Despite conditions that changed wildly from session to session, Fernando Alonso won pole position for Sunday’s German Grand Prix without even breaking into a sweat. In a way, he actually won this pole twice, when he saved his best Q3 lap for the very last moment, even though his previous time had already beaten the last laps set by Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. Vettel settles for the second spot and Webber, whose time was 3rd, will now start in 8th due to a 5 spot gearbox change penalty. Home race legend Michael Schumacher got to move in to 3rd right behind the other German hero Vettel. Yet another German hometown favorite Nico Hulkenberg will be alongside Michael in a Force India car, the best start for them in 2012.
Mother nature made sure that today’s qualifying was an absolute test of man and machine. The teams used all 3 types of Pirelli tires today, slicks in the first, intermediate wet tires in the second, and the extreme wet tires in the wild closing session. Q1 was a deceptively dry session that almost eliminated a slow Schumacher until he got fast on his very last lap. Luckily Michael got his car into Q2, which ushered in the first of weather challenges for the day. The clouds were dumping buckets of rain all over the track, and the drivers mentioned “several rivers” that formed on different sections of the track. So there was a mad scramble to get out of the pits early on while the track was relatively dry in the beginning of the session, since the weather reports indicated that more deluges were on the way.
But the best was yet to come in Q3, when several drivers, including Alonso, were heard on the radio feeds advising race director Charlie Whiting to shut the racing down! Whiting ignored their advice and switched the pit light to green and opened the Hockenheim waterpark for plenty of wet and wild thrills and chills for the last remaining 10 race cars.
“It is good to check the circuit conditions and going into Turn 6 it was not easy for anybody. There was a lot of aquaplaning and we are doing 180mph there.” Alonso and the Ferrari team probably made the call of the day when they dove into the pits with just a couple minutes left in the session for a fresh set of extreme wet tires. “We made a good strategy call doing a pit stop in Q3 and having very fresh tyres for the last few minutes and that helped us a lot improve the lap time.”
Current champ and local hero Vettel, who grew up just 30 miles away from this track, seemed amused by the results, and even made a dry weather prediction for the race, “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.”
Myself, I sure hope the wet conditions are in play for the race. After all, what could be more fun than watching these cars go aquaplaning down the Hockenheim straight at 180 MPH? Looks like the racing gods may be smiling on Alonso and his considerable wet condition talents, but Vettel lurks well within striking range. The two time defending champion has not only never won his home race, he has never even won a race during the month of July, oddly enough. If Sebastian finally breaks into that “right window” and ends that streak tomorrow in front of the home fans, it would set up a delicious battle for the second half of the 2012 F1 season. On the other hand, if it is Alonso racing off with the victory, it might be the beginning of a rout.
German GP – Saturday – Qualifying Session Results
POS DRIVER NATIONALITY ENTRANT TIME
1. Fernando Alonso Spain Ferrari 1:40.621
2. Sebastian Vettel Germany Red Bull-Renault 1:41.026
3. Mark Webber Australia Red Bull-Renault 1:41.496
4. Michael Schumacher Germany Mercedes GP 1:42.450
5. Nico Hulkenberg Germany Force India-Mercedes 1:43.501
6. Pastor Maldonado Venezuela Williams-Renault 1:43.950
7. Jenson Button Britain McLaren-Mercedes 1:44.113
8. Lewis Hamilton Britain McLaren-Mercedes 1:44.186
9. Paul di Resta Britain Force India-Mercedes 1:44.889
10. Kimi Raikkonen Finland Lotus-Renault 1:45.811
11. Daniel Ricciardo Australia Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:39.789
12. Sergio Perez Mexico Sauber-Ferrari 1:39.933
13. Kamui Kobayashi Japan Sauber-Ferrari 1:39.985
14. Felipe Massa Brazil Ferrari 1:40.212
15. Romain Grosjean France Lotus-Renault 1:40.574
16. Bruno Senna Brazil Williams-Renault 1:40.752
17. Nico Rosberg Germany Mercedes GP 1:41.551
18. Jean-Eric Vergne France Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:16.741
19. Heikki Kovalainen Finland Caterham-Renault 1:17.620
20. Vitaly Petrov Russia Caterham-Renault 1:18.531
21. Charles Pic France Marussia-Cosworth 1:19.220
22. Timo Glock Germany Marussia-Cosworth 1:19.291
23. Pedro de la Rosa Spain HRT-Cosworth 1:19.912
24. Narain Karthikeyan India HRT-Cosworth 1:20.230