F1: Round 9 – Nurburgring, Germany – Qualifying

Rain was the star of qualifying for the German Grand Prix, totally throwing the session into disarray.

Rain was forecast early on, resulting in the entire field streaming out of the pits at the earliest opportunity to set times before the track got too wet. The running order was settled some minutes before the end of Q1, leaving Robery Kubica and Timo Glock forlornly circulating in search of a miracle to pull them into the top 15 and out of the knockout zone.

None came, and both were eliminated along with Giancarlo Fisichella and both Toro Rosso’ Sebastien Bourdais ended up in last place in 20th and that may well put the stamp on his much-rumoured exit from F1.

With the rain setting in, Q2 proved to be very exciting and interesting with as much tension and incident s many an entire Grand Prix. The field came out on dry slicks hoping to get a lap or two in before the rain really set in, but it was already too late and cars started flying off the track left right and centre. They sheepishly retreated to the pits for intermediates, but the rain pulsed throughout the session and for a brief moment later in Q2 dries were again the tyres to be tyres to be on, and Rubens Barrichello set a fantastic time two seconds ahead of Adrian Sutil who was a similar margin ahead of Mark Webber.

Then the track got wet again and times fell off, leaving Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton out of the top ten and needing to put in great laps in the last seconds to get through to Q3. They did so even as Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso fell off the track; Alonso’s spin into the gravel verge was particularly costly, leaving him out of the final top ten and behind his team mate Nelson Piquet for the first time in F1 qualifying.

But it was Webber who was consistently flashing signs of intent: from the moment the first wheel had turned on Friday he had laid out his stall and was determined to take his first ever F1 pole position, and after a couple of fantastic laps in Q3 he duly put in a time that no one could match. Surprisingly, though, Sebastian Vettel was unable to make it a Red Bull 1-2 and instead the Brawn drivers – who had been promising to be on Red Bull’s pace after a disappointing British GP, but who had looked to be labouring in qualifying up till now all the same – managed to slot themselves into second and third place after all, Rubens Barrichello pipping Button to the front row.

Lewis Hamilton emerged in fifth position, slightly frustrating at not getting a clear run on a track that got more greasy as the session wore on but still immensely cheered at how much better the McLaren seemed to be handling here with a new front wing assembly. His team mate Heikki Kovalainen will be relieved and not a little surprised to be alongside him on the grid in 6th, despite having been one of the Q2 spinners.

And right behind them was Adrian Sutil in the Force India. Okay, he had benefited from a little luck in the timing of a slick tyre run in Q2 just hitting the sweet spot between rain, but it’s still a huge achievement to be the first Force India driver to make it into Q3 – and then to beat a presumably heavy-laden Ferrari pairing as well.

So despite a trying qualifying session for the drivers, you suspect that a lot of the top ten will be celebrating for various reasons tonight ahead of a race that we can only hope is as exciting as the qualifying we had today.

Qualifying times

Pos  Driver       Team                       Q1        Q2        Q3     
 1.  Webber       Red Bull-Renault        1:31.257  1:38.038  1:32.230
 2.  Barrichello  Brawn-Mercedes          1:31.482  1:34.455  1:32.357
 3.  Button       Brawn-Mercedes          1:31.568  1:39.032  1:32.473
 4.  Vettel       Red Bull-Renault        1:31.430  1:39.504  1:32.480
 5.  Hamilton     McLaren-Mercedes        1:31.473  1:39.149  1:32.616
 6.  Kovalainen   McLaren-Mercedes        1:31.881  1:40.826  1:33.859
 7.  Sutil        Force India-Mercedes    1:32.015  1:36.740  1:34.316
 8.  Massa        Ferrari                 1:31.600  1:41.708  1:34.574
 9.  Raikkonen    Ferrari                 1:31.869  1:41.730  1:34.710
10.  Piquet       Renault                 1:32.128  1:35.737  1:34.803
11.  Heidfeld     BMW-Sauber              1:31.771  1:42.310
12.  Alonso       Renault                 1:31.302  1:42.318
13.  Nakajima     Williams-Toyota         1:31.884  1:42.500
14.  Trulli       Toyota                  1:31.760  1:42.771
15.  Rosberg      Williams-Toyota         1:31.598  1:42.859
16.  Kubica       BMW-Sauber              1:32.190
17.  Buemi        Toro Rosso-Ferrari      1:32.251
18.  Fisichella   Force India-Mercedes    1:32.402
19.  Glock        Toyota                  1:32.423
20.  Bourdais     Toro Rosso-Ferrari      1:33.559
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