Another Pole for Alonso
By: James Musoke on July 21, 2012 | 9:30 A.M. EST
Fernando Alonso captured his second consecutive pole on Saturday. (Photo: Getty Images)
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso ran an incredible flying lap in Formula One qualifying for the Grand Prix of Germany to earn his second pole of the season and second in succession. The Spaniard dominated the proceedings during final qualifying segment at the Hockenheimring Circuit, which was plagued with a curtain of rain showers that made the track surface rather difficult for the drivers.
Nevertheless, the persistent points leader ran two laps fast enough for pole position and ended up almost half a second faster than his second place rival. Alonso’s first flying lap of 1.40.904s was set in soaking conditions where most drivers had switched their tires to the extreme wet compound to counter the lack of grip. Following back-to-back failed attempts by team Red Bull to trump the Ferrari in the closing seconds; Alonso beat his earlier lap with a time of 1:40.621, to seal his second front row start in the two last races.
“I am very happy!” Alonso said. “When qualifying is run in these conditions, it’s very difficult to put together a clean lap and it’s very easy to end up in the grass, the gravel or in the wall!”
“The car was going well in all conditions, which is encouraging, as it means that we can be in the fight whatever happens, be it dry or wet. The last part of qualifying was very problematic because there was aquaplaning, to such an extent that we did not use the KERS and you couldn’t use seventh gear on the straight. Managing to take pole in such extreme conditions is really gratifying! Tomorrow I expect that the strategies will be not be too different among the top teams, but with a good degree of flexibility.”
Red Bull drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber finished second and third fastest, respectively, although Webber will be demoted five grid places after a penalty for a gear box change. The German crowd will be proud to see some familiar faces at the top of the grid in Sunday, with hometown favorite Michael Schumacher starting in fourth place for Mercedes, ahead of his fellow countryman Nico Hulkenberg who rounded out the top five.
“That's certainly a nice way to start the German Grand Prix,” Schumacher said. “We had been expecting a position between fifth and seventh on the grid, so fourth in qualifying, which will become third place on the grid, is even better.
“Now we have to focus completely on tomorrow's race. We know that it should be dry tomorrow and we should be more competitive here than we were in Silverstone.”
Williams’s Pastor Maldonado finished sixth, with McLaren drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton qualifying in seventh and eighth, respectively. The newly renovated MP4-27 showed a lot of promise in practice, and came out strong during the first qualifying segments, but seemed to struggle quite a bit in Q3.
“We’ve got to be a little disappointed with the final qualifying result,” Hamilton said. “We were looking good in both Q1 and Q2, so I don’t understand how the others went quicker as the track dried slightly towards the end of Q3. Still, we’re in a better position for tomorrow: although we’re not starting from the best positions, our car certainly looks better in the dry and, with dry weather predicted tomorrow, I definitely think we can have a good race.”
Force India’s Paul di Resta finished ninth ahead of Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen who claimed the 10th spot. With Romain Grosjean, Nico Rosberg and Webber serving five-place grid penalties for their changed gearboxes, Webber will be pushed back to the eighth spot, while Grosjean and Rosberg who qualified 15th and 17th, will both drop five further places as a result of the penalties.
“It was tricky for us and we had dodgy conditions on track,” Webber said. “When you know you’re getting a five-place penalty, it’s easy not to get it right but I’m very happy to finish today quite far way up. We did some good laps and got a good result.”
As a result, Schumacher, Hulkenberg, Maldonado, Button and Hamilton will all move up a place on the starting grid.
Saubers Sergio Perez has also been handed a five-place grid penalty for tomorrow race. The Mexican was penalized for blocking other cars during the qualifying session, and will start the race 17th on the grid from 12th place.
The German Grand Prix is set to start at 8:00 a.m. (ET) on Sunday.