Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel clinched Pole Position for his home race – the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim – from Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso by a mere two thousandths of a second as they battled out for the fastest lap all throughout the Qualifying Session. Ferrari’s had another reason to rejoice as Felipe Massa took P3 with the second Red Bull of Mark Webber in P4. The McLarens occupy the third row with Jenson Button P5 and Lewis Hamilton P6. Robert Kubica, Rubens Barrichello, Nico Rosberg and Nico Hulkenberg complete the top ten.
The German Grand Prix returned to Hockenheim after alternating with Nurburgring last year and it was off to a wet start as Friday’s first practice and Saturday’s third practice sessions were marred by rain. Qualifying, however, remained dry and contrary to form and expectations, it was Ferrari and not McLaren who were taking the fight to Red Bull.
Alonso has been quickest throughout the weekend and finished atop the timesheets during Friday’s practice session but Vettel topped Saturday’s practice session. During the first two qualifying sessions, it was Alonso who held the upper hand as he set fastest times both times and even held pole position during the initial runs in Q3. For their second runs, Ferrari elected not to release Alonso a bit later and the traffic ahead of him might have contributed to his not matching Vettel’s lap – although the difference was a mere 0.002 seconds!
Q1 had to be red flagged 5 minutes into it as Force India’s Vitantonio Liuzzi hit a bump coming out of the last corner and crashed his car right before the start-finish line. The session resumed after a few minutes as the debris were cleared off and the times went a-tumbling. Most of the field elected to run on the hard tyres and probably save the soft ones for later as McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari all traded fastest laps and top position. Sebastian Vettel. Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber all held top spot briefly with a lap time of 1:15 thereabouts but along came the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso with a time of 1 Min 14.808s to sit atop the charts as the session ended. The drivers to be relegated from the session were the Virgins of Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi, the Lotuses of Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli, the HRTs of Bruno Senna and Sakon Yamamoto along with Vitantonio Liuzzi.
Q3 saw the 1 Min 14s time being breached and who else but the two drivers fighting out for the fastest lap should do that. Fernando Alonso clocked a 1:13.927 and Vettel responded with a 1:13.961 as it was evident that the pole position is to be settled between these two drivers. For the second runs, Ferrari elected to send out Alonso a bit earlier, perhaps a bit too close to the traffic ahead of him and as Vettel strung together a beautiful lap to grab pole position, Alonso didn’t quite manage an improvement. Massa was third fastest ahead of Mark Webber, who ran wide on the last turn which lost him some time. Button managed to pip Hamilton into fifth place which might please him a little after a disappointing weekend thus far.
We’re into the second half of the season and with Mercedes GP starting to fade away a little and McLaren hitting a blip with their rear-blown diffuser package, it was Ferrari who are emerging as the main challengers to Red Bull. I hope this resurgence continues and we’ll have a nice little four-way battle for the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships this year. Exciting!