Vettel denies Alonso to take pole on home soil

Sebastian Vettel stormed to pole at his home track, in a feverous qualifying session in Hockenheim.

The 23-year-old left it late to pip the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso, who had topped the opening two segments, by only two thousandths of a second.

Despite making an error on his final qualifying run, Mark Webber will start third for tomorrow’s race, with the Felipe Massa fourth in the sister Ferrari.

Although qualifying resulted in a private battle between Ferrari and Red Bull, the McLaren duo of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton kept themselves in touch for tomorrow’s race locking out the third row of the grid.

Robert Kubica was sixth for Renault, with Rubens Barrichello (Williams), Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) and Nico Hulkenberg (Williams) rounding off the top ten.

However, the session was proved to be disappointing for Michael Schumacher, who failed to make it into the final segment of qualifying and had to settle for eleventh.

Q1

With the weather still uncertain, qualifying for the 2010 German Grand Prix began with a flutter, as a whole host of drivers took to the track to record a time.

This group included Fernando Alonso, who immediately set a time of 1:17.665 in his Ferrari F10.

The Spaniard’s time was soon knocked off by team-mate Felipe Massa and then by the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton who both dropped into the high one minute sixteen second bracket.

However, Alonso would not be denied and duly returned to the top of the times with a lap of 1:16.430.

With fourteen minutes remaining the session was red flagged as Tonio Liuzzi crashed heavily on the exit of turn seventeen. The Italian appeared to run wide on the Astroturf at the exit of the corner; losing control of his Force India and ploughing into the adjacent pit wall.

Ultimately, the earlier rain had played a critical role in the entire accident, with the curves on the exit of the corner remaining largely damp from this morning’s showers.

When the session did restart, it was the Red Bull drivers who immediately took to the track to show their speed.

Webber, looking to add to his victory last time out at Silverstone, immediately shot to the top of the times with a 1:16.505, but this was only for a short period of time, as Lewis Hamilton shot into the mid-one minute fifteen seconds.

The British driver appeared to suffer no effects from his Friday practice crash, and continued to be faster than his team-mate Jenson Button, who finished the session in sixth.

However, Vettel, on a new set of Prime tyres, soon took control of the session and set a time of 1:15.152. Red Bull’s pace was underlined by Mark Webber who immediately moved up to second, albeit two tenths shy of the sister RB6.

But those who believed that this would set precedent for the remainder of the session would be wrong, with Fernando Alonso setting the fastest first and second sector times to record a lap of 1:14.808.

Following Liuzzi’s accident, there were no surprise exits from qualifying, with Jarno Trulli in his Lotus setting the fastest time of all of the new teams.

Virgin’s mechanical woes appeared to continue with Lucas di Grassi only completing one lap in the entire session.

Drivers Eliminated from Q1:

18. Jarno Trulli       Lotus
19. Heikki Kovalainen  Lotus
20. Timo Glock         Virgin
21. Bruno Senna        HRT
22. Tonio Liuzzi       Force India
23. Sakon Yamamoto     HRT
24. Lucas di Grassi    Virgin

Q2

As the threat of rain continued to evaporate, drivers took to the circuit for the second segment of qualifying.

Staying on the harder compound of tyres Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso all opted to take to the circuit to set a banker lap.

Ultimately it was the Ferrari driver who continued from where he had left off in Q1, setting the weekend’s a superb time of 1:14.664.

Surprisingly, Alonso’s team-mate, Felipe Massa, opted to start the session on the softer tyre and immediately put it to good use by moving to the top of the times, less than a tenth ahead.

With the top-ten separated by six tenths of a second, there appeared to be no margin for error, as teams attempted to scramble into the top-ten shootout.

Ultimately it would be the all-German Mercedes team which would be under the most pressure going into the final half of Q2, with Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher on the wrong side of the cut off zone.

Realising that no one was entirely safe, both Alonso and Vettel returned to the circuit on brand new soft tyres.

The former immediately felt the effect of the new rubber and the continuous improvement of track conditions to improve on his time by a massive eight tenths of a second marching to the top of the times with a 1:14.081.

