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Qualifying analysis - Alonso takes centre stage 21 Jul 2012

Pole sitter Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari celebrates in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Hockenheim, Germany, Saturday, 21 July 2012 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB8.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Hockenheim, Germany, Saturday, 21 July 2012 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Hockenheim, Germany, Saturday, 21 July 2012 Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India VJM05 ahead of Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India F1 VJM05.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Hockenheim, Germany, Saturday, 21 July 2012 Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams FW34.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, German Grand Prix, Practice, Hockenheim, Germany, Friday, 20 July 2012 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4-27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Hockenheim, Germany, Saturday, 21 July 2012 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus E20.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Hockenheim, Germany, Saturday, 21 July 2012 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR7.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Hockenheim, Germany, Saturday, 21 July 2012 Sergio Perez (MEX) Sauber C31 goes off track.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Hockenheim, Germany, Saturday, 21 July 2012 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Caterham CT01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Hockenheim, Germany, Saturday, 21 July 2012 Timo Glock (GER) Marussia F1 Team MR01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Hockenheim, Germany, Saturday, 21 July 2012 Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) HRT Formula One Team HRT F112.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, German Grand Prix, Qualifying, Hockenheim, Germany, Saturday, 21 July 2012 Pirelli tyres.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, German Grand Prix, Preparations, Hockenheim, Germany, Thursday, 19 July 2012

With rain falling from midway through Q2 until just before the chequered flag, qualifying on Saturday in Germany tested driver skill, car ability and team strategy to the limit. In the end Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso made the most of the tricky conditions to take pole position, just as he did at the last round in Silverstone. But will the Spaniard be able to stay ahead on Sunday if the race remains dry? We take a team-by-team look at how all the runners performed…

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso, 1m 40.621s, P1
Felipe Massa, 1m 40.212s, P14, will start P13

Alonso owned Q3, and some great strategy by Ferrari brought him in for a fresh set of Pirelli’s extreme wets and enabled him to set the two fastest times. He was the only man to break 1m 41s, and the fact that the Ferrari was fast in the wet and the dry on a circuit that theoretically ought to have penalised its lack of top speed and traction says that the Spaniard will be very hard to beat in the race. Massa got on to his back foot early in Q2 with a big slide in Turn Eight and thereafter struggled to get a decent time in before conditions deteriorated.

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 41.026s, P2
Mark Webber, 1m 41.496s, P3, will start P8

Vettel said he got held up by Webber right at the end of Q3, which cost him time as he tried to drop back but didn’t have enough time to do that properly. He also admitted that his best lap was bitty as a result, and thought he could otherwise have had a shot at pole. He did ruefully admit that Red Bull would look at Ferrari’s strategy of running Alonso on a fresh set of Pirelli extremes. Webber got what he could from his RB8, but lost five grid places after needing his gearbox changed before FP3. They will both be strong in a dry race, however.

Mercedes
Michael Schumacher, 1m 42.459s, P4, will start P3
Nico Rosberg, 1m 41.551s, P17, will start P21

Schumacher was very happy with fourth fastest time in Q3, and even happier to start third after Webber’s penalty. Rosberg struggled to hear his tyres in the rain of Q2, but was an encouraging third in the dry in Q1. Mercedes could be one to spring a surprise in a dry race.

Force India
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 43.501s, P5, will start P4
Paul di Resta, 1m 44.889s, P9

Hulkenberg thrives in the sort of conditions that affected Q2 and Q3, and thoroughly deserved fifth on the grid. That became fourth after Webber’s penalty, giving Force India a shot at the podium. Di Resta looked strong too in Q3, but lost a little ground just when it mattered at the end.

Williams
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 43.950s, P6, will start P5
Bruno Senna, 1m 40.752s, P16, will start P14

Maldonado was in strong form yet again to qualify well within the top 10, but though he showed signs of good pace Senna did not make it through to Q3.

McLaren
Jenson Button, 1m 44.113s, P7, will start P6
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 44.186s, P8, will start P7

The new McLaren package made the MP4-27 very competitive in the dry and Hamilton dominated Q2, but in the really heavy rain in Q3 both he and Button struggled to generate tyre temperature and thus lacked grip. They should both be strong threats on Sunday in dry conditions.

Lotus
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 45.811s, P10
Romain Grosjean, 1m 40.574s, P15, will start P19

Raikkonen was fastest in Q1 but the Lotus just didn’t work well when the rain came and both he and Grosjean struggled. It didn’t help that Perez impeded the Finn in Q2, while the Frenchman’s five-place grid penalty dropped him way back.

Toro Rosso
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 39.789s, P11
Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 16.741s, P18, will start P15

Ricciardo did another strong job in Q2 and was unlucky to miss out on a Q3 chance, while Vergne missed Q2 by two-tenths. The Frenchman reckoned he lost then with a slide in the final corner on his best lap.

Sauber
Sergio Perez 1m 39.933s, P12, will start P17
Kamui Kobayashi, 1m 39.985s, P13, will start P12

Perez didn’t get going soon enough in Q2 and thus suffered traffic at the end which prevented him from making it through to Q3 after a very promising dry run in FP3. Kobayashi said his C31 was a lot better after something undisclosed was discovered to be amiss overnight, but also failed to make the Q3 cut. There was more bad news after the session when Perez was given a five-place grid penalty for impeding Alonso and Raikkonen in Q2.

Caterham
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 17.620s, P19, will start P16
Vitaly Petrov, 1m 18.531s, P20, will start P18

Kovalainen believed he nailed his best lap and was finally beginning to unlock some of the potential in the CT-01’s new aero package, but Petrov struggle with traffic and low front tyre temperatures.

Marussia
Charles Pic, 1m 19.220s, P21, will start P20
Timo Glock, 1m 19.291s, P22

Pic missed most of FP3 having an engine change (there was no penalty as he hasn’t yet used his allocation of eight) so his effort in outqualifying Glock was praiseworthy despite a mistake in the first sector on his best run. Glock still struggled with rear-end stability.

HRT
Pedro de la Rosa, 1m 19.912s, P23
Narain Karthikeyan, 1m 20.230s, P24

De la Rosa was glum afterwards as traffic ruined a lap that was nine-tenths quicker and could have put him ahead of the Marussias. Given his lack of mileage over the weekend, Karthikeyan was happy to be so close to his team mate.

Pirelli
The forecast suggests Sunday will dry but, thanks to the wet weather, the tyre manufacturer has only limited data for its slick tyres. They expect a difference of about 0.5 seconds per lap between the soft and the medium tyres, but believe the medium compound should last a few laps longer.

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