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Sat, 21 July, 2012Alonso reigns supreme in Hockenheim downpour

  • Fernando Alonso (Ferrari F2012). 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Practice day. Sepang, Malaysia. Friday 23 March 2012. © Ferrari.
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Fernando Alonso was the master of the wet yet again as he secured his second consecutive pole position at a sodden Hockenheimring ahead of tomorrow's German Grand Prix. The Spaniard was unmatched in a treacherous Q3 session, with local hero Sebastian Vettel four tenths of a second adrift the closest anyone got to the Ferrari pilot.

Qualifying began in the dry, with Q1 completed on slick tyres, but the forecasted rain arrived on cue right at the beginning of Q2. Intermediate tyre were the weapon of choice, but with the rain intensifying further, extreme wets had to be used in the closing stages of the session.

That set the stage for a slip-sliding pole position shoot-out, with wets being the only usuable tyre in the monsoon-like conditions. After one flying lap on his wet-weather tyres, Fernando Alonso's decision to pit for a fresh set of rubber for a final two-lap run to the flag proved inspirational as he was able to find the grip needed to overpower Vettel and his other rivals to claim a 22nd career pole position.

The Spaniard clocked a time of 1m40.904s on his penultimate lap, but being the final driver to cross the finish line before the chequered flag fell he would have the the best of the ever-drying conditions. In the end he didn't need the improving track to secure pole, as Vettel could only manage a time of 1m41.026s, with team-mate Webber claiming third on a 1m41.496s.

Alonso nevertheless completed his final lap and lowered the benchmark to 1m40.621s to put his first German Grand Prix pole position beyond any doubt, with Vettel and Webber joining him in the top three. A five-place grid position for an unscheduled gearbox change drops Webber to eighth on tomorrow's starting grid however, meaning Michael Schumacher (1m42.459s) is promoted to third.

Behind Schumacher will be fellow countryman Nico Hülkenberg (1m43.501s), followed by Pastor Maldonado (1m43.950s), Jenson Button (1m44.113s) and Lewis Hamilton (1m44.186s). Force India's Paul di Resta will start where he qualified in ninth (1m44.889s), while Lotus's Kimi Räikkönen rounds out the top ten (1m45.811s).

Q2 saw two big scalps take the plunge as they failed to get their intermediate tyres working properly in the worsening conditions. Daniel Ricciardo (1m39.789s) was quickest of those who dropped out, closely followed by Sauber's Sergio Pérez (1m39.933s) and Kamui Kobayashi (1m39.985s). The Mexican will have to take a five-place penalty for blocking Alonso and Räikkönen during the session however.

Ferrari's Felipe Massa was the first of the big names to drop out after posting a time of 1m40.212s, while Mercedes' Nico Rosberg was another having finished only 17th on a 1m41.551s. Sandwiched between the big-hitters were Romain Grosjean (1m40.574s) and Bruno Senna (1m40.752s).

It was business as usual in first 20 minutes of qualifying, with Jean-Eric Vergne joining the three formerly new teams on the sidelines at the end of the dry session. Vergne's time of 1m16.741s was easily quicker than those behind, with Kovalainen (1m17.620s) beating Petrov (1m18.531s), Pic (1m19.220s), Glock (1m19.291s), de la Rosa (1m19.912s) and Karthikeyan (1m20.230s).

Alongside Webber and Pérez, Grosjean and Rosberg also incur five-place grid penalties for tomorrow's race, both for unscheduled gearbox chances. The latter three penalties push Pérez, Grosjean and Rosberg down to 17th, 19th and 21st respectively. The provisional starting grid can be found here.

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