Alonso ahead but wary of McLaren’s dry-weather pace

2012 German GP pre-race analysis

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Hockenheim, 2012Fernando Alonso starts from pole position for the second race in a row.

But it’s not just fellow front row starter Sebastian Vettel he’s keeping an eye on.

“McLaren was a bit quicker than everyone else in the dry,” said Alonso after qualifying. “So I expect a strong race from them tomorrow.”

The start

As happened on F1′s last visit to the Hockenheimring, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel share the front row of the grid. But this time it’s Alonso on pole position.

Last time Vettel swerved across the track to keep Alonso behind – and in doing so let Felipe Massa through into the lead. As we saw at Silverstone, Alonso has no qualms about using such tactics, and Vettel can expect immediate attention from the Ferrari if he makes a better start.

Hockenheim has an unusual first corner with a vast tarmac run-off on the outside which drivers often use to gain an advantage. Massa did so at the start in 2010 and escaped attention from the stewards.

From a standing start turn one is taken flat-out – the drivers don’t get on the brakes until turn two, and the jostling for position usually continues on up to the Spitzkehre hairpin and beyond on the first lap.

If lap two begins and Alonso isn’t leading it’ll be a first – he hasn’t lost a place on the first lap all year. But Michael Schumacher, who starts third, hasn’t gained a place in the last four races.

The start is especially important for those needing to make progress from lowly grid positions. Keep an eye on Lewis Hamilton and, much further back, Romain Grosjean and Nico Rosberg.

Strategy

After two days punctuated with occasional, sharp showers, tomorrow is expected to be dry and warm. Track temperatures peaked at 29C in final practice but should be even warmer than that tomorrow.

The limited dry running will mean teams have to feel their way with strategy a bit. “Not all of us have done runs on heavy fuel,” said Sebastian Vettel. “I think the McLarens did but I don’t think Ferrari and us did this morning, so we will see, but it shouldn’t be a big problem.”

Lewis Hamilton indicated that, despite McLaren’s poor qualifying, they could be in a strong position for the race: “We?re in a better position for tomorrow: although we?re not starting from the best positions, our car certainly looks better in the dry and, with dry weather predicted tomorrow, I definitely think we can have a good race.

“On Sunday, I plan to hunt everyone down from behind. The great thing at Hockenheim is the great big DRS zone along the back straight ?ǣ so hopefully Jenson [Button] and I will be doing lots of overtaking there tomorrow.”

Lotus also have high hopes for their performance in the race. Track operations director Alan Permane Tweeted: “I keep reading about how well others are going to do tomorrow… Here’s a prediction for you: Kimi [Raikkonen] will be on the podium…”

Hockenheim has usually been a track where drivers can pass quite easily. The DRS zone leading into the hairpin should make it even more straightforward.

Another feature of practice was that the soft tyre seemed to offer little of a performance advantage over the medium. This will most likely lead teams towards starting on the soft and attempting to run the race with two stops for medium tyres. Because Q3 took place in wet conditions, all the drivers have a free choice of tyres for the start of the race.

Here’s all the data from qualifying.

Qualifying times in full

Driver Car Q1 Q2 (vs Q1) Q3 (vs Q2)
1 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’16.073 1’38.521 (+22.448) 1’40.621 (+2.100)
2 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1’16.393 1’38.309 (+21.916) 1’41.026 (+2.717)
3 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’16.686 1’38.010 (+21.324) 1’42.459 (+4.449)
4 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1’16.271 1’39.467 (+23.196) 1’43.501 (+4.034)
5 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1’16.181 1’38.731 (+22.550) 1’43.950 (+5.219)
6 Jenson Button McLaren 1’16.507 1’38.659 (+22.152) 1’44.113 (+5.454)
7 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1’16.221 1’37.365 (+21.144) 1’44.186 (+6.821)
8 Mark Webber Red Bull 1’16.500 1’39.382 (+22.882) 1’41.496 (+2.114)
9 Paul di Resta Force India 1’16.352 1’39.703 (+23.351) 1’44.889 (+5.186)
10 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1’15.693 1’39.729 (+24.036) 1’45.811 (+6.082)
11 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1’16.516 1’39.789 (+23.273)
12 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1’16.481 1’39.985 (+23.504)
13 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’16.265 1’40.212 (+23.947)
14 Bruno Senna Williams 1’16.426 1’40.752 (+24.326)
15 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1’16.741
16 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1’17.620
17 Sergio Perez Sauber 1’15.726 1’39.933 (+24.207)
18 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1’18.531
19 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1’16.685 1’40.574 (+23.889)
20 Charles Pic Marussia 1’19.220
21 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’15.988 1’41.551 (+25.563)
22 Timo Glock Marussia 1’19.291
23 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1’19.912
24 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1’20.230

