Hamilton launches Silver Arrow to home pole position
Lewis Hamilton maintained Mercedes’ qualifying dominance with a second consecutive pole position at the Nurburgring. The Silver Arrows had a bittersweet session with Nico Rosberg failing to even reach Q3 but Hamilton made sure they had top spot sewn up by outpacing Sebastian Vettel.
The Briton had struggled with his car through free practice, much as he did at Silverstone, and was trailing Rosberg throughout but with his teammate out of the way, a chief rival for pole was removed. His first attempt in Q3 was straight into the mid-1:29s, leaving the two Red Bulls trailing but Vettel wasn’t out of the running yet.
The world champion counter attacked with a 1:29.501 on his last attempt to go four hundredths faster but Hamilton had more left in the tank too, clocking a 1:29.398 to keep the home favourite off pole position. Mark Webber backed up his teammate in third, just a tenth further back, while Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean loom dangerously for Lotus in fourth and fifth.
Ferrari have opted for a contrary strategy heading into tomorrow with Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa starting on the prime tyre. Their approach to Q3 opened the door for Daniel Ricciardo to steal sixth with the Scuderia locking out row four, Massa ahead of Alonso. Jenson Button scraped through to Q3 and will line up ninth with Nico Hulkenberg for company on the fifth row after both failed to set a time in the pole position shootout.
The shock of the afternoon came in Q2 as Nico Rosberg came a cropper in the second Mercedes. Having set a 1:30.326 midway through the session, good enough at the time for P2, the team brought him into the garage to prepare for what they thought would be an assault at pole position later on. However the Brackley squad were caught out by track evolution and the impressive pace of the midfield runners, notably Hulkenberg and Button, and Rosberg tumbled down to eleventh.
Force India weren’t as confident of their position and were forced into a second effort on soft tyres but not even that could save Paul Di Resta and Adrian Sutil who qualified twelfth and fifteenth respectively. The Q2 drop zone included Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez, ensuring the seventh row will be an all-Mexican affair, while Jean-Eric Vergne will start next to Sutil on row eight.
Qualifying failed to bring any respite for Williams in a painful season with Valtteri Bottas and Pastor Maldonado both falling at the first hurdle. The margins were small between elimination and potential safety with Sergio Perez coming dangerously close to dropping out in the McLaren. The Mexican languished down in eighteenth as the minutes ticked away and his first flying lap on option tyres failed to move him up. Fortunately for Sergio, the soft tyres held on for a second lap and he scrambled to safety, pushing Bottas and Maldonado into the drop zone.
Meanwhile, Charles Pic ensured Caterham had the edge on Marussia for the sixth qualifying session in a row with a 1:32.937, a tenth quicker than Jules Bianchi. The French rookie put aside the illness that curtailed his Friday running to beat Giedo van der Garde and his Marussia teammate Max Chilton, a second separating the two MR02s.
(Photo Credit: Octane Photographic)