Local-hero Sebastien Vettel would also displace Massa and move second, but with a time three tenths shy of the leading Ferrari.

However, the remaining minutes of the session was far from perfect the 23-year-old’s compatriot, Michael Schumacher.

Although the seven-times champion had managed to drag himself up into the top-ten for a short period of time, he was soon relegated to eleventh, first by his team-mate Nico Rosberg and then by fellow-German Nico Hulkenberg in the Williams FW32.

Among those joining Schumacher in the drop zone was the Force India of Adrian Sutil – who failed to build on the impressive speed shown during the wet practice session on Friday morning.

Drivers Eliminated from Q2:

11. Michael Schumacher Mercedes
12. Kamui Kobayashi    Sauber
13. Vitaly Petrov      Renault
14. Adrian Sutil       Force India
15. Pedro de la Rosa   Sauber
16. Jaime Alguersuari  Toro Rosso
17. Sebastien Buemi    Toro Rosso

Q3

Although the German crowd would be bitterly disappointed by Michael Schumacher’s eliminated, Nico Rosberg, Nico Hulkenberg and Sebastian Vettel would feature in the top-ten shootout for pole position.

Fernando Alonso once again started the circuit in sublime fashion setting the fastest time in all three sectors to record of a lap time of 1:13.927.

Next to respond was Sebastian Vettel, who could not respond to the Ferrari driver’s time, despite only being thousandths shy.

Lewis Hamilton continued to take the fight to Ferrari and Red Bull. Although the championship leader’s first effort was good enough for fourth, it was still over half a second behind Alonso’s time.

With just over two minutes remaining, the top-ten runners returned to the track for their final low-fuel effort.

Whilst Nico Rosberg struggled to move higher than ninth, the battle at the front at front immediately intensified with Mark Webber’s chances were dashed, when he went wide at turn 1.

Following a quiet weekend, Jenson Button pulled out a surprised to out qualify his team-mate, as both McLaren’s locked out the third row.

However, in the dying seconds of the session Sebastian Vettel sent the crowd in to raptures as he stormed to pole position with a time of 1:13.791.

Although Alonso was the last to cross the line, he was powerless to stop the German, who took his sixth pole position of the season.

With the grid finely posed tomorrow’s German Grand Prix looks set to be a close battle between Red Bull Racing and Ferrari, with the latter out to restart its title ambitions.

Pos Driver      Team                  Q1        Q2        Q3
1.  Vettel      Red Bull-Renault      1:15.152   1:14.249  1:13.791
2.  Alonso      Ferrari               1:14.808   1:14.081  1:13.793
3.  Massa       Ferrari               1:15.216   1:14.478  1:14.290
4.  Webber      Red Bull-Renault      1:15.334   1:14.340  1:14.347
5.  Button      McLaren-Mercedes      1:15.823   1:14.716  1:14.427
6.  Hamilton    McLaren-Mercedes      1:15.505   1:14.488  1:14.566
7.  Kubica      Renault               1:15.736   1:14.835  1:15.079
8.  Barrichello Williams-Cosworth     1:16.398   1:14.698  1:15.109
9.  Rosberg     Mercedes              1:16.178   1:15.018  1:15.179
10. Hulkenberg  Williams-Cosworth     1:16.387   1:14.943  1:15.339
11. Schumacher  Mercedes              1:16.084   1:15.026
12. Kobayashi   Sauber-Ferrari        1:15.951   1:15.084
13. Petrov      Renault               1:16.521   1:15.307
14. Sutil*      Force India-Mercedes  1:16.220   1:15.467
15. de la Rosa  Sauber-Ferrari        1:16.450   1:15.550
16. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:16.664   1:15.588
17. Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:16.029   1:15.974
18. Trulli      Lotus-Cosworth        1:17.583
19. Kovalainen  Lotus-Cosworth        1:18.300
20. Glock       Virgin-Cosworth       1:18.343
21. Senna       HRT-Cosworth          1:18.592
22. Liuzzi      Force India-Mercedes  1:18.952
23. Yamamoto    HRT-Cosworth          1:19.844
24. di Grassi   Virgin-Cosworth

*Sutil given 5-place grid drop for a gearbox change.