Sector times

Driver Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3
Fernando Alonso 16.671 (5) 35.777 (11) 23.625 (2)
Sebastian Vettel 16.847 (17) 35.628 (6) 23.897 (12)
Michael Schumacher 16.799 (12) 35.884 (18) 23.906 (14)
Nico Hulkenberg 16.819 (13) 35.508 (1) 23.786 (7)
Pastor Maldonado 16.654 (4) 35.849 (16) 23.678 (5)
Jenson Button 16.731 (6) 35.814 (14) 23.848 (9)
Lewis Hamilton 16.737 (7) 35.516 (3) 23.810 (8)
Mark Webber 16.775 (10) 35.739 (9) 23.915 (15)
Paul di Resta 16.832 (16) 35.621 (5) 23.899 (13)
Kimi Raikkonen 16.545 (2) 35.512 (2) 23.636 (3)
Daniel Ricciardo 16.825 (15) 35.758 (10) 23.933 (16)
Kamui Kobayashi 16.762 (8) 35.777 (11) 23.849 (10)
Felipe Massa 16.775 (10) 35.631 (7) 23.859 (11)
Bruno Senna 16.821 (14) 35.842 (15) 23.763 (6)
Jean-Eric Vergne 16.893 (18) 35.673 (8) 24.095 (18)
Heikki Kovalainen 17.078 (19) 36.381 (20) 24.161 (19)
Sergio Perez 16.578 (3) 35.601 (4) 23.547 (1)
Vitaly Petrov 17.365 (21) 36.318 (19) 24.709 (20)
Romain Grosjean 16.771 (9) 35.877 (17) 24.031 (17)
Charles Pic 17.391 (22) 36.847 (22) 24.941 (22)
Nico Rosberg 16.527 (1) 35.800 (13) 23.661 (4)
Timo Glock 17.224 (20) 37.121 (24) 24.822 (21)
Pedro de la Rosa 17.479 (23) 36.776 (21) 25.195 (23)
Narain Karthikeyan 17.505 (24) 37.110 (23) 25.512 (24)

Speed trap

Pos Driver Car Speed (kph/mph) Gap
1 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 318.1 (197.7)
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 316.6 (196.7) -1.5
3 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 316.1 (196.4) -2.0
4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 315.9 (196.3) -2.2
5 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 315.8 (196.2) -2.3
6 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 315.3 (195.9) -2.8
7 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 315.2 (195.9) -2.9
8 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 314.6 (195.5) -3.5
9 Jenson Button McLaren 314.4 (195.4) -3.7
10 Paul di Resta Force India 313.8 (195.0) -4.3
11 Romain Grosjean Lotus 313.6 (194.9) -4.5
12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 313.3 (194.7) -4.8
13 Pastor Maldonado Williams 312.7 (194.3) -5.4
14 Bruno Senna Williams 312.6 (194.2) -5.5
15 Sergio Perez Sauber 311.8 (193.7) -6.3
16 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 311.7 (193.7) -6.4
17 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 311.7 (193.7) -6.4
18 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 311.2 (193.4) -6.9
19 Charles Pic Marussia 308.3 (191.6) -9.8
20 Mark Webber Red Bull 307.6 (191.1) -10.5
21 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 307.6 (191.1) -10.5
22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT 307.3 (190.9) -10.8
23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT 306.9 (190.7) -11.2
24 Timo Glock Marussia 306.5 (190.5) -11.6

2012 German Grand Prix

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42 comments on Alonso ahead but wary of McLaren’s dry-weather pace

  1. Postreader said on 21st July 2012, 20:14

    McLaren and specially Lotus looking mighty strong for the race. While I think Alonso is going to win, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Button and Räikkönen up there….

