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Qualifying analysis - Red Bull to reign, weather permitting? 11 Jul 2009

Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB5.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, German Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Nurburgring, Germany, Saturday, 11 July 2009 Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Brawn Grand Prix BGP 001.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, German Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Nurburgring, Germany, Saturday, 11 July 2009 (L to R): Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari and Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari sign autographs for the fans.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, German Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Nurburgring, Germany, Saturday, 11 July 2009 Nelson Piquet Jr. (BRA) Renault R29.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, German Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Nurburgring, Germany, Saturday, 11 July 2009 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren MP4/24 leads Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB5.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, German Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Nurburgring, Germany, Saturday, 11 July 2009

The madness of Q2, as Brawn GP’s Jenson Button described it, upset many people’s plans, and set up a dramatic Q3 shootout in which Red Bull’s Mark Webber made the most of his chances to take his first pole position. Interestingly, he and team mate Sebastian Vettel have exactly the same fuel load, 661 kg, which bodes well for their race prospects given that Button was third with 644 and his team mate Rubens Barrichello second with 647. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, fifth, had 654 kg, which reflected not just on how much the Brawns struggled again for tyre temperature, but also the progress McLaren have made with their revised aero package on the world champion’s car…

Red Bull
Mark Webber, 1m 32.230s, P1
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 32.480s, P4

In some of the most difficult circumstances in a qualifying session this year, Webber rose to the occasion and got the job done, simple as that. And as the fuel weights revealed, it was a totally valid performance. Vettel simply admitted that while the car was capable, he didn’t quite get the most from it. With their fuel loads, these two should walk it on Sunday, unless the weather intervenes.

Brawn
Rubens Barrichello, 1m 32.357s, P2
Jenson Button, 1m 32.473s, P3

Barrichello was cock-a-hoop to out-qualify Button despite running a lap’s worth more of fuel, and was bubbling too after dominating the super-tricky Q2 session after judging the switch to slicks perfectly. Button was also pretty happy with P3 given the lottery-like nature of the sessions. They will be on for third and fourth on Sunday if they don’t make great starts, or unless the weather goes in their favour.

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 32.616s, P5
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 33.859s, P6

Hamilton’s pace prior to qualifying was put down by many to low fuel runs, but the important sessions showed that the MP4-24’s new clothes have had an important aerodynamic benefit. The back end is calmer, and that has brought a double benefit in making the car more effective and improving Hamilton’s confidence. He will be a dangerous opponent, especially if it rains. Kovalainen was happy too with sixth, especially as his McLaren was running to the old specification and with 664kg of fuel.

Force India
Adrian Sutil, 1m 34.516s, P7
Giancarlo Fisichella, 1m 32.402s, P18

Sutil sprung a major surprise by making it through to Q3 and then beating the Ferraris. What made this particular performance all the more notable was the German’s fuel load - 678 kg, the heaviest of the top 10 runners. Against that, Force India’s best qualifying performance ever, Fisichella perhaps lamely blamed traffic for his 18th grid slot.

Ferrari
Felipe Massa, 1m 34.574s, P8
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 34.710s, P9

There was a resigned air in the Ferrari camp, where a sort of ‘could have been better, could have been worse’ attitude prevailed. Neither driver had problems, but that was just the way the lottery of qualifying worked out for them this time. Massa ran a fuel load of 673.5kg, Raikkonen 674.

Renault
Nelson Piquet, 1m 34.803s, P10
Fernando Alonso, 1m 42.318s, P12

Alonso was impeded by Glock in Q1, but spun away his chances of getting through Q2. Piquet beat him this time, to qualify 10th, an ironic performance as many would have you believe this could be his last Formula One appearance.

BMW Sauber
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 42.310s, P11
Robert Kubica, 1m 32.190s, P16

Heidfeld was hopeful of making it through to Q3 until the rain affected Q2, and rued an incorrect tyre choice after admitting that he prevaricated. He left the decision to the team and plumped for super soft slicks just when the rain returned. Kubica’s unhappy weekend continued as he remained unhappy with the performance of his car. Nothing showed up on the telemetry, but the same speed as Heidfeld just wasn’t there.

Williams
Kazuki Nakajima, 1m 42.500s, P13
Nico Rosberg, 1m 42.859s, P15

Williams were another team to be disappointed. Nakajima said he just missed getting the crucial tyre decision right in Q2 and wound up 13th. Rosberg thought he could have been up the sharp end had it stayed dry, but admitted that he just didn’t get the best out of his situation in Q2 and was 15th.

Toyota
Jarno Trulli, 1m 42.771s, P14
Timo Glock, 1m 32.423s, P19, will start P20

Toyota had a torrid time. Glock struggled terribly with tyre warm-up problems in Q1 and was 19th until the stewards decided he had impeded Alonso and gave him a three-grid place penalty which left him 20th. Trulli looked quick in the dry but was yet another on the wrong tyres at the wrong time in Q2.

Toro Rosso
Sebastien Buemi, 1m 32.251s, P17
Sebastien Bourdais, 1m 33.539s, P20 Will start P19

Buemi blamed traffic for his 17th place best lap, while Bourdais said that switching to Buemi’s morning set-up didn’t work out for him in qualifying.

David Tremayne