Alonso Reigns in Silverstone Qualifying
By: James Musoke on July 7, 2012 | 10:40 A.M. EST
Alonso won his 21st career pole. (Photo: Getty Images)
In a waterlogged qualifying session for the British Grand Prix, Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso held off a speedy Mark Webber to post the fastest time of the afternoon, claiming his first pole position of the season by 0.047 seconds. Qualifying proceedings were briefly halted half way through Q2, as torrential rain begin to pour and deem most sections of the track unsafe.
Drivers faced a lengthy delay of over 90 minutes for the rain to stop and for the slow Silverstone drainage to get rid of the water that had flooded the track surface. Finally the skies cleared and the drivers were able to resume the final six minutes of the second period.
As the final seconds ticked away during Q3, the rain started to fall again, and it looked like pole was coming down to a battle between Ferrari and Red Bull. The checkered flag come out, and it was Alonso who crossed the line to set the best lap of Q3 with a time of 1:51.746s. This is Alonso's 21st pole of his career, and his first since Singapore in 2010, putting him on course for his second straight British GP victory.
“Pole was a surprise, because in conditions like these, you never know what can happen,” Alonso said. “This morning, in the dry, the car was very good, but in the wet it could all be different, even if the F2012 has shown that’s it’s not bad in the rain, if one thinks of Malaysia and the Mugello test. This afternoon, one had to be in the right place at the right time on the right tires and, to succeed in that, you also needed a bit of luck.”
Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher took third behind Mark Webber, with his Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel coming in fourth. Ferrari's Felipe Massa qualified fifth, ahead of Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen and William's Pastor Maldonado and sixth and seventh place respectively. Lewis Hamilton meanwhile ended up in a disappointing eighth place, just ahead of Nico Hulkenberg and Romain Grosjean, who was unable to take part in the third and final qualifying period after being beached at the end of the previous session.
“It’s frustrating and I’m very sorry for the team as it looks like we had a strong car, but sometimes mistakes happen,” Grosjean said. “My lap was not much different from the previous lap but it was different enough for me to go off and the car went backwards into the gravel and then it was stranded. It was very slippery. We deserved better, but we will do our best tomorrow to gain positions to get some good points.”
It was a disappointing afternoon for the British drivers, as Hamilton's teammate and fellow countryman Jenson Button continued his disappointing spell of results after he was knocked out during the first damp session of the afternoon. Button struggled to find grip in the slippery conditions, and was forced to fit in a new set of intermediate tires to try and salvage a fast enough time to make it into Q2. He was well on course to make it in, setting personal best times during the first two sectors, but conditions hampered his run in the final sector and the Englishman had to settle for 18th place on the grid. Button has now slipped to eighth place in the championship, 62 points behind the championship leader Fernando Alonso after scoring only 6 points in his last five races.
“I can usually drive a racing car in the wet, but obviously not today,” Button said. “The car felt completely different on its second set of Inters - on the first set, I’d had a lot of front-shuddering and couldn’t get the tires working, but on the second set that problem was much better. So, on my final run, I was around 1.8sec up on my previous best. Sadly, however, I wasn’t able to make that count in terms of my overall lap-time, because it was particularly wet in the final sector and there was also a yellow flag along the start line. That’s the way it is sometimes. It’s the story of my year, really, I guess. If Sunday is wet, as we expect it to be, then the fact that we haven’t put too many miles on the tires may make me a bit better equipped for tomorrow. You’ve just got to take the positives from the situation, wherever you can.”
The two-time world champion Fernando Alonso leads the drivers standings by 20 points over Mark Webber, who sits in second place ahead of Lewis Hamilton. The British Grand Prix it set to start at 8 a.m. (ET) on Sunday.