    • F1Rollout (@f1rollout) said on 21st July 2012, 20:27

      If the pace Raikkonen showed in Q1 is for real and isnt a fluke. He can certainly win this one. He is in a better position than he was in Bahrain at the start of the race. Other than that Hockenheim is more overtaking friendly than Bahrain.

      • sorin (@) said on 22nd July 2012, 0:10

        I don’t think Hockenheim is better for overtaking than Bahrain. Bahrain has a loong straigth line (start/finish line) plus another two straight lines, smaller, but good for overtaking. Hockenheim has one “straight” line, where is hard to overtake somebody if he will take the interior…

        • Lord Stig (@lord-stig) said on 22nd July 2012, 2:47

          They added the DRS zone into the hairpin so that should makes things easier.

          As others have said if the Q1 pace of Raikkonen is legitimate he could win the race. His lap was fast than others attempting to do the same on the soft tires. If it rains he is probably going to go backward, his pace in Q3 was shockingly bad.

    • MylesW (@mpw1985) said on 21st July 2012, 22:54

      What, exactly, makes you think Button will be up there instead of Hamilton? Honestly just curious, as he’s pretty much been embarassingly slower than Lewis all season.

      • Postreader said on 22nd July 2012, 0:41

        Nothing, really. I preferred to mention a single McLaren name and chose the one on the higher grid position. Some people are really touchy aren’t they….

        Anyways Räikkönen mentioned he would get the pole “rather easily” if it wasn’t for the rain, and Lotus mentioned on Twitter they expect, so to speak, Räikönnen to be on the podium. They are quite confident, so yeah, maybe they’re that good.

      • panache (@panache) said on 22nd July 2012, 2:35

        To say Button has been “embarassingly slower” than Hamilton all season is a gross overstatement.

        Australia: Button was much faster and won the race convincingly.
        Malaysia: Button was at least matched with Hamilton on pace and ahead of him after the first pit stop until he shunted Karthikeyan and took his front wing off.
        China: Faster and finished ahead of Hamilton again
        Bahrain: Slightly slower, lost out badly during the first lap of the race after qualifying right behind Hamilton and was eventually forced to retire with a broken exhaust.

        After this Button had by far his worst run of form this season and also his worst form in the last 4 years at least:

        Barcelona: Qualified 11th after being fastest in P2 whilst Hamilton qualified on pole then got relegated to last place for being underfuelled. Finished behind Hamilton despite starting 14 places ahead in the race.

        Monaco: Qualified a lowly 13th after being fastest in P2 again whilst Hamilton qualified in P4. Finished in 16th after getting crowded out at turn 1 and stuck behind Kovalainen for his entire race.

        Canada: Qualified 10th to Hamilton’s 2nd place after being way slower than Hamilton in all practice sessions. No pace in the race and massive tyre degradation, eventually finishing over a lap down to race winner Hamilton. It’s safe to say that Button was actually embarassingly slower than Hamilton at this race.

        Europe and Silverstone: A return to some semblance of form for Button. Faster than Hamilton in all three practice sessions at Valencia but flopped in Qualifying where it counts. Unlucky safety car timing during the race heavily compromised his strategy.

        Unlucky to be faced with yellow flags in the final sector of his last lap in qualifying at Silverstone where he was ~2s up on previous best after pitting for a new set of inters and set to go fastest in Q1 after struggling with tyre warmup earlier in the session. Slowed down a lot for yellows and didn’t make it through to Q2. Hamilton qualified 8th. Both drivers struggled for pace in the race and finished 8th (HAM) and 10th (BUT).

