Lewis Hamilton claims he was ‘overwhelmed’ after he took his second pole position in 7 days at the Nurburgring ahead of Sunday’s German Grand Prix. The Mercedes driver had struggled in final practice, but was able to find a balance and capitalised on the early demise of team-mate Nico Rosberg to plant his own Silver Arrow on the front row, alongside the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel.
Q1 produced the usual crop of victims, with the Williams pairing of Maldonado and Bottas joining the Marussia and Caterham cars in the lower reaches of the grid. Bottas even received an apology from his race engineer as the team’s 600th race weekend got off to a dismal start.
In Q2 it was a question of guessing the correct ‘cut-off time’, the point at which drivers would need to switch to the faster soft compound Pirelli tyre in order to qualify through to the final top ten shootout session. Force India, who had started the weekend looking strong, lost out as the times tumbled in the final seconds of time on the clock; they weren’t the only ones. Sergio Perez improved to 8th with half a minute to go, but was bundled out in 13th as cars streamed across the line. The biggest casualty was Nico Rosberg who had elected to stay in his pit garage after his first run. The German was bemused and angered to find himself lying 11th when the dust settled, his hopes of challenging for a pole on home turf gone.
With the front row duel squarely between Vettel and Hamilton, Mark Webber qualified 3rd in his last ever German Grand Prix ahead of the Lotus twins Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean, all 3 within 0.5 of pole position.
Then there was a big gap back to Daniel Ricciardo who placed his Toro Rosso 6th as the slowest of the drivers that chose to run on the softer Pirelli tyre. Ferrari elected to run both Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso on the medium compound tyre in the hope of making up ground in the race, with the Brazilian out-qualifying his senior team-mate by 0.1 of a second. Jenson Button showed a measure of improvement for McLaren by taking 9th place, while Nico Hulkenberg performed brilliantly to drag his Sauber into Q3 but stayed in the garage in order to save tyres.
“I’m a little bit overwhelmed, to be honest, because I have been struggling since first practice this weekend. We were so far off this morning that we took the set-up back to where we started, tried to analyse everything and just worked really hard to improve it. I’m so grateful for the work the engineers and mechanics did for me, and it’s all down to them really. But we don’t get any points for today and the real hard work comes tomorrow.” Lewis Hamilton
“It was very tight today, I tried everything. The car felt fine; I was struggling a little bit this afternoon in the first sector, I was losing time there and then trying to catch up. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough, but it looks like we are a bit closer to the Mercedes here than we were in Silverstone, so I think we made some progress and can have confidence for tomorrow.” Sebastian Vettel
“I was actually happy with third position today, as it was very sensitive out there. We lost a little bit in the first sector and struggled to find the rhythm that we had had there in P3, but we know there was a shift in track temp and it pulled everyone together a bit, at least for the short runs.” Mark Webber
“My lap in Q2 was about as good as it’s going to get for us at the moment – in fact, it was one of the best laps I’ve done in a very long time. I don’t think I left anything out there, so I’m very happy about that. Strategically, it was a difficult decision for Q3: do we run the Option, the Prime, or do we not run at all? My heart said we should go out and set a time, whereas my head said we probably shouldn’t! Our pace suggested that qualifying sixth would have made it worthwhile [to go out and set a time on the Option], and we probably could have done that – but we chose not to complete a lap, playing a cat-and-mouse game with Nico [Hulkenberg]. Nevertheless, starting ninth is not too bad – I’ll be on the clean side of the grid, and I have the freedom to choose my tyre compound, because I didn’t set a laptime this afternoon.” Jenson Button
“I was obviously hoping for more today as Van Der Garde has been within reach all weekend. I seemed to struggle a little more in qualifying and for some reason we did not get the best from the car, which is encouraging to some extent because it means we can depend on our stronger race pace.” Max Chilton
TIMES – QUALIFYING – GERMAN GP
|12||Di Resta||Force India||1:30:497|
|21||Van Der Garde||Caterham||1:33:734|