Hockenheim Quali Recap: Alonso takes pole in the rain, McLarens lose out

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Fernando Alonso (1:40.621) took pole in the rain at Hockenheim, beating out Sebastian Vettel after the flag flew for the 2012 German Grand Prix qualifying session. Mark Webber set the third fastest time, but will drop down the order on the grid with a five place gearbox change penalty, moving fourth fastest Michael Schumacher up to the third starting position. Neither McLaren driver fared well in the rain in Q3, as Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton managed only seventh and eighth fastest.

Q2 began and ended with rain falling, seeing all drivers scrambling for a couple of quick laps, though there were no incidents or particular surprises. Schumacher provided serious drama at the end of Q1, pulling himself out of the knockout zone in the seconds after the flag and knocking out Jena-Eric Vergne. The track looked set to have rain coming in the latter half of the twenty minute session, but it instead got faster as drivers switched to the softs. Nico Rosberg, Romain Grosjean, and Webber will all suffer a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change.

Friday at Hockenheim saw running, but little of it seemed definitive as rain shortened long runs and kept the track too damp for quick running. Button (1:16.595) and Maldonado (1:27.476) came out the fastest in the two sessions, as the Briton led the generally uneventful morning session. The Venezuelan topped the afternoon, a session paused by rain, marked by a bit of dryish running, and ended four minutes early by a Schumacher crash. Hamilton, Alonso, Schumacher, and Perez completed the fastest five in the morning, while Rosberg, Vettel, Perez, and Grosjean did so in the afternoon.

Saturday morning’s final practice saw a decent amount of dry running, even as rain came pouring down a few minutes before the checkered flag flew. Alonso (1:16.014) took over in the latter stages of the hour long session, ended with the fastest lap in the final practice. He and Massa ended the session before the rain fell, as Ferrari noted that they had completed their days’ work. Button was slowest as he had not done a single high-speed run. Hamilton, Perez, Raikkonen, and Webber completed the fastest five Saturday morning.

The twenty minutes of Q1 got underway under partially sunny skies with a rush of drivers directly onto the track. Rain threatened for alter, not only in the day but in the session. In less than a minute, nearly the entire field had already joined the track. Hulkenberg (1:18.475) led them all into timed laps, only to be supplanted by Maldonado moments later. They would soon slide down the order. Once all of the drivers had set a time, Alonso (1:16.705) led Button, Rosberg, Schumacher, Hamilton, Massa, Kobayashi, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, and Perez, nearly five minutes into the session.

Though they continued on lapping, with a few changes came to the order. Vettel managed only fifteenth, but Kobayashi moved up fourth. Hamilton and Button were soon first and second as drivers lapped away to set plenty of times and get a better feel for the dry conditions. As halfway approached, drivers began returning to the garage.

At that point, Hulkenberg, Kovalainen, Petrov, de la Rosa, Pic, Glock, and Karthikeyan were in the knockout zone. Meanwhile, Hamilton (1:16.221) continued to improve his fastest time, ahead of Kobayashi, Button, Rosberg, Alonso, Massa, Vettel, Schumacher, Senna, and Webber. A minute later, every driver was back in the garage, most posting five, six, or seven laps each with the clouds growing increasingly dark and menacing. Vergne, Hulkenberg, and Glock all rejoined the track with eight minutes to go as Hamilton climbed out of his car. McLaren told the Briton that they were confident to be safe.

Raikkonen in eleventh also rejoined with seven to go, as everyone near the bubble and many in the knockout zone looked for any improvement possible. On the soft tyres, Hulkenberg shoved through the order to take second fastest. Raikkonen (1:15.693) bettered that to go faster than Hamilton, but was only on the medium compound. Meanwhile, on board cameras appeared to be getting mistier in the humid conditions. Hamilton got back in as five minutes remained. Alonso also rejoined, on the medium, as Di Resta went fourth fastest. Grosjean, Kovalainen, Petrov, Pic, Glock, de la Rosa, and Karthikeyan were in the knockout zone with four minutes to go. Maldonado moved up to fourth from sixteenth, though Webber was quickly in danger, dropping to seventeenth. Schumacher was only hundredths quicker in fifteenth.

Neither McLaren rejoined with two minutes to go as Perez went less than a tenth slower than Raikkonen to take second fastest. Webber dropped to the knockout zone, only to move up to fifteenth, putting Schumacher in the relegation zone as well. Meanwhile, Alonso moved up to fourth on the mediums. Soon, most of the top thirteen dropped back into the garage. All eyes were on Schumacher, with a slow first sector. Senna moved up from seventeenth to tenth. In the end, Schumacher picked up just enough to take seventeenth and drop out Vergne. Raikkonen (1:15.693) led Perez, Rosberg, Alonso, Maldonado, Hamilton, Massa, Hulkenberg, Di Resta, Vettel, Senna, Kobayashi, Webber, Button, Ricciardo, Grosjean, and Schumacher all moved on to Q2.

