Rain master Alonso ends 31 race drought to take pole at soggy Silverstone
7 July, 2012
Jul.7 (Apex) Fernando Alonso rose to the occasion at Silverstone, in torrid conditions, to snatch pole position for the British Grand Prix and end a 31 race pole drought for himself and the Maranello squad – they last started from top spot on the grid back at the 2010 Singapore GP.
In truth qualifying for round 9 of the 2012 F1 world championship was something of a lottery, and this time around experience counted as the sport’s more experienced drivers hogged the top six places on the timing screens – four of them world champions…
Ferrari nearly duffed their chances in Q2 when they sent their cars out with the wrong tyres, but in Q3 they timed everything perfectly, and from the moment the two Ferrari drivers hit the track they were optimally positioned, with the Pirelli intermediates bolted on, to maximise their laps.
Ultimately it paid off as several drivers popped on to the top line of the timing screens in the last few minutes of qualifying with Alonso making his name stick to the top on his final run to take his 22nd career pole and break a long run of no top spot starts.
Alonso said afterwards, “It was tricky conditions for everyone. You have to be calm in some difficult moments. In Q2 we were on the red flag in positions 15 and 16, Felipe and me. We went through and then in Q3 we had the difficult choice between inter and full wet. When we saw everyone on the inter, we relax[ed] a little and put a lap together.”
“It was not easy. To complete a lap with no huge mistakes is not easy in these conditions. I’m happy to be on pole after nearly two years. In these conditions the qualifying is probably the least important of the year but obviously for visibility it is always better to be on pole,” added the Spaniard who won last year and this year will be aiming for his third grand prix victory in Britain.
For the final few minutes of the session Mark Webber looked a likely candidate to nab pole, but the Red Bull driver fell short – by a mere 0.047 seconds.
Webber reflected, “It was a very tight session. You don’t know how it’s going, you just focus on yourself. In a session like this, it’s a huge amount down to the driver to get comfortable in the car. It was nip and tuck with Fernando to get pole.”
Michael Schumacher showed why he was considered the rain-meister in his heyday as he powered to third place on the grid, despite being sent out by his team, first on full wets, he returned for inters and popped his best lap in the single lap afforded him. He comprehensively outshone his teammate Nico Rosberg who failed to make it into Q1 and will start from 13th on the grid.
“I think we look reasonably competitive in wet conditions on both the wet and intermediates so rain is welcome tomorrow. It was an exciting session today, particularly in Q2 when I had the wrong visor on. It didn’t have anti-fog so I didn’t have much visibility and found myself sideways at Becketts but we recovered in the delay. I’m very happy to be third, it’s good for the team and thanks to all of the guys,” said Schumacher.
Rosberg in turn accepted that he did not have the pace when it mattered, hence the early shower, “We were not quick enough today in general and I don’t know why. We were quick in those conditions yesterday but there is still always tomorrow. The race will probably be all over the place so I can still get a lot of points.”
Sebastian Vettel aborted his final run after a small error, and settled for fourth spot on the grid despite a huge sideways moment on the final corner of his best lap.
The world champion said, “It was a tough day and it is raining again so we will see what happens tomorrow. It was difficult at the end but I think we should have been a bit quicker.”
Although he was nearly a second down on his teammate, Felipe Massa enjoyed one of his better qualifying performances of the year on his way to setting the fifth best time, in the Ferrari, but by his own admission a couple of small errors on his best lap cost him.
“I think the situation was very tricky for us and we had red flag when we were P16. Fortunately we had time to do some more laps. We were fighting for pole in Q3. I had some mistakes on the last sector of my best lap which was not good for me but looking at where our car was, I think it is very positive where we are starting,” reflected the Brazilian.
From the word go Kimi Raikkonen was compromised as he was informed that he had no KERS for qualifying. This failed to deter the Iceman as he dug deep to be in contention despite the handicap. The 2007 British GP winner will start from sixth.
Pastor Maldonado was gain the shining light for Williams as he progressed into Q3 and ended the session seventh best, while his teammate Bruno Senna failed to make it beyond Q2 and will start 15th on the grid.
Best of the British, in eighth was Lewis Hamilton who struggled with lack of grip with his McLaren MP4-27, ending almost two seconds down on Alonso’s best but nevertheless well up on his teammate Jenson Button, who continues to struggle and this time failed to make it out of Q1 and will start 18th. Not the kind of weekend the Woking squad were targeting on home soil.
Hamilton could not mask his disappointment, considering he was second fastest in Q2, “I am not happy. Eighth is not the best position but that is life. I struggled a lot and could not get temperature into the tyres for some reason. I also had no grip and we were skidding all over the place. We will try and understand why and fix it for tomorrow. The fans have been great, they have been very patient and were so supportive. Unfortunately we did not get the front row but we can still push through tomorrow.”
Button, who has not been on the British GP podium despite 11 attempts throughout his career, reflected on the shortest qualifying session he has had so far this year, “It got wet for some reason in the last sector and it is a pity, but it was not meant to be. The good thing is that these guys are running around for two more sessions on their tyres and it is going to rain tomorrow. It is going to be very difficult for everyone but I will have better tyres. I would rather put on a much better show for fans on Saturday but it is the story of my year, not getting heat on the fronts so I am not too upset. I know I can drive a car in the wet.”
Ninth fastest was Nico Hulkenberg in the Force India, who appears to be getting the upper hand, of late, in his battle with Paul Di Resta who failed to progress into Q3 and will start 11th.
The Scot explained, “It was a difficult one. It was under yellow but that is not something I can look at it is something for the stewards. Tomorrow we are still hopeful, we start in a reasonable position.”
Starting from 10th in the race and probably the most disappointed of them all was Romain Grosjean who was comfortably into Q1, but opted to do another flyer but messed it up and his Lotus ended up beached in the gravel. A tough one for the Frenchman who would have fancied his chances for a shot at pole.
“I don’t know yet [why I spun] I just know I lost the rear of the car. I probably made a bit of mistake and that was that,” admitted Grosjean.
It was a marathon qualifying session, as rain pelted down in Q2, which prompted a red flag 36 minutes into the qualifying as the track turned into a pond with large puddles forming relentlessly.
Immediately the mutterings in the pitlane was that the stoppage benefited the bigger teams, with Ferrari being the big winner as they sent their boys out on the wrong tyres for Q2…
Nevertheless 170 minutes later, after much sweeping by the Silverstone marshals and admirable patience from the huge crowd braving the elements, Maldonado led the top nine – Grosjean watching from his pit garage – out of the pitlane.
Last word to pole winner Alonso, “It was an important day for us. Almost two years with no pole for Ferrari is a long time. This pole is welcome. If the conditions stay the same we could see any type of race tomorrow. We could see safety cars and some rivers on the track that could put you at risk. Tomorrow will be a very demanding race and we need to be prepared.”
Subbed by AJN.
British Grand Prix Qualifying – Saturday, 17 July 2012
|2||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:47.276||1:55.898||1:51.793||23|
|4||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:46.279||1:56.931||1:52.199||23|
|9||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:46.334||1:55.556||1:54.382||22|
|10||10||Romain Grosjean||Lotus-Renault||1:47.043||1:56.388||No time||20|
|11||11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:47.582||1:57.009||19|
|22||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||1:52.742||11|
|Q1 107% Time||1:53.718|
Note – Kobayashi & Vergne drop 5 & 10 grid spots respectively for causing collisions at previous round. Hulkenberg drops 5 for gearbox change. Pic failed to make 107% mark – races at stewards’ discretion.
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