Mark Webber has claimed back-to-back pole positions after holding off a surprise challenge from Lewis Hamilton in a tight battle during qualifying for the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring. Webber’s team-mate Sebastian Vettel recorded his worst qualifying result of the season to-date with third place, marking the first time all season that he’s failed to start from the front row of the grid.
Rain had been expected to rear its head during this afternoon’s qualifying session, but the clouds stayed away from the Eifel circuit and granted the 24 drivers sunny conditions under which to work. Conditions were perhaps not as cheery at Hispania Racing, with Vitantonio Liuzzi hit with a five-place grid penalty due to a gearbox change. The Italian qualified second-slowest overall, mere hundredths quicker than rookie team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.
At the front of the field, Webber looked simply unstoppable in the final phase of qualifying, producing a 1:30.251 on an opening run, before he improved further with a 1:30.079 to put pole position beyond doubt.
Well, at least it looked that way, until Hamilton produced an ultra-smooth time to leap into second place, just 0.055 seconds off Webber’s pole-clinching lap time.
Vettel opted for two hot laps to try and claim another pole, and despite holding the second-fastest slot, he was bumped onto the second row by Hamilton’s magnificent lap time. Four-tenths off pole position and roughly the same margin ahead of fifth-placed team-mate Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso took his Ferrari to fourth-fastest.
Both Mercedes drivers made it into the top-ten session, with Nico Rosberg opting for a single run to claim sixth place – one spot ahead of Jenson Button in the other McLaren – while team-mate Michael Schumacher couldn’t string a lap time good enough to get out of tenth place.
Adrian Sutil gave the home crowd more cheer by claiming the eighth-fastest time, while Vitaly Petrov took ninth in the Renault, outqualifying team-mate Nick Heidfeld by two places.
After his top-ten qualifying heroics a fortnight ago, Paul di Resta was unable to match his efforts on home soil in his Force India; he shares the sixth row with Heidfeld.
The seventh row of the grid is an all-Williams affair, with Pastor Maldonado once again outpacing Rubens Barrichello – the margin between the pair was four-tenths of a second.
Having both been surprise knockouts in Q1 at Silverstone just two weeks ago, both Toro Rossos made it into the second phase of qualifying – albeit not much further, with Sébastien Buemi pipping Jaime Alguersuari to 16th place.
Kamui Kobayashi was the unlucky driver to be eliminated in the first phase of qualifying, and he will start 18th, while Heikki Kovalainen continued his run as the fastest of the ‘second division’ team drivers, two spots ahead of stand-in team-mate Karun Chandhok, who will start from 21st place.
2011 German Grand Prix – Qualifying Session Times:
|1.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault||1:33.096||1:31.311||1:30.079|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes||1:32.934||1:30.998||1:30.134|
|3.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault||1:32.973||1:31.017||1:30.216|
|6.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP||1:32.785||1:31.343||1:31.263|
|7.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes||1:33.224||1:31.532||1:31.288|
|8.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes||1:32.286||1:31.809||1:32.010|
|10.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP||1:32.603||1:32.180||1:32.482|
|12.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes||1:32.651||1:32.560|
|13.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Cosworth||1:33.003||1:32.635|
|14.||Rubens Barrichello||Williams Cosworth||1:33.664||1:33.043|
|15.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari||1:33.295||1:33.176|
|16.||Sébastien Buemi||Toro Rosso Ferrari||1:33.635||1:33.546|
|17.||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso Ferrari||1:33.658||1:33.698|
|18.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari||1:33.786|
|19.||Heikki Kovalainen||Team Lotus Renault||1:35.599|
|20.||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing Cosworth||1:36.400|
|21.||Karun Chandhok||Team Lotus Renault||1:36.422|
|22.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Virgin Racing Cosworth||1:36.641|
|23.||Vitantonio Liuzzi*||HRT F1 Cosworth||1:37.011|
|24.||Daniel Ricciardo||HRT F1 Cosworth||1:37.036|
|107% CUT-OFF TIME||1:38.253|
* Will start from the back of the grid after incurring a 5-place grid penalty due to a gearbox change.
[Image via LAT]