Lewis Hamilton carried the momentum of his home Grand Prix win into the German Grand Prix weekend to claim pole positon for tomorrow’s race ahead of Felipe Massa.
Hamilton’s team mate Kovalainen will line up third after a mistake on his first lap. But championship rival Kimi Raikkonen starts a poor sixth.
The McLarens were quickest to begin with in the first part of qualifying with Lewis Hamilton topping the times despite going very wide at the hairpin.
The Ferraris took over the top of the time sheets later but it came towards the end of the first part as the track got quicker.
The battle to get through the first part of qualifying was especially close. A late lap by Fernando Alonso put him up to fifth after he had been 16th, and Sebastien Bourdais resorted to soft tyres to get out of the bottom five.
It left the two Force Indias at the back of the field as usual (with Giancarlo Fisichella seemingly blocking Robert Kubica at one point), with Rubens Barrichello 18th although team mate Jenson Button managed to get into Q2.
Nelson Piquet Jnr failed to get beyond Q3 for the fourth time this year – although he gap between him and Alonso was just 0.2s. Kazuki Nakajima was 16th and was also 0.2s slower than his team mate.
Drivers eliminated in part one
16. Kazuki Nakajima 1’16.083
17. Nelson Piquet Jnr 1’16.189
18. Rubens Barrichello 1’16.246
19. Adrian Sutil 1’16.657
20. Giancarlo Fisichella 1’16.963
Hamilton led the way in the second part of qualifying but team mate Kovalainen chose to do a second lap after being 0.4s slower than Hamilton on his first lap.
Kovalainen improved to third on his second attempt, behind Massa. A late lap by Alonso put the Renault driver an excellent fourth and well clear of the bottom five.
Sebastien Bourdais condemned himself to eimination with a mistake at the hairpin on his second attempt. He ended up 15th behind Jenson Button. Nico Rosberg also failed to prceed and Nick Heidfeld was knocked out once again. BMW were notably down on the McLarens and Ferrari but Heidfeld was 0.4s off Robert Kubica’s pace.
Timo Glock was the last driver to be eliminated having failed to beat tenth-placed Mark Webber by 0.027s.
Drivers eliminated in part two
11. Timo Glock 1’15.508
12. Nick Heidfeld 1’15.581
13. Nico Rosberg 1’15.633
14. Jenson Button 1’15.701
15. Sebastien Bourdais 1’15.858
The McLarens, Ferraris and Red Bulls made it through to the final part of qualifying along with Alonso, Jarno Trulli, Kubica and the only home driver left, Sebastian Vettel.
Massa was instantly quick and went to the top of the times with Raikkonen second, but a huge 0.8s adrift.
The McLarens were circulating line astern and very quickly but when Kovalainen went off at the entrance to the stadium he ruined his lap and compromised Hamilton’s. Hamilton slotted in second, 0.4s down on Massa.
But then Alonso came tearing through on an excellent first lap to knock Hamilton down to third.
McLaren struck back, however. Kovalainen’s second lap was an improvement and split the Ferraris. Then Hamilton, after an indifferent first sector, set the fastest final sector time of all to clinch pole position.
Raikkonen could only manage a 1’16.389, 0.7s off Hamilton’s time, and fell down the order as first Trulli and then Alonso demoted him.
Kubica slotted in seventh on a poor day for BMW ahead of a Red Bull trio, with Vettel’s Toro Rosso between Webber (eighth) and Coulthard (tenth).
Top ten in part three
1. Lewis Hamilton 1’15.666
2. Felipe Massa 1’15.859
3. Heikki Kovalainen 1’16.143
4. Jarno Trulli 1’16.191
5. Fernando Alonso 1’16.385
6. Kimi Raikkonen 1’16.389
7. Robert Kubica 1’16.521
8. Mark Webber 1’17.014
9. Sebastian Vettel 1’17.244
10. David Coulthard 1’17.503