F1 Hockenheim Quali Results & Report: Vettel on Pole, but Alonso is Closer Than Ever While Schumacher Was Out in Q2

What Happens When a Fraction Determines Everything

9:22am EST — It was a nail-biting few seconds after the checkered flag at the end of qualifying for the 2010 German Grand Prix as Sebastian Vettel held onto the Red Bull streak of poles by two thousandths of a second over Fernando Alonso, who led each of the sessions within the session, except the last.  Felipe Massa will start fourth, with Mark Webber discarding his final lap to start fourth.  It was a day for close teammates, as Jenson Button just beat out Lewis Hamilton to start fifth.  Rubens Barrichello and Nico Hulkenberg had an inter-team squabble of their own over eighth, joined by Nico Rosberg, who split them in ninth.  He barely beat his own teammate Michael Schumacher into Q3, by eight thousandths, forcing the seven-time champion to face the ignominy of being knocked out in Q2.  Q1 was briefly interrupted by a red flag for a heavy shunt by Tonio Liuzzi out of the final turn after hitting a puddle or wet kerb and crashing into the pit straight, though he was unhurt.  His teammate Adrian Sutil qualified fourteenth, but will start nineteenth due to a gearbox change grid penalty, the same suffered by last-place qualifier Lucas di Grassi, who posted no time due to a continued gearbox issue.

Vettel and Webber reversed the top four from the second practice in favor of the Red Bulls for the third, with Vettel leading Alonso, Webber, Massa, and Rosberg as the same drivers but a different order in the final practice before qualifying.  The early half of the session was quite wet, after rain just before the clock started and off and on during the session made running more difficult, but the latter half was run on a track drying out.  Button led for a while, but Vettel and Alonso, and Webber were the ones dueling it out for the fast times at the very end of the session, with Vettel’s 1:15.103 coming in the closing moments.  Hamilton and Button ended the session sixth and thirteenth fastest, with Schumacher seventh, and Barrichello, Kubica, and Hulkenberg rounding out the top ten.

di Grassi, Glock, and Alonso were the first drivers to head out onto the track in the first, twenty-minute session of qualifying.  Soon enough, half the filed was out in an attempt to beat the rain that would or could come.  Massa and Alonso were the early leaders, five minutes into Q1, improving their times on the dry circuit but not then matching the pace of Vettel in the morning practice.  The session was red-flagged (a boon for Virgin Racing’s di Grassi, who “has gear selection problems :-(” according to the team, who later noted, “Looking like problems in the gearbox for Lucas. Maybe caused when the alternator failed in Fp3.”) when Liuzzi crashed into the wall on the pit straight.  He appeared uninjured, but the front end was completely separated from the car after Liuzzi lost the rear on Turn 17 by running over what was likely the damp and slippery kerbing.  His separated wheel bounced across the track in front of and slightly over Glock.

At the red flag (14:30 left in the session), only twelve drivers had posted times, with Alonso leading Massa, Button, Hamitlon, Kubica, Hulkenberg, Buemie, Schumacher, Petrov, Sutil, Liuzzi, and Rosberg.  Neither Red Bull had a time, nor the recently improved Williams of Barrichello, nor any of the new teams.  It was these drivers who were first out when the session went green again.  In fact, only Hamilton and later Button of those with times were out minutes after the session restarted.  Hamilton and Webber went to the top of the times, with Vettel and Button following them there, so that at nine minutes left the order was Vettel, Hamilton, Button, Webber, and Kobayashi as the top five.  Sutil and Liuzzi had joined Kovalainen, Senna, Rosberg, Yamamoto, and di Grassi in the knockout zone, though Liuzzi and likely di Grassi would stay there with their mechanical and crash-related issues.

The faster drivers were exchanging fast lap times regularly at the front (two minutes later it was Vettel, Alonso, Webber, Hamilton, and Massa), but Alonso moved up to second.  Button was sixth, with Kobayashi and surprising seventh, while Rosberg looked slower than he had in the practices, but in Q1, being fastest doesn’t count for much, though by five minutes left, Alonso was.  At that time, Liuzzi with no more running had joined the new teams in the knockout zone while Petrov moved off the scary seventeenth position to thirteenth, leaving Buemi and then Alguersuari with the possibility of being knocked out as Petrov fell back to sixteenth himself.  Glock was posting the fastest time of the new teams, eclipsing Lotus who had led much of the season.  Third fastest Massa was “out on a new set of hard tyres, Fernando is doing the same but on used tyres,” according to Ferrari.  With two minutes left, Trulli led Glock, Kovalainen, Senna, Liuzzi, Yamamoto, and di Grassi in the knockout zone, while Alonso (1:14.808) led Vettel, Massa, Webber, and Hamilton as the fastest five.  They would remain in that order at the end of the session, with Kubica, Button, Kobayashi, Buemi, and Schumacher rounding out the top ten at the end of Q1.

