Mark Webber has continued his mid-season resurgence, taking pole position for the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, with Lewis Hamilton putting in a stunning final lap to take second on the grid.
It was an extremely impressive session for the British driver after his McLaren had struggled to match the performance of Ferrari and Red Bull during practice. Sebastian Vettel was evicted from the front row for the first time in 15 races, taking third.
The expected rain stayed away, allowing for a completely dry qualifying run, with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso out early for the knockout of Q3. But the expected improvement in Ferrari’s pace after the win at Silverstone did not materialise, with Hamilton going a tenth faster immediately afterwards.
They were followed by Webber and Vettel, whose times revealed the true pace of their cars. The former went out and pumped in a 1min 30.725second lap, a full five-tenths ahead of Hamilton and almost three quarters of a second quicker than in the final practice on Saturday morning. Vettel tried to match him but could manage only second.
It remained unclear for several minutes whether the leaders would go out again or conserve their tyres but the threat of likely rain for the race on Sunday may have influenced the decision to have another go. Alonso, certainly, was expecting to improve on his position with the track slightly more rubbered-in.
However, the Spaniard, on his second run, could make no impression on the leaders and was thwarted decisively when Webber put in an even quicker finish of 1:30.079 – the pole-winning time.
He was followed by Hamilton, who drove a blistering lap that was just five-hundredths of a second behind Webber’s time. Vettel could match neither on his final run and had to settle for third, a further tenth down.
Alonso and Felipe Massa were fourth and fifth, with Nico Rosberg taking sixth just ahead of Jenson Button, who has struggled with his set-up all weekend and did not seem able to dial-in his car in the same way as Hamilton when it counted.
The German fans were not only denied one of their countrymen on pole but also any highly unexpected fairytale for Michael Schumacher. The seven-times world champion finished tenth, behind Adrian Sutil in the Force India and Vitaly Petrov’s Renault.
“That was a wicked lap,” said Hamilton from his cockpit. “That’s as good as it gets.” Understandably buoyed, he begins ahead of Vettel and next to Webber, who has still yet to lead a lap this season.
“I’ll be in there pushing hard tomorrow,” said the Australian but, though there is a Red Bull on pole, McLaren were celebrating. “I don’t think that anyone in the team would imagine we would be this close to the Red Bulls,” concluded a clearly energised Hamilton.
Leading Positions after Qualifying: 1 Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull 1min 30.079secs, 2 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) McLaren 1:30.134, 3 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 1:30.216, 4 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Ferrari 1:30.442, 5 Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari 1:30.910, 6 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:31.263, 7 Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren 1:31.288, 8 Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India 1:32.010, 9 Vitaly Petrov (Rus) Renault 1:32.187, 10 Michael Schumacher (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:32.482, 11 Nick Heidfeld (Ger) Renault 1:32.215, 12 Paul di Resta (Gbr) Force India 1:32.560, 13 Pastor Maldonado (Ven) Williams 1:32.635, 14 Rubens Barrichello (Bra) Williams 1:33.043, 15 Sergio Perez (Mex) Sauber-Ferrari 1:33.176, 16 Sebastien Buemi (Swi) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:33.546, 17 Jaime Alguersuari (Spa) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:33.698, 18 Kamui Kobayashi (Jpn) Sauber-Ferrari 1:33.786, 19 Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) Lotus F1 1:35.599, 20 Timo Glock (Ger) Virgin Racing 1:36.400, 21 Karun Chandhok (Ind) Lotus F1 1:36.422, 22 Jerome d’Ambrosio (Bel) Virgin Racing 1:36.641, 23 Vitantonio Liuzzi (Ita) HRT-F1 1:37.011, 24 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) HRT-F1 1:37.036
Vitantonio Liuzzi will start the race from 24th after receiving a five-place grid penalty for changing his gearbox.