Knocked Out in Q1:
18. Jean-Eric Vergne
19. Heikki Kovalainen
20. Vitaly Petrov
21. Charles Pic
22. Timo Glock
23. Pedro de la Rosa
24. Narain Karthikeyan

Rain began falling in the moments between Q1 and Q2. Button and Maldonado were the first to go out as teams began scrambling for wet and inter tyres. Those two went out on the inters as much of the rest of the field followed them. Two and a half minutes into the session, every driver had joined the track on inters. With conditions set to get worse, radio transmissions were filled with admonitions to be calm and put together a single early lap quickly. Button had terrible problems on his first lap, immediately losing time to Maldonado (1:38.949). Most other drivers filled in behind, but Vettel and Alonso both beat Maldonado’s time. The first times put Schumacher (1:38.101), Vettel, Alonso, Maldonado, Button, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Webber, Di Resta, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Perez, Kobayashi, Senna, Rosberg, and Massa as the running order. Soon Hamilton overtook Schumacher’s time.

Hamilton led Schumacher, Vettel, Alonso, and Button as the top five at halfway, while Perez, Ricciardo, Kobayashi, Grosjean, Senna, and Rosberg sat in the knockout zone. The last went in for full wets a minute later. More drivers began pitting with five minutes to go as the rain continued to fall. Perez traveled through the gravel trap, rejoining without damage but very close to a Ferrari. In fourth, Alonso radioed back to Ferrari that it was too risky to still be out and pitted with two minutes remaining. At that point, Maldonado, the Force Indias, Lotuses, Saubers, Williamses, Massa, and Rosberg were all still circulating. Alonso rejoined in the final seconds on full wets, but conditions left the order generally as it had been. Replays showed a bit of dicing between the Ferrari teammates in the midst of the heavy rain, as Alonso lost a bit of time behind Massa on his own fast lap. In the end, Hamilton (1:37.365) was fastest over Schumacher, Vettel, Alonso, Button, Maldonado, Webber, Hulkenberg, Di Resta, and Raikkonen, all moving on to fight for pole in Q3.

Knocked Out in Q2:
11. Daniel Ricciardo
12. Sergio Perez
13. Kamui Kobyashi
14. Felipe Massa
15. Romain Grosjean
16. Bruno Senna
17. Nico Rosberg


In the break between Q2 and Q3, Alonso pointedly radioed that he didn’t think the drivers should be heading back out in the wet conditions, but the sky began to lighten as the final ten minutes of qualifying began. All ten drivers began lapping immediately. Hulkenberg was the first minor casualty in Q3, taking a drive across the grass and gravel at Turn 12, despite the fact that it had stopped raining in pit lane. Button set the first time, but teammate Hamilton was three tenths quicker, then Schumacher, then Alonso, then Vettel (1:44.605) posted the fastest time of the session. Di Resta slotted into third, only to have his own teammate drop him to fourth. With conditions likely to be dry for the race, teams were gingerly feeling their way through the rain and river conditions.

Vettel led Alonso, Hulkenberg, Button, Di Resta, Schumacher, Hamilton, Webber, Maldonado, and Raikkonen with four minutes to go. Hamilton went fastest of all in the first sector, only to be supplanted by Vettel again. Meanwhile, Alonso and Raikkonen had pitted for fresh wet tyres. Hamilton went fastest for a full lap, only to have Schumacher go nearly two seconds quicker. Vettel responded and took provisional pole back again. As the seconds ticked by, drivers continued to lap in the wet and go for the cleanest lap possible in traffic. Webber went fastest by more than a second, but Alonso was on his own quick lap, taking provisional pole and becoming the last man to get back across the line.

The flag flew as Vettel improved in sector one. Hamilton gave up and pitted from seventh. Button managed only sixth, Schumacher fourth, Vettel did not gain better than second, leaving Alonso to better his own time and keep pole in the rain. In the end, Alonso beat Vettel, leaving Webber, Schumacher, and Hulkenberg the fastest five.

Final Qualifying Times for the 2012 German Grand Prix:

1. Fernando AlonsoFerrari1:40.62123
2. Sebastian VettelRed Bull1:41.02623
3. Mark Webber*Red Bull1:41.49624
4. Michael SchumacherMercedes1:42.45924
5. Nico HulkenbergForce India1:43.50124
6. Pastor MaldonadoWilliams1:43.95027
7. Jenson ButtonMcLaren1:44.11320
8. Lewis HamiltonMcLaren1:44.18618
9. Paul Di RestaForce India1:44.88926
10. Kimi RaikkonenLotus1:45.81120
11. Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso1:39.78915
12. Sergio PerezSauber1:39.99317
13. Kamui KobayashiSauber1:39.98516
14. Felipe MassaFerrari1:40.21217
15. Romain Grosjean*Lotus1:40.57418
16. Bruno SennaWilliams1:40.75221
17. Nico Rosberg*Mercedes1:41.55118
18. Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso1:16.7419
19. Heikki KovalainenCaterham1:17.6208
20. Vitaly PetrovCaterham1:18.5319
21. Charles PicMarussia1:19.22012
22. Timo GlockMarussia1:19.29111
23. Pedro de la RosaHRT1:19.9128
24. Narain KarthikeyanHRT1:20.23010

*five place gearbox change grid penalty


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