After one of the longest qualifying sessions in Formula 1 history, Fernando Alonso has claimed his and Ferrari’s first pole position since the 2010 Singapore Grand Prix.
The Spaniard emerged in top spot by just four-hundredths of a second ahead of last year’s Silverstone pole-winner Mark Webber in a rain-interrupted session to decide the grid for Sunday’s British Grand Prix.
Running was suspended for over ninety minutes when the heavens opened yet again and saturated the circuit with a little over six minutes to go in the second phase of qualifying.
With standing water all over the circuit, the drivers were quickly on the team radios urging for the session to be suspended. The FIA duly responded and brought proceedings to a stop until the downpour eventually abated.
His final qualifying run was affected by more rain in the dying seconds of the session, along with yellow flags brought out in the final corner when Timo Glock had a clumsy spin into the pit wall in his Marussia.
The rain intensified as the second phase of qualifying got underway, which saw Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa both suffer frightening spins exiting Chapel before the red flags were unfurled to spare the field of further carnage.
Eventually the rain eased, and with six minutes to go the remaining runners poured onto the track to try and get a berth into Q3.
The jostling for track position in the chaotic final minutes meant that there were going to be a few upset results. None were more apparent than Nico Rosberg and Sergio Pérez, who both tumbled down the order in the final seconds as those behind them on the track managed to better their respective lap times. Pérez’s cause wasn’t helped by his gamble on using intermediate tyres – the rest of the field was shod with full wet tyres – which consigned him to the slowest Q2 time.
The final ten-minute phase saw the remaining runners switch to intermediate tyres, and it was Alonso who mastered the conditions to snatch pole position by 0.047 seconds from Webber, which Michael Schumacher hustled his very twitchy Mercedes to an impressive third.
Not looking particularly quick, Sebastian Vettel took the fourth-fasted time, while Felipe Massa displayed plenty of composure to land fifth on the grid, one spot ahead of Kimi Räikkönen in the Lotus. The Finn’s team-mate Romain Grosjean made the Q3 cut, but took no part in the session when he spun out in the closing seconds of Q2.
Pastor Maldonado once again wiped the floor with Williams team-mate Bruno Senna to go seventh-fastest, while Lewis Hamilton was unable to extract enough pace from his McLaren and finished up eighth-fastest.
Nico Hülkenberg finished the session as the slowest timed runner of Q3, but he will take a five-place grid penalty for Sunday’s 52-lap race after his Force India mechanics were forced to perform an unscheduled gearbox change.
Marussia tail-ender Charles Pic will also incur the same penalty, although it makes no difference as he posted the slowest lap in Q1, missing out on the 107% cut-off by 0.4 seconds. The FIA Stewards will allow the Frenchman to take the grid.
2012 British Formula 1 Grand Prix – Qualifying Session Times:
|1.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||1:51.746|
|2.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||1:51.793||+ 0.047|
|3.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes AMG F1 W03||1:52.020||+ 0.274|
|4.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||1:52.199||+ 0.453|
|5.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||1:53.065||+ 1.319|
|6.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E20||1:53.290||+ 1.544|
|7.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW34||1:53.539||+ 1.793|
|8.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes MP4-27||1:53.543||+ 1.797|
|9.||Nico Hülkenberg*||Force India Mercedes VJM05||1:54.382||+ 2.636|
|10.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E20||no time|
|Q2 Cut-Off – 1:56.931||Time||Gap|
|11.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM05||1:57.009||+ 0.078|
|12.||Kamui Kobayashi**||Sauber Ferrari C31||1:57.071||+ 0.140|
|13.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG F1 W03||1:57.108||+ 0.177|
|14.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7||1:57.132||+ 0.201|
|15.||Bruno Senna||Williams Renault FW34||1:57.426||+ 0.495|
|16.||Jean-Éric Vergne***||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7||1:57.719||+ 0.788|
|17.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari C31||1:57.895||+ 0.964|
|Q1 Cut-Off – 1:47.724||Time||Gap|
|18.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-27||1:48.044||+ 0.320|
|19.||Vitaly Petrov||Caterham Renault CT01||1:49.027||+ 1.303|
|20.||Heikki Kovalainen||Caterham Renault CT01||1:49.477||+ 1.753|
|21.||Timo Glock||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01||1:51.618||+ 3.894|
|22.||Pedro de la Rosa||HRTF1 Cosworth F112||1:52.742||+ 5.018|
|23.||Narain Karthikeyan||HRTF1 Cosworth F112||1:53.040||+ 5.316|
|107% Cut-Off – 1:53.718||Time||Gap|
|DNQ.||Charles Pic*||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01||1:54.143||+ 0.425|
* Denotes 5-place grid penalty will be taken for a gearbox change
** Denotes 5-place grid penalty will be taken for causing an avoidable collision at the European GP
*** Denotes 10-place grid penalty will be taken for causing an avoidable collision at the European GP