with overall downforce and grip but the car really felt fantastic and it was definitely my best qualifying session this year. It has enabled us to get back in the fight."
Vettel (1:30.216) was philosophical about third place in front of his home fans.
"I'd like to have been further up but it was a tough session," he admitted. "I didn't find a balance yesterday but it was better this morning and I wasn't missing much to Lewis and Mark and had a better feeling for the car today. I maybe missed out a bit in the last sector but Mark was very quick and I'm happy with third and the clean side of the track."
Alonso (1:30.442) had to be content with fourth and starts almost half a second clear of Ferrari team mate Felipe Massa (1:30.910). Nico Rosberg put the first Mercedes (1:31.263) sixth, five hundredths clear of Jenson Button's McLaren (1:31.288).
Button has an intrinsically smoother style than Hamilton and Nurburgring is a place that rewards late braking into T1 and T13 particularly, but still you suspect that Jenson might have blinked in disbelief at his team mate's time, which was more than a second quicker.
Adrian Sutil (1:32.010) put the first Force India eighth on the grid, with Vitaly Petrov's Renault (1:32.187) and Michael Schumacher's Mercedes (1:32.482) completing the top 10 qualifiers.
Pastor Maldonado once again outqualified team mate Rubens Barrichello as the Williams-Cosworths line up 13th and 14th, while Karun Chandhok starts 21st in his first race for Lotus, working down to a time within 0.83s of Heikki Kovalainen on his first low-fuel run in the car.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who made his F1 debut with HRT at Silverstone, was slowest qualifier but did a strong job to get within two hundredths of HRT team mate Tonio Liuzzi, who will start behind him after a gearbox change.