Knocked Out in Q1:
18. Trulli 1:17.583
19. Kovalainen 1:18.300
20. Glock 1:18.343
21. Senna 1:18.592
22. Liuzzi 1:18.952
23. Yamamoto 1:19.844
24. di Grassi [no time]

It was still grey and had not rained yet as Q2 began with Vettel and Webber the first men out onto the track, Alonso (on a new set of hard tires, according to the team) and Hamilton close behind.  Two minutes into the fifteen minute session and everyone but Massa, de la Rosa, and Kobayashi were circulating.  In their first set times, it was Webber, Hamilton, Barrichello, Alonso, and Vettel, half a second off Alonso’s weekend fastest time to that point in Q1.  Kubica also had early pace in Q2, going straight to third fastest while Alguersuari, Schumacher, Rosberg, Buemi, Massa, de la Rosa, and Kobayashi were in the knockout zone with ten minutes left.  Massa, however, was soon to be fastest, just ahead of teammate Alonso, both faster than Alonso’s time in Q1.  They were followed by Vettel, Webber, Hamilton, Kobayashi, Button, Barrichello, Kubica, and de la Rosa as the top ten a minute later.

The Saubers seemed to have joined the Williamses in the “most improved” category, with much better pace than earlier in the season.  Webber took third fastest from Vettel while Massa improved his time and everyone but the Brazilian and Buemi were in the garages with six minutes to go.  Both Mercedes drivers were in the knockout zone, though leading it, with five to go; de la Rosa, Sutil, Petrov, Buemi, and Alguersuari were also there.  Alonso went faster than Massa on his own set of soft tires (previously having been on hards), with a 1:14.081, as Vettel also bettered to second over third faster and in the garage Massa.  Webber was fourth, with Barrichello outpacing Hamilton, but not Button who jumped to fifth with two minutes to go.

Rosberg and Schuamcher, who had been quite competitive in practice were about to be knocked out as the members of that sad club had not changed.  Both Ferraris were into the garage, confident in their times while Vettel and Webber continued to lap.  Schumacher improved to ninth, only to be supplanted by Rosberg while Sutil attempted to stem his bleeding grid positions from that gearbox change by moving up to fourteenth.  At the end of Q2, Alonso led Vettel, Webber, Massa, Hamilton, Barrichello, Button, Kubica, Hulkenberg, and Rosberg the top ten.  In the knockout zone were Schumacher, Kobayashi, Petrov, Sutil, de la Rosa, Alguersuari, and Buemi, with Hulkenberg the one to have jumped forward to eighth from twelfth and slid Schumacher back to the knockout zone.

Knocked Out in Q2:
11. Schumacher 1:15.026
12. Kobayashi 1:15.084
13. Petrov 1:15.307
14. Sutil 1:15.467*
15. de la Rosa 1:15.550
16. Alguersuari 1:15.588
17. Buemi 1:15.974
*will start nineteenth due to gearbox grid penalty

Whilst some sun had appeared, fleetingly, during Q2, Q3 had the danger of rain as noted by Ferrari, “The radar shows the possibility of some drops of rain at times.”  Webber and Massa were the first out in Q3, joined quickly by Hamilton and Rosberg, all apparently hoping to set times before the possibility of rain.  A minute into the session and only Vettel and Hulkenberg remained in the garage.  “Both drivers are out now. obviously bot[sic] are on soft tyres,”  pithily tweeted Ferrari.  Three minutes in and only Webber, Hamilton, and Massa had posted times, in that order, but the rest were soon to follow.  Alonso went straight to the top with a 1:13,927, four tenths faster than Webber.  Six minutes left and Vettel and Hulkenberg had yet to set a time, with the Williams yet to leave the garage.  Vettel’s first time took him to second fastest, also a 1:13s lap and only four tenths off Alonso’s pace.

Alonso was back in the garage at the halfway point, as was everyone but Hulkenberg and Barrichello, circulating on a clear track.  Before the final run, it was Alonso, Vettel, Webber, Hamilton, Massa, Button, Kubica, Rosberg, Barrichello, then Hulkenberg as the ten, with Rosberg the first back out.  Hulkenberg bettered his position over his teammate just before Vettel and Button returned to the circuit as well.  With two minutes left only Kubica remained in the garage, but he was out within seconds.  Ferrari tweeted that “both drivers went out again on the last set of soft tyres,” either indicating that this was the last set for qualifying, or that the team is banking on rain and an early stop to get rid of these last soft tires for the weekend.  No one had bettered his time with less than a minute left, but then Hulkenberg did, moving up to eighth.  Vettel was posting personal best times while Button went fastest of the session in the second sector, as Vettel took the lead from Alonso, who then went fastest in sector two.  He bettered his time, but not his position as Massa jumped to third fastest, over Webber, who was stuck with at best fourth as he went back to the garage.  Alonso remained second, off Vettel’s pole setting 1:13.791 by two thousandths of a second.  Barrichello did manage to reclaim position from both Hulkenberg and Rosberg, while Hamilton was sixth, behind teammate Button.

Provisional Qualifying Times for the 2010 German Grand Prix:
1. Vettel 1:13.791
2. Alonso 1:13.793
3. Massa 1:14.290
4. Webber 1:14.347
5. Button 1:14.427
6. Hamilton 1:14.566
7. Kubica 1:15.079
8. Barrichello  1:15.109
9. Rosberg 1:15.179
10. Hulkenberg 1:15.339


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