German GP - Saturday - Qualifying Session Report
Second successive pole for Alonso
Fernando Alonso (1:40.621) took his second successive pole position in a Hockenheim qualifying session which confronted the drivers with wildly different conditions. Slicks were required in Q1, intermediates in Q2 and extreme wets in Q3!
Alonso was fourth in Q1 and Q2 but pulled out a superb lap in treacherous conditions to put the Ferrari on pole ahead of the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel (1:41.026) and Mark Webber (1:41.494). The Australian will start the race eighth as a result of a gearbox change penalty.
Alonso and Ferrari pitted just before the end of Q3 for a second set of extreme wets -- a strategy that paid dividends with extra grip.
"The problem is that you just didn't know the conditions," Alonso said. "You spend five minutes in the garage, go out and find entirely different conditions and get surprise after surprise, especially with aquaplaning in Turn 6. It was a good result but you couldn't say it was fun... It was very hard to put a lap together and very easy to finish up in the wall. It was all about survival."
Vettel was disappointed with second, thinking that the pace for pole was in the Red Bull. At one point, he was baulked by his team mate.
"It was an interesting session," the champion said. "I was not entirely happy with my lap in the end and Fernando's strategy was a bit better. I was catching up Mark and in the mirrors you can't see anything and I don't think he meant to hold me up but I lost two laps because of that.
"Still, the last lap was not fast enough. I think tomorrow will be dry, I grew up around here and I'm looking forward to a good race. The car is not bad if we get it in the right window."
Mark Webber would obviously have preferred the front row but was relatively satisfied with third on the grid, which means that he starts eighth after his grid penalty for a changed gearbox is applied.
"It was a very intense, tricky session," the Australian said. "There was heavy aquaplaning and wheelspin at 280kph certainly gets your attention. It was becoming obvious that the quick times were going to be at the end but some people's tyres weren't in the best shape by then. Eighth is not the best place to start a grand prix but we can go forward from there."
Michael Schumacher (1:42.459) put his wet weather expertise to good effect to qualify the first Mercedes fourth for his home grand prix. Team mate Nico Rosberg was eliminated in Q2, when he ended up slowest of the 17, some 3.5s adrift of Schumacher, and will start 22nd when his gearbox penalty is applied.
There was still three German in the top five, however, after a fine performance from Nico Hulkenberg (1:43.501) in the Force India, who achieved his best qualifying position since his mixed weather pole for Williams at Interlagos in 2010.
Pastor Maldonado (1:43.950) put his Williams into the top six, ahead of the McLarens of Jenson Button (1:44.113) and Lewis Hamilton (1:44.186).
The McLaren men adopted differing Q3 strategies, with Button pitting for a new set of tyres towards the end, which netted the better time, and Hamilton continuing on the same set. Lewis had set comfortable the quickest Q2 time on Intermediates and both drivers think that the MP4-27 with its latest update package is a substantially improved car in the dry.
Paul Di Resta (1:44.889) starts ninth with the second Force India with Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus (1:45.811) completing the top 10. The Finn was complaining of aquaplaning everywhere and team mate Romain Grosjean had an even tougher time, qualifying 15th in Q2, without the use of KERS. That becomes 20th when his gearbox chamnge penalty for Silverstone is applied.
With DRS in use for the first time at Hockenheim, on the run down to the T6 hairpin, overtaking should be a feature of the race itself, especially with a slightly topsy-turvey mixed conditions grid!