Mark Webber took his second consecutive pole position for Red Bull today at the NÃ¼rburgring but the star of the qualifying session was Lewis Hamilton, who put in an excellent lap to out-perform his car and put himself on the front row of the grid.
This meant that Sebastian Vettel could qualify only third and, for the first time this season, the world champion will start a grand prix from behind the front row.
Fernando Alonso failed to convert his practice pace into a competitive qualifying lap, taking only fourth place, some four tenths of a second behind Webber. Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa starts from fifth, alongside Nico Rosberg.
Jenson Button was 1.1 seconds off his team-mate and qualified down in seventh, and will be hoping for some rain tomorrow if he is going to have any chance of victory. Adrian Sutil, Vitaly Petrov and Michael Schumacher make up the top ten.
There was blue sky over the NÃ¼rburgring as qualifying got underway, and the threatened rain failed to materialise during the hour-long session. It was still very cold though, and getting heat into the tyre compounds was one of the big challenges for the drivers today.
The front-running teams all opted for the medium tyre compound for Q1 to begin with, despite it being over a second a lap slower than the softer option tyre. Lewis Hamilton set the early pace with a lap of 1:32.934.
As Q1 reached its climax, the midfield teams, including Renault and Mercedes, decided that they had to sacrifice a set of soft tyres to guarantee a place in Q2. Felipe Massa in the Ferrari did the same, which gave him the fastest lap of Q1 – a 1:31.826. Fernando Alonso did not use the option tyres in Q1, and neither did the drivers at McLaren or Red Bull.
Along with the six drivers from the three new teams, Kamui Kobayashi bowed out of qualifying at the end of Q1. Heikki Kovalainen will start behind Kobayashi in P18 and Timo Glock out-qualified the Team Lotus of Karun Chandhok to take P19.
Vitantonio Liuzzi, who qualified in P23, will drop to the back of the grid after the five-place penalty for changing his gearbox is applied before tomorrow's race. This will promote Daniel Ricciardo, who was only 0.025 seconds slower than his more experienced team-mate, up to P23.
Lewis Hamilton again set the early pace in Q2, and stayed at the top of the timesheets for the remainder of the session. The McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari drivers chose to do only one run on soft tyres in Q2, but everybody else needed a second.
Michael Schumacher got into the top ten with a last-ditch effort, as did Adrian Sutil and Vitaly Petrov, who edged out Renault team-mate Nick Heidfeld. Paul di Resta missed out on Q3, as did the two Williams drivers, Sergio Perez, and both Toro Rossos.
Fernando Alonso was the first man out of the pits as the green light signalled the start of Q3. His first effort was a 1:30.866, but it was swiftly beaten by a 1:30.725 from Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton's reign at the top of the timesheets was short-lived though, with Mark Webber putting in a time of 1:30.251. Sebastian Vettel's first effort of 1:30.352 was a tenth slower than his team-mate.
As the pole contenders dived back into the pits, Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg and Adrian Sutil went out for their one and only run in Q3. Then, with the countdown clock ticking down below the two minute mark, the pole contenders emerged from their garages.
Alonso's lap was full of personal-best sectors, but he could not threaten the Red Bull drivers. Webber put in a lap of 1:30.079, improving on his first attempt. Hamilton completed a 'wicked' lap of 1:30.134 on his second attempt, a time sufficient to keep qualifying specialist Sebastian Vettel off the front row.
German Grand Prix 2011: Provisional Qualifying Results
|1||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull||1:30.079||18||Report|
|3||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1:30.216||16||Report|
|8||14||Adrian Sutil||Force India||1:32.010||18||Report|
|12||15||Paul di Resta||Force India||1:32.560||15||Report|
|16||18||Sebastien Buemi||Toro Rosso||1:33.546||11||Report|
|17||19||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso||1:33.698||11||Report|
|19||20||Heikki Kovalainen||Team Lotus||1:35.599||9||Report|
|20||24||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing||1:36.400||12|
|21||21||Karun Chandhok||Team Lotus||1:36.422||11||Report|
|22||25||Jerome D'Ambrosio||Virgin Racing||1:36.641||12|
|107% qualifying time||1:38.253|
UPDATE: Sebastien Buemi was later excluded from the qualifying result after his fuel was found to be irregular. He will now start tomorrow’s race from the back of the grid. (Full story)