As the chequered flag dropped at the Nurburgring, Red Bull garnered yet another pole position – and it wasn’t Sebastian Vettel.
Indeed it was Mark Webber that claimed his third pole of the year and Red Bull’s eleventh consecutive top spot in qualifying; however the Australian was run close by an unlikely suspect. Very close.
Webber’s final lap of 1:30.079 was only just enough to hold off McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton – the 2008 World Champion pushed hard to take his McLaren far beyond its capabilities.
Following his first run in Q3, Hamilton was a clear half-second shy of the Webber / Vettel pairing, but a mesmeric lap in dying seconds more than made up the McLaren’s deficiencies.
Hamilton even kept Vettel off the front row. Admittedly, the German has looked weaker than Webber all weekend, yet was still not that far away.
It is unlikely that Vettel expected Hamilton to split the Red Bull’s – that honour surely would be handed to Ferrari – and to be fair to the Scuderia, they’re still close. During both Q3 runs, Alonso was the first through the timing loops; however his best of 1:30.442 keeps him just shy of the Red Bull’s.
The rest of the top ten may as well have not bothered to show up. Felipe Massa (5th, Ferrari) crossed the line over eight-tenths off of Webber’s pace; while Nico Rosberg (6th, Mercedes) was 1.184 down on the top spot.
Jenson Button endured a horror Q3 session. The best the McLaren driver could manage was over one second slower than teammate Hamilton – a dreadful result for the Briton.
Adrian Sutil (Force India), Vitaly Petrov (Renault) and Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) recorded the 8th, 9th and 10th quickest laps respectively. Realistically, it is unlikely that trio were ever likely to climb higher up the order.
Petrov’s late Q2 time did manage to knock teammate Nick Heidfeld out of a potential top ten position. The Renault driver missed out on the final session by just three-hundredths of-a-second, but it will at least save the veteran a set of Pirelli’s for the race.
Heidfeld will have Force India’s Paul di Resta alongside. The Scot also lost out to a teammate running quick at the flag, although di Resta fell some way short of making into Q3.
Row seven was all Williams. Pastor Maldonado beat Rubens Barrichello to 13th place, as the Didcot squad visibly struggled through the weekend.
It must be said though that Williams are in a better position than Sauber. The Swiss squad could do no better than 15th with Mexican pilot Sergio Perez, while Kamui Kobayashi couldn’t even get out of Q1; however it is unlikely matters were helped by the Japanese driver being in the pits as he dropped down the order.
Once again, the Toro Rosso’s were amongst the slowest in Q2. Sebastien Buemi placed his STR07 in 16th place, just ahead of Jaime Alguersuari, yet neither will be happy to be 1.5 seconds away from the cut-off point.
As per usual, Heikki Kovalainen secured 19th in his Lotus, although the Finn will have Timo Glock (Virgin) alongside him on the is occasion. It was another Lotus / Virgin affair on the eleventh row, as temporary Lotus pilot Karun Chandhok out-qualified Jerome d’Ambrosio.
The recently renamed HRTF1 assumed the final row of the grid, with Daniel Ricciardo starting ahead of Vitantonio Liuzzi. The Italian recorded a quicker time than his relatively new teammate; however an ill-timed gearbox change dropped Liuzzi to the rear of the pack.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap 1. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1n30.079s 2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1n30.134s + 0.055 3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1n30.216s + 0.137 4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1n30.442s + 0.363 5. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1n30.910s + 0.831 6. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1n31.263s + 1.184 7. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1n31.288s + 1.209 8. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1n32.010s + 1.931 9. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1n32.187s + 2.108 10. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1n32.482s + 2.403 Q2 cut-off time: 1m32.180s Gap ** 11. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m32.215s + 1.217 12. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m32.560s + 1.562 13. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1m32.635s + 1.637 14. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m33.043s + 2.045 15. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m33.176s + 2.178 16. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m33.546s + 2.548 17. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m33.698s + 2.700 Q1 cut-off time: 1m33.664s Gap * 18. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m33.786s + 1.960 19. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m35.599s + 3.773 20. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m36.400s + 4.574 21. Karun Chandhok Lotus-Renault 1m36.422s + 4.596 22. Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m36.641s + 4.815 23. Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth 1m37.036s + 5.210 24. Tonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1m37.011s + 5.185 *** 107% time: 1m38.253s * Gap to quickest in Q1 ** Gap to quickest in Q2 *** Grid penalty