Australian driver Mark Webber has blitzed his way to his first ever pole position, beating the Brawn drivers in a fight that could prove critical in tomorrow’s German Grand Prix. From the very first lap of the Nurburgring yesterday, Webber looked to be in the zone and the experienced driver is determined to not let the Brawn duo run away with the titles. A fastest time in Q1, a solid Q2 and stunning lap in Q3 mean that Webber is in the primary position on tomorrow’s grid.
The weather in Germany, in particular just over the Nurburgring, has been a little cold this weekend, meaning Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello have been suffering slightly. It is known that the BGP 001 doesn’t do so well when the track is cold, as the tyres do not heat up as well and as quickly as some others. Some others includes their only real rivals for the championships this season, Red Bull Racing.
The first stint of qualifying, the opening twenty minutes which sees the bottom five knocked-out, proved interesting just as Martin Bundle anticipated in his commentary. Mark Webber was looking handy from the word go, but the real surprise was Lewis Hamilton, Adrian Sutil and of course, the clouds hanging overhead.
Most drivers went out and put a banker lap in, but after a few minutes it was clear a little rain had started to fall. The camera lenses dotted around the circuit were showing signs of water drops and as the cars toured the track, they were clearly slipping at certain points. Because of the slightly adverse and changeable conditions, the drivers were struggling slightly to judge the grip levels.
Two men who most certainly didn’t have too much trouble with the green track though were Lewis Hamilton, who popped in a P4 lap before being relegated to P5 by Sebastian Vettel, and Fernando Alonso, who was on course for P1 until he came across a recovering Timo Glock. The German having just had a small excursion had backed off considerably, much to Alonso’s surprise as he came up on the gear box of the Toyota. Alonso set a P2 lap, which was impressive, but cleary showed his frustration at Glock with a waving arm.
As the drizzle fell in the final few moments, the session was completed a little earlier than expected (in terms of competitive lap times), and both Scuderia Toro Rossos, Glock, Giancarlo Fisichella and Robert Kubica returned to their garages, their qualifying session over with.
The second run of the afternoon also proved interesting, as the rain got a little heavier. Everybody went out early to ensure they got a lap on dry tyres in before the track became too wet for the soft rubber. However, even on the first tour it was too much for some. Kazuki Nakajima was the first to find himself spinning around, and it wasn’t long before others were skating around the escape roads to avoid the gravel traps they were heading towards.
Everybody aborted their first laps with the sole exception of Mark Webber, who insisted on continuing on the dry tyres. Needless to say, he ended up aborting that lap after he tip-toed around the Nurburgring. Everybody switched to the intermediate compound, and Lewis Hamilton was the first to prove his pace again, going fastest straight away. Adrian Sutil, loving the wet conditions also did well early on, setting a P2 lap behind the McLaren driver.
These positions didn’t last long though, as Alonso went fastest, promptly followed by Nick Heidfeld before Mark Webber popped in a lap 3.3s faster than anyone else for the session. Again, Webber’s time at the top didn’t last too long either, as Rubens Barrichello was seen touring the track on dry tyres. The timing of Barrichello’s change couldn’t have been any better, and the Brazilians first hot turn of the Nurburgring saw him go comfortably fastest. The lap would stand for the rest of Q2.
According to Ted Kravitz, the BBC’s pitlane reporter, Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastian Vettel almost collided in the pitlane. Apparently, the pair shared some rubber, but they were able to continue. This was not sighted by the cameras showing the live feed, but would be a talking point after qualifying.
The third and final session of the afternoon was perhaps the least exciting in terms of track action, but equally so, was exciting because of that one lap from Mark Webber. Most waited in their garages for the first couple of minutes, assessing the conditions and hoping it will dry out a little. Only the Brawns ventured out, causing some cinfusion on the pit-car radio.
The final run of laps saw Mark Webber pop in the pole lap, followed by the Brawns who simply couldn’t match it. Perhaps most satisfying for Webber though was the fact that his team mate couldn’t match it either, and so the Australian claimed his first ever pole position, ahead of Barrichello, Button and Vettel, Hamilton and Kovalainen.
For the race, one needs to look out for Hamilton, starting in P5 and with a KERS-enabled car. Obviously the Brawns will be hoping to sneak pass the leading Red Bull, but Button’s starts haven’t been electric this season. Adrian Sutil is hoping to keep his position, ahead of both Ferrari pilots in P7, and Nelson Piquet will be reveling in the fact he has out-qualified his team mate Fernando Alonso; a rare occasion but given the conditions, credit to the young Brazilian.