German Grand Prix Qualifying Review

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Webber RBRWhat a difference a little rain makes in a qualifying session. The session started easy enough in Q1 but with intermittent and light rain falling in the middle of Q2, all bets were off. The light, brief rain made for an exciting Q2 session with the teams changing tires to intermediates then back to slicks during the session.

As fate would have it, Rubens Barrichello, Adrian Sutil and Nelson Piquet picked the exact moment to go out in Q2 on their slicks and set fast laps but as all the teams dove in their stalls to follow suit—the rain started again and caught them all out on slick tires.

The final ten minutes of qualifying was left for those with imagination, trust in meteorological speculation and risk. The session seemed tenuous and the teams felt their way around the working end of six minutes before they staged their final pit stops and headed out for what proved to be an exciting finish.

With the advent of declared fuel loads via the FIA, we now know that the Brawn GP cars are the lightest in the field. Interesting considering Jenson Button felt the super soft compounds would work well for them irrespective of the cool weather. It is also interesting that it took a light fuel load to qualify P2 and P3 behind the Red Bull of Mark Webber who is carrying more fuel. Have the Red Bull cars caught up with the Brawn GP cars or passed them in performance. Perhaps we will see tomorrow in the race but for now, lap times and fuel loads would say yes.

Let’s take a look:

Red Bull
Mark Webber, 1m 32.230s, P1 661.0
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 32.480s, P4 661.0
Mark Webber claimed his first pole position in F1 after contesting 132 Grands Prix. It was a terrific day for the Australian and Red Bull Racing. His teammate Sebastian Vettel did not fair as well as he took blame for qualifying 4th in the grid. Adding salt to his wound was a penalty for releasing Vettel in the pit lane causing a dangerous situation resulting in a fine. If the predicted rain does come during the race, Vettel is still the one to beat.

Brawn
Rubens Barrichello, 1m 32.357s, P2 644.0
Jenson Button, 1m 32.473s, P3 647.0
Barrichello made a good call by changing to slicks in Q2 and the fastest lap time for the session gave him an emotional boost to out qualify his teammate in Q3 with more fuel on board.

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 32.616s, P5 654.5
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 33.859s, P6 664.0
Interestingly the McLaren’s are running light on fuel as many suspected but there is a silver lining to this cloud. The upgrades do seem to have worked this weekend and even more impressive is the fact that Heikki was not running the new parts. Light fuel or not, it looks as if McLaren may have joined Ferrari in the development race for the second half of the season.

Force India
Adrian Sutil, 1m 34.516s, P7 678.5
Giancarlo Fisichella, 1m 32.402s, P18 662.5
Sutil’s performance should be noted as the young German outran the Ferrari’s with a heavier fuel load. Actually he has the heaviest fuel load of the top ten cars. This, more than anything, exposes Fisi’s efforts as being tediously weak. If Adrian can stay away from Kimi Raikkonen tomorrow, he may just finish in the points.

Ferrari
Felipe Massa, 1m 34.574s, P8 673.5
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 34.710s, P9 674.0
The Ferrari effort today was downplayed by the team as a difficult session with their goal having been met—get in to the Q3 session. That seems a bit of sour grapes considering McLaren outperformed them as well as Force India. It remains to be seen how they will stack up based on fuel loads but Raikkonen said they didn’t have a single set of new tires for Q3.

Renault
Nelson Piquet, 1m 34.803s, P10 676.0
Fernando Alonso, 1m 42.318s, P12 668.2
Fernando spun in Q2 and said that the session was tricky. He was also impeded by Timo GLock in Q1. The beleaguered and much maligned Nelson Piquet out qualified his venerable teammate and made his statement on track about why he should be in the Renault at all.

BMW Sauber
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 42.310s, P11 681.0
Robert Kubica, 1m 32.190s, P16 673.5
Heidfeld had a decent start to qualifying and at the beginning of Q3 he was leading the session. A poor tire choice during the session sent him out just as the rain began to lightly fall again rendering his session over. Oddly Robert Kubica was struggling with his car but the team had no comment about any trouble with it. His times were clearly not on par with Heidfeld’s and makes one wondering if the suffering has taken a toll on the Polish driver.

Williams
Kazuki Nakajima, 1m 42.500s, P13 683.6
Nico Rosberg, 1m 42.859s, P15 689.6
Q2 represented the decisive moment for Williams as both drivers struggled with the chaos and tire choice. Rosberg was very confident that they would be fighting for the top three teams and this dispels his claim to forward progress. Nakajima was handling Q1 effectively but rued a tire choice that left him 13th.

Toyota
Jarno Trulli, 1m 42.771s, P14 683.7
Timo Glock, 1m 32.423s, P19, will start P20 662.3
Tim Glock had a miserable session. The scrutineering of the Alonso-Glock incident was added pain as the Stewards decided he had impeded Alonso and gave him a three-grid place penalty. Jarno Trulli also struggled with the tire choice in Q2 and failed to qualify well. Odd as Toyota have usually qualified well at Germany. Toyota are finding it difficult to generate heat in their tires over the last few races and it is especially highlighted during qualifying.

Toro Rosso
Sebastien Buemi, 1m 32.251s, P17 674.5
Sebastien Bourdais, 1m 33.539s, P20 Will start P19 689.5
Sebastien Buemi blamed traffic for his performance while Sebastien Bourdais blamed Buemi’s set-up for his lamentable performance.

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