Silverstone Quali Recap: Alonso on pole in rain-stopped qualifying, Webber 2nd

Fernando Alonso (1:51.746) took pole for the 2012 British Grand Prix from Mark Webber in the final moments of qualifying and Webber was unable to respond, even behind the Spaniard on track. Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel completed the second row of starters for Sunday’s race in a rain-soaked qualifying session at Silverstone. Torrential rain paused Q2 for ninety minutes under a red flag, as drivers continually spun off and came upon each other without knowing the other was on the track. The session restarted with just over six minutes remaining. The six minutes were frantic as the track dried under momentary sunshine, with Vettel and Alonso barely making Q3.Though the sun shone on Saturday, rain also fell between the final practice and qualifying.

Jenson Button was the big name knocked out in Q1, falling afoul of the rain in the final sector, along with yellow flags for a stranded Timo Glock. Button looked ready to knock Rosberg out, but instead he was the man out with the Caterhams, Marussias, and HRTs. Kamui Kobayashi garnered a five place grid penalty for an incident in Valencia, while Charles Pic and Nico Hulkenberg will receive the same for gearbox changes.

Silverstone saw a distinct lack of sunshine for nearly the entirety of the day, and at no time did cars speed around the circuit without wet or inter tyres. Grosjean (1:56.552) topped the morning session, holding on to his car long enough to set a time, then added his name to the list of off-road excursions through the mud and muck. Though most cars went off the track or spun, there were no major incidents and all came through unscathed in the morning practice, with Ricciardo, Hamilton, Perez, and Massa completing the fastest five runners. Neither Di Resta nor Friday tester Jules Bianchi set a time for Force India, nor did Alonso.

Hamilton (1:56.345) took charge in the second, also extremely wet, session, leading Kobayashi, Schumacher, Rosberg, and Perez through the standing water. Not only did the lack of tyres keep drivers tucked away dry in the garages, but so did a red flag. Senna aquaplaned as he exited Becketts, damaging his Williams in the barriers. So too did Alonso crash, just as the session ended, damaging the new Ferrari front wing as he skipped across the grass on inters.

Saturday dawned neither bright nor cheerful, but the final practice did remain dry. Nearly the entire field lined up at pit out to start the session, switching to the softer compound just after an early red flag. Pic’s Marussia suffered electrical problems that left the Frenchman stranded on the middle of the track. Alonso (1:32.167) led the session over Button, Grosjean, Vettel, and Raikkonen, but clouds constantly threatened to disrupt the running. Multiple drivers led the session, only to be shuffled down the order as teams crammed three sessions’ worth of running into an hour.

Minutes before the twenty minutes of Q1, rain began spitting down form the sky again. Soon, it was properly raining and forecast to last for thirty minutes. As in FP3, a queue of cars sat waiting for the green light. Everyone but Massa and Schumacher was out in the first minute, but neither remained in the garage for much longer than that benchmark. Even as he took to the track, Lotus informed Raikkonen that he had lost his KERS and therefore needed to adjust his brake bias. Also, due to the rain, race direction informed the teams that DRS would be disabled for the session. Kobayashi (1:50.411) set the first time, as Vergne, Ricciardo, Maldonado, and the rest of the field slotted in behind. Alonso’s first lap was second fastest, only to have both Mercedes drivers go first and second. Massa (1:49.568) beat his former teammate to the top, five minutes into the session, as Schumacher, Rosberg, Kobayashi, Alonso, Vergne, Hulkenberg, Webber, Vettel, and Button completed the fastest ten at that point.

That order would not long last as the rest of the field completed more timed laps in the tricky conditions. Hamilton led, then Massa again, then Vergne, then Kobayashi, as the conditions continued to catch out drivers and shake up the order. Button languished down in the relegations zone, with Rosberg and Hulkenberg just ahead in the order. Halfway through, Maldonado (1:47.123) led Ricciardo, Perez, Vergne, Kobayashi, Vettel, Hamilton, Schumacher, and Grosjean. Petrov, Rosberg, Kovalainen, Glock, de la Rosa, Pic,and Karthikeyan sat in the relegation zone as the track dried slightly. Soon, Perez topped the standings over Kobayashi and Grosjean while the Toro Rossos and Marussias pitted.

The drivers continued to move around the order, coming across the line in occasional bunches as everyone struggled with some traffic. More drivers pitted for fuel after seven or eight laps with just over six minutes remaining in the session. Vettel hit the top with six to go, leading Hulkenberg, Maldonado, Perez, Schumacher, Kobayashi, Alonso, Grosjean, Senna, and Ricciardo. Button, Petrov, Kovalainen, Glock, de la Rosa, Karthikeyan, and Pic were all in the knockout zone. Meanwhile, Toro Rosso asked Vergne if he wanted to try dry tyres as the Saubers were circulating with them. Alas, it immediately began to rain harder. With four to go, Rosberg sat on the bubble, Button in the knockout zone. Webber, Raikkonen, Massa, Hamilton, Di Resta, Vergne, and Rosberg were eleventh through seventeenth with two minutes remaining as Button popped in for a race-fast stop for new inters.

Button managed to improve his personal time but not his standing. He had time enough for a final lap after crossing the line as much of the rest of the field pitted at the end of the session. Button was up on Rosberg by a second and a half, with the German in the garage. At the start finish line, Glock’s Marussia sat sideways, nose towards the pit lane after a spin. With the yellow flags and heavy rain falling, Button’s apparent fast enough lap lost much time and allowed him to be knocked out. Vettel (1:46.279), Hulkenberg, Maldonado, Perez, Alonso, Schumacher, Kobayashi, Grosjean, Senna, and Ricciardo were the top ten at the end of Q1.