  2. michaeldobson13 (@michaeldobson13) said on 21st July 2012, 20:25

    Only 8 of the 24 drivers are going to be starting where they qualified, due to all the grid penalties.
    (Alonso, Vettel, Di Resta, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Glock De La Rosa, Karthikeyan)

  3. David BR2 said on 21st July 2012, 20:39

    Seems a long time since Hamilton made a blistering start. Might be a good moment to remember how.

    • Younger Hamii (@younger-hamii) said on 21st July 2012, 20:55

      Hamilton is not necessarily ‘great’ at starts but nor is he a bad starter, average & clean at best, I still expect to make up a few positions at the start though.

    • Tom (@newdecade) said on 21st July 2012, 22:20

      Mclarens seem to have been exceptionally poor off the line for a few years now, maybe an inability to cope with max fuel loads or getting heat into the tyres instantaneously. Red bull in particular have eviscerated them at most starts in recent times. Ferrari too, although their grid positions have been much less frequently optimal. I have come to dread race starts these days…

      • Kingshark (@kingshark) said on 22nd July 2012, 3:00

        Hamilton has Maldonado right in front of him. The first lap will end in tears. Called it.

        • Timothy Katz (@timothykatz) said on 22nd July 2012, 9:22

          No. Maldonado to play skittles with SCH and HUL in fron to him, possibly VET too. ALO will cruise away from the disaster zone wondering where everyone else has gone. BUT in second place, HAM in third. The first lap will end in laughter. Called it.

          Anyway, congratulations to Wiggo, in another wheeled sport.

        • BOSS (@boss) said on 22nd July 2012, 10:22

          would not have been the case if he had been allowed to do the same as button did – to pit for fresh wet tyre. could have jumped a few places forward but sam michael chose button as the benchmark instead to counter alonso’s pace when he can’t even beat maldonado’s time. if lewis car had been fitted as button’s he could have easily been up there amongst the top 4 the least..crap!

          • bag0 (@bag0) said on 22nd July 2012, 11:21

            @boss
            Actually Hamilton had the same option, I dont know if he got new tyres, but he just abandoned his last lap. And another thing, the drivers have different race crews, and I dont think it is up to SM or MW to decide those things, so you can hardly blame anyone else but Hamiltons crew for not doing the same as Button, but only if they didnt do the same.

  4. romeo said on 21st July 2012, 20:44

    a dry race for tomorrow is not a 100% given, most of the teams were sure about a wet race for silverstone.
    anything can happen tomorrow either on a wet or dry track. it is not easy to defend from the front but it is also not easy to come from back to fight for podium.

  5. JB (@) said on 21st July 2012, 20:45

    Can´t wait till tomorrow… It´s going to be a heck of a race!!! I just hope Ferrari gets the strategy right this time!

  6. . The great thing at Hockenheim is the great big DRS zone along the back straight

    *groans* Actually the great thing about this track was that it’s a cracking circuit and usually delivers overtaking anyway.

  7. Chris (@tophercheese21) said on 22nd July 2012, 2:10

    GO HAMILTON!

  8. Eggry (@eggry) said on 22nd July 2012, 6:04

    It’s interesting Ferrari find some top speed in qualifying compared to practices.

  9. Funkyf1 (@funkyf1) said on 22nd July 2012, 10:08

    News just in RedBull under investigation for illegal engine mapping.

  10. IDR (@idr) said on 22nd July 2012, 10:08

    McLaren has some chances with dry track… for sure!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/idrs/7616337638/in/photostream/lightbox/

  11. runforitscooby (@runforitscooby) said on 22nd July 2012, 10:22

    Can things just fall any more in place for Alonso this year???

  12. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 22nd July 2012, 11:29

    I’d expect Lotus on the podium as well, the DRS zone here looks very generous and it’s a fast enough car as it is.

    Can only see RBR beating Alonso in the pits, which is something they’re usually pretty good at.

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