July 6th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - After struggling for grip throghout the weekend, Lewis Hamitlon finally found some pace in qualifying and used it to good effect to take pole position for Mercedes. Hamilton qualified a tenth of a second ahead of home favourite Sebastian Vettel. Mark Webber set the third quickest time in the second Red Bull.
The first part of qualifying went much as expected, with both Caterhams and both Marussias eliminated in Q1. They were joined by the Williams pair of Valtteri Bottas and Pastor Maldonado, who will start Williams' 600th Grand Prix from 17th and 18th on the grid respectively.
The big surprise of qualifying came in the second part session, when Nico Rosberg was eliminated. The German had been expected to compete for pole position, and set a decent lap time in the early part of Q2. It seemed that he had done enough to proceed to Q3, but then track conditions changed in the last couple of minutes of the session. The wind dropped and the track temperature rose, which helped the midfield runners to put in competitive lap times. When Rosberg was knocked down to 11th place, there was not enough time left for him to do another lap, and he had to settle for 11th on the grid.
Along with Rosberg, Di Resta, Perez, Gutierrez, Sutil and Vergne were eliminated in Q2. The Force Indias would have hoped to be more competitive, but they will now have to concentrate on having a strong race from low down on the grid. Significantly, Daniel Ricciardo was able to reach Q3, while his Toro Rosso team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne was not. The two Toro Rosso drivers are in the running to replace Mark Webber at Red Bull in 2014, and Ricciardo is certainly looking like the stronger candidate based on his results this season.
Q3 saw an interesting mix of strategies. The Ferrari drivers did not attempt to challenge for pole position, and instead qualified on the slower but more durable medium tyre. They will be looking to have a long first stint in tomorrow's race, which could put them among the front-runners in the middle part of the race. Jenson Button and Nico Hulkenberg did not set lap times, which allows them the choice of starting tyres for the race. They will have the luxury of starting on fresh tyres if they so choose, while those ahead will have to start on the tyres they used in qualifying.
Lotus used the favourable track conditions to their advantage, and qualified fourth (Raikkonen) and fifth (Grosjean). They were followed by Daniel Ricciardo, who was the last of the soft-tyre runners in Q3. He was not really on the pace of the cars in front of him, but will be hoping to score good points from his strong starting position tomorrow.
Hamilton had set the early pace in Q3, but right at the end of the session Vettel went quicker. Hamilton was out on track on a quick lap, however, and came round to beat Vettel's time by just over a tenth of a second. This is Hamilton's second pole position in as many races and third of the season. It's the sixth pole of 2013 for Mercedes, underlining the immense one-lap pace of the W04 car.
Lewis Hamilton is well-placed to challenge for his first win of the 2013 season. He was cruelly robbed of victory last weekend due to a tyre failure, but it looks like those problems are thing of the past. Tomorrow, Hamilton will have to fend off Sebastian Vettel if he is to win the German Grand Prix. Vettel has never won his home race, and has the car and the determination to mount a serious challenge.
Full results from qualifying:
|2||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:31.269||1:29.992||1:29.501||14|
|3||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:31.428||1:30.217||1:29.608||14|
|12||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:31.322||1:30.697||18|
|15||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:31.320||1:31.010||15|
|21||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:33.734||8|
|Q1 107% Time||1:36.885|