Alonso takes commanding pole position in soaked qualifying

Fernando Alonso will start from pole position for tomorrow’s German Grand Prix. The Ferrari driver mastered the wet conditions, beating his rivals by nearly half a second.

The Red Bulls were 2nd and 3rd, but Mark Webber has incurred a gearbox penalty, and will drop to 8th place. Michael Schumacher impressed for most of the session, eventually taking 4th. The McLarens struggled in Q3, while Felipe Massa languished back in 14th. Here is what happened:

Q1

With the threat of rain imminent, most drivers went straight out onto the track as the session began.

Fernando Aonso was first fastest with a 1:16.7, but the two McLarens went faster by several tenths, with Hamilton leading the charge.

Both Sebastian Vettel and Romain Grosjean were informed that their laps were negated, as they took advantage of the run-off area at turn 1. It didn’t faze Vettel though, as the Red Bull moved up from 15th to 5th.

As Hamilton improved on his time by 0.1 seconds, and was joined by Kamui Kobayashi, the imminent rain clouds convinced most drivers to conclude their runs early. Kimi Raikkonen was one of the few to stay out, slashing over half a second off Lewis’ time, still on the medium tyre.

Several off-track excursions left Grosjean in the drop zone, but the Lotus driver moved into 12th place with 2 minutes to go.

Sergio Perez and Nico Rosberg went 2nd and 3rd, pushing Michael Schumacher and Mark Webber near the drop zone. Incredibly, both them and Vettel struggled massively trying to improve – the Red Bulls only 10th and 13th, and Schumacher jumping up to 17th in a last-gasp lap.

Drivers knocked out in Q1:

18) Jean-Eric Vergne – 1:16.741

19) Heikki Kovalainen – 1:17.620

20) Vitaly Petrov – 1:18.531

21) Charles Pic – 1:19.220

22) Timo Glock – 1:19.291

23) Pedro de la Rosa – 1:19.912

24) Narain Karthikeyan – 1:20.230

Q2

As expected, the rain fell for Q2, and intermediates were the way to go.

The conditons caught out most of the drivers, particularly Romain Grosjean, who slipped and slided across the track lap after lap. The rain got worse as the session continued, so those who set their laps early were at an advantage. This left Hamilton and Schumacher comfortably on top.

However, the worsening conditions caught out several top names, particularly Grosjean and Felipe Massa.

Drivers knocked out in Q2:

11) Daniel Ricciardo – 1:39.789

12) Sergio Perez – 1:39.933

13) Kamui Kobayashi – 1:39.985

14) Felipe Massa – 1:40.215

15) Romain Grosjean – 1:40.574

16) Bruno Senna – 1:40.752

17) Nico Rosberg – 1:41.551

Q3

The rain eased slightly for Q3, but the two McLaren cars exited the pits still on full wets. A spot of standing water caught out Nico Hulkenberg on the back straight, the Force India spinning into the gravel trap, but managing to keep going.

Fernando Alonso’s 1:44.7 put him on top, until Vettel pipped that time by a single tenth. Hamilton was set to challenge for top spot, but nearly lost the McLaren at turn 8.

On his next lap, Lewis improved on Sebastian’s time by half a second. Schumacher then took an astonishing 1.7 seconds off that, but Vettel swiftly retook the top spot.

Mark Webber then took another half second off that time, then Alonso slashed another 0.7 seconds off the fastest time. Entering the final lap, Vettel and Webber moved within several tenths of the Ferrari, while Schumacher remained 4th. As the McLarens timed their last laps poorly, they were unable to challenge the frontrunners, leaving Alonso to improve again on his time, and take a commanding pole position.

Nico Hulkenberg took a career-best position of 5th place, with Pastor Maldonado just behind. Button and Hamilton were 7th and 8th, with Di Resta and Raikkonen finishing up the top 10.

Since Mark Webber has incurred a gearbox penalty, he will drop 5 places to 8th place.

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