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

Another queue started off the fifteen minutes of Q2, as the rain continued to fall. The Ferraris went out with inters, but immediately came back in for full wets. Nearly everyone else had already made that decision as the teams fueled the cars for the session and the drivers just ran and ran. Nearly five minutes in, Schumacher spun in the heavy rain, seemed momentarily stuck after marginally keeping himself out of the gravel before finding reversed, then got back onto the track and going. Soon thereafter he was back off again, this time across the grass.

Minutes later, Alonso lost the rear and then the entire car, providing serious drama as he flicked the car back around, keeping his head and the car out of the wall. At halfway, Perez (1:59.092) led Hamilton, Rosberg, Vergne, Hulkenberg, Kobayashi, Raikkonen, Webber, Ricciardo, and Vettel the top ten. Maldonado, Di Resta, Grosjean, Schumacher, Massa, Alonso, and Senna were in the knockout zone with not quite six minutes to go. Hamilton had complained that he nearly crashed into a Sauber as Alonso said the session was unsafe.

Red Flag (6:19 remaining):
The session stopped with just over six minutes remaining after multiple drivers spun and flicked off and the session became unsafe. Massa had aquaplaned off and multiple drivers went right past him without seeing the Ferrari as he attempted to rejoin the track. After more than an hour and a half stoppage, the session got underway again with sun shining directly on the track. The drivers queued early for the third time as the session got back underway, all but Kobayashi and Perez full wet tyres.

Kobayashi soon came back into the garage for full wets. As the standing water kept spraying across the track, Grosjean soon went faster than the earlier times, as did Alonso. Vettel slotted into third as Grosjean went across the gravel. Soon Schumacher went fastest, then Webber with Raikkonen going third fastest, only to be displaced by Massa. Hulkenberg went second fastest with forty-five seconds to go. As the seconds ticked away, Hamilton went from twelfth to second, then first.

With no time left, Vergne, Di Resta, Senna, Vettel, Perez, Rosberg, and Kobayashi sat in the knockout zone. Vettel moved up and out, as did Rosberg, Raikkonen had moved up, then dropped out as the order continued to change by the moment. Alonso sat thirteenth as Grosjean got caught in the gravel. Still, Alonso managed to move up and on to Q3 by going ninth fastest. In the final times, Hamilton (1:54.897) was fastest, leading Hulkenberg, Schumacher, Webber, Grosjean, Massa, Raikkonen, Maldonado, Alonso, and Vettel through to Q3.

Knocked Out in Q2:
11. Paul Di Resta
12. Kamui Kobayashi
13. Nico Rosberg
14. Daniel Ricciardo
15. Bruno Senna
16. Jean-Eric Vergne
17. Sergio Perez

Maldonado led the way out onto the still soggy track for the ten minutes of Q3, with no one waiting behind him. Raikkonen soon followed, as did Hamilton and Massa. A minute and a half into the session, all but Grosjean were out of the garage. After his Q2 off, he would not participate in the final bit of quali. Some drivers went out on the inters, others wets, and some came back in to switch to the then-quicker inters. Maldonado (1:58.016) set the first time, Raikkonen five seconds slower, but Massa was two and a half seconds faster on his first lap. However, Schumacher, then Alonso (1:53.699) went faster yet to take the early lead at the halfway point of the session. Vettel slotted into third on his first quick lap, with Webber and Hamilton still without a timed lap when four minutes remained.

Schumacher pitted for a switch to inters from the wets after Alonso’s fast time. However, Massa soon beat his teammate at the top. However, Alonso improved his time to go fastest as the track continued to improve as well. With two minutes remaining, Alonso (1:52.544) led Webber, Massa, Vettel, Schumacher, Hamilton, Maldonado, Hulkenberg, and Raikkonen. That would not last seconds, as Massa moved up to second fastest with rain threatening again. Webber, though, was on a seriously quick lap, nearly a second quicker than Alonso. The Spaniard responded with an even quicker first sector as the final seconds ticked by. Webber’s own first sector on the next lap was even quicker. Alonso completed the fastest lap to that point of Q3, as Schumacher went third fastest. Webber was unable to match the Spaniard and did not improve position. Nor could anyone else, leaving Alonso in a dramatic possession of pole.

Final Qualifying Times for the 2012 British Grand Prix:

1. Fernando AlonsoFerrari1:51.74625
2. Mark WebberRed Bull1:51.79323
3. Michael SchumacherMercedes1:52.02022
4. Sebastian VettelRed Bull1:52.19923
5. Felipe MassaFerrari1:53.06524
6. Kimi RaikkonenLotus1:53.29024
7. Pastor MaldonadoWilliams1:53.53925
8. Lewis HamiltonMcLaren1:53.54325
9. Nico Hulkenberg*Force India1:54.38222
10. Romain GrosjeanLotusn/t20
11. Paul Di RestaForce India1:57.00919
12. Kamui Kobayashi*Sauber1:57.07118
13. Nico RosbergMercedes1:57.10817
14. Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso1:57.13218
15. Bruno SennaWilliams1:57.42619
16. Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso1:57.71918
17. Sergio PerezSauber1:57.89519
18. Jenson ButtonMcLaren1:48.04412
19. Vitaly PetrovCaterham1:49.02710
20. Heikki KovalainenCaterham1:49.47710
21. Timo GlockMarussia1:51.61810
22. Pedro de la RosaHRT1:52.74211
23. Narain KarthikeyanHRT1:553.04010
24. Charles Pic*Marussia1:54.14310

*will drop five places on the starting grid due to penalty

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