It was a bittersweet afternoon for Mercedes as Lewis Hamilton stormed to pole position for the German Grand Prix, to become the first driver to do so since 1954 for the Silver Arrows on home soil, while Nico Rosberg failed to make it into Q3 as his team got the maths all wrong when it mattered.
Hamilton’s pole, his second in the space of a week, came after couple of tough free practice sessions for the Briton who struggled to find the sweet spot. But in qualifying he always looked likely and he delivered a brilliant final lap – 1:29.398 – which knocked the other local hero, Sebastian Vettel, off top spot.
Hamilton said afterwards, “It’s really overwhelming. I’ve been struggling since the first run in P1. It was pretty good. P2 and P3 were disasters and it got worse this morning. I wasn’t comfortable with the car at all. We went back to [the team] truck, tried to analyse everything and made lots of changes and hoped it would work. Fortunately the car was beneath me and I was able to put [in] the times. I’m grateful to the guys and all the hard work they put in.”
It was a case of joy on the one side of the Mercedes pit and total disappointment on the other. Rosberg had been looking good all weekend long and the smart money was on him to do the business in qualifying. But his Q2 time was short by a fraction, and when he should have been pounding in a banker lap he was in the pit garage. A bad call by his crew.
“It was quite a shock really. I didn’t see it coming. The team didn’t expect the track to ramp up that much. It really is a big disappointment. Unbelievable. I can’t believe I’m standing here. We just didn’t judge it correctly,” reflected Rosberg, clearly disappointed to be heading off for an early shower when pole for his home race was very realistic. He will start from 11th on the grid.
After FP3 Vettel was over half a second up on his closest rival and was undoubtedly the pre-qualifying favourite and duly did what he could by topping the timing screens until Hamilton snatched glory away with his scorcher.
“”Congratulations to Lewis – he did a great job. It was quite close, and I tried everything I had. The car felt fine, even after we struggled a little bit this morning. But we are much closer to them here than we were in Silverstone. We have made some progress and are confident for tomorrow. We’ve done our homework and now it’s up to us – we are on the front row. It wasn’t quite enough for pole position but I am looking forward to tomorrow,” said Vettel who will start from second place as he sets out to win his home grand prix for the first time in his career.
Mark Webber, who won the last time out at Nurburgring in 2011, looked strong all session long and when the chips were down in Q3 was a candidate for pole too. Nevertheless with the third best time he heads up the second row and starts on the clean side of the circuit.
“Not sure what happened, but we’re happy to be where I am. It was very sensitive as Lewis wasn’t comfortable [this morning]. I might have lost some time in the first sector. It’s pulled everyone together a little bit. We are happy with the car in long runs, and we’re in a good position tomorrow,” said Webber.
With the weather improving (getting hotter) Lotus and Ferrari suddenly became a major factor in proceedings.
Thus it was no surprise to see the Lotus duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean fourth and fifth, who will be quietly optimistic knowing that they have good race pace, coupled to their ability to look after the Pirelli rubber. They will fancy their chances should conditions remain the same or get even hotter.
Matching his heroics a week earlier at Silverstone was Daniel Ricciardo who qualified sixth in the Toro Rosso, the young Aussie really pushing forward his case for a seat in the senior Red Bull team while his teammate Jean Eric Vergne has struggled to match him since Webber made public his plans to depart F1.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of qualifying, particularly the final Q3 session was Ferrari’s decision to sacrifice a better grid position with an eye on optimising their strategy for the race.
Felipe Massa was quickest in both Q1 and Q2, while Fernando Alonso showed handy pace in Q2. But in Q3 they both bolted on white banded Medium tyres and the pair will share the fourth row, with Massa seventh and Alonso eighth. Maranello’s sights are obviously on the bigger picture. An interesting call from the Reds.
Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali explained, “We took a decision thinking only [of] the race. Anyway we’ve a competitive car, as you can see from Q2 results.”
Also bolting on a set of Mediums, but not doing a timed lap in the session was Jenson Button in the McLaren who will start from ninth.
Nico Hulkenberg was again punching above his weight as he manhandled the Sauber into Q3, but then did not do a lap in anger in the final session, to keep an extra set of tyres for the race.
Apart from Rosberg’s shocker, it was also unexpected to see the Force India pair so ineffective as conditions got warmer. Paul di Resta was quicker than teammate Adrian Sutil, but they did not make it beyond Q2 and will start 12th and 15th respectively.
Sergio Perez, who until Germany, had the measure of Button simply lacked the pace to match his more experienced McLaren teammate and will start 13th.
It was a sad 600th race weekend for Williams as neither of their drivers progressed beyond Q1. Rookie Valtteri Bottas out-qualified Pastor Maldonado, they will start from 17th and 18th on the grid.
Final word to pole winner Hamilton, “It’s a privilege to drive for this team, they’ve got great history, this is where Mercedes really started. I’m proud to get pole but there are no points for today. These guys [Red Bull] are good on the long runs. I hope ,with my new set up, that the pace will be as good and we can given them a run for their money.”
German Grand Prix, Qualifying – Saturday, 6 July 2013
|2||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:31.269||1:29.992||1:29.501||14|
|3||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:31.428||1:30.217||1:29.608||14|
|12||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:31.322||1:30.697||18|
|15||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:31.320||1:31.010||15|
|21||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:33.734||8|
|Q1 107% Time||1:36.885|