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Qualifying - Alonso on pole after rain-delayed session 07 Jul 2012

(L to R): Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1, pole sitter Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari and Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, British Grand Prix, Qualifying, Silverstone, England, Saturday, 7 July 2012 Action on a sodden track.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, British Grand Prix, Qualifying, Silverstone, England, Saturday, 7 July 2012 Bruno Senna (BRA) Williams FW34.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, British Grand Prix, Race, Silverstone, England, Saturday, 7 July 2012 Sodden crowd.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, British Grand Prix, Qualifying, Silverstone, England, Saturday, 7 July 2012 Romain Grosjean spins into the gravel, causing waved yellow flags on many drivers' final flying laps of Q2 Into qualifying and Michael Schumacher is one of the earliest casualties of the worsening weather as he takes one of many excursions off track With heavier rain expected, the track gets crowded as all 24 cars take to the circuit as soon as the lights go green

2011 British race winner Fernando Alonso finally took pole at Silverstone on Saturday after a qualifying session that took more than two and a half hours to complete. There were still six minutes and 19 seconds of Q2 left when the wet conditions became so bad that F€A race director Charlie Whiting wisely red-flagged the session.

At that stage Sauber’s Sergio Perez was fastest on 1m 59.092s from McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton on 1m 59.581s, then Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg on 2m 00.080s. At 14.25 local time it was announced that Whiting expected the action to resume at 15.00. Finally, as conditions improved, it restarted at seven minutes past the hour.

Everyone went out immediately, and lap times improved every time somebody passed the start/finish line. Hamilton eventually walloped everyone with 1m 54.897s, while Alonso jumped up to ninth on 1m 56.921s even though Vale was yellow after Romain Grosjean spun and beached his Lotus there; the Spaniard bumped Force €ndia’s Paul di Resta out of the top ten, but got away with it because his third sector time was not an improvement on his previous best.

Thus Di Resta was the first to miss out, his 1m 57.009 leaving him 11th ahead of Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi on 1m 57.071s, Rosberg on 1m 57.108s (after an off at Vale), Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo on 1m 57.132, Williams’ Bruno Senna on 1m 57.426s, Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne on 1m 57.719s and Perez on 1m 57.895s. The unfortunate Mexican was thus the big loser after the resumption, having gambled on sticking with intermediate tyres.

Q3 was all about getting out and staying out, and the times went back and forwards as conditions improved by the lap. First it was Pastor Maldonado fastest for Williams, then Felipe Massa for Ferrari, then Schumacher before Alonso became the first fast man on the Pirelli intermediates. Then it was Massa again, likewise on inters, before Alonso went fastest again with three minutes left.

Mark Webber was very hooked up in his Red Bull, however, and snatched the initiative with 1m 51.793s before an absolutely on-the-limit effort from Alonso settled the issue at 1m 51.746s. Webber’s reply fell two-tenths short, but he will share the front row with the championship leader.

Behind them, Schumacher improved to 1m 52.020s on inters for third ahead of Sebastian Vettel in the second Red Bull on 1m 52.199s. Massa was fifth with 1m 53.065s, from late improver Kimi Raikkonen who managed 1m 53.290s in a Lotus that didn’t have KERS. Maldonado improved to 1m 53.539s and that was just enough to snatch seventh from his Valencia sparring partner Hamilton, who was a disappointed eighth for McLaren on 1m 53.543s.

Nico Hulkenberg took ninth for Force €ndia with 1m 54.382s, while Grosjean was 10th after his Q2 off.

Sensationally, Jenson Button had been the celebrity drop-out in Q1. €n intermittent rain that had begun just before the session the 2009 champion had been struggling but found his McLaren had much more grip on a different set of Pirelli intermediates. Unfortunately a faster lap which should have put him into Q2 was frustrated in the final sector when Timo Glock spun his Marussia, Jody Scheckter-style, exiting Club. That brought out the yellows, and ruined Button’s chances.

He thus finished that session 18th on 1m 48.044s. Behind him, Vitaly Petrov was Caterham’s leader this time on 1m 49.027s, with Heikki Kovalainen riding shotgun on 1m 49.477s. Then there was a big gap to Glock on 1m 51.618s, followed by Pedro de la Rosa for HRT on 1m 52.742s, Narain Karthikeyan on 1m 53.040s and Charles Pic on 1m 54.143s.

The grid will be juggled, however, as Kobayashi and Vergne have five and 10-place grid penalties respectively from Valencia, and Hulkenberg and Pic have five-places penalties for gearbox changes.

The full provisional grid will be published by the F€A on Sunday morning.

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