Nurburgring, Germany, July 23, 2011 (AFP) - Mark Webber secured pole position for Sunday's German Grand Prix with a blistering performance in Saturday's tense and competitive qualifying session.
Driving his Red Bull car with great poise and assurance, the 34-year-old Australian demonstrated his liking for the Nurburgring circuit by delivering his second pole in succession, his third this year and the ninth of his career.
Webber clocked a fastest lap of one minute and 30.079 seconds to take the prime starting position ahead of Briton Lewis Hamilton who produced a brilliant effort to take second less than one-tenth of a second behind him in his McLaren.
"That was a wicked lap," said Hamilton after relegating defending champion and runaway leader Sebastian Vettel in the second Red Bull to third - and off the front row of the grid for the first time this year.
Vettel was only able to take third place ahead of two-times champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso and his Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa who was fifth after a dramatic finale to qualifying.
German Nico Rosberg took sixth for Mercedes ahead of Briton Jenson Button in the second Mercedes, German Adrian Sutil of Force India, Russian Vitaly Petrov of Renault and seven-times champion local hero Michael Schumacher, 42, in the second Mercedes. 'Schumi' was 2.4 seconds off pole.
On a cold, but dry day in the Eifel mountains the air temperature was only 14 degrees Celsius and the track temperature was just 22 degrees - the coldest conditions for qualifying this year.
The low temperatures meant that it was more difficult for many teams to warm up their tyres. After a tense opening mini-session in Q1, Massa wound up fastest having used a set of soft tyres, but out went Japanese Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber, Finn Heikki Kovalainen of Lotus, Timo Glock of Virgin and Indian Karun Chandhok in the second Lotus.
They filled places 18 to 21 on the grid ahead of 22nd placed Belgian Jerome D'Ambrosio of Virgin and the two Hispanias of Italian veteran Vitantonio Liuzzi and Australian rookie Daniel Ricciardo. Liuzzi, given a five places grid penalty because of a replaced gearbox, will start from 24th.
Glock was congratulated by his team for taking 20th, ahead of Chandhok, but responded testily: "You make my life difficult in the last two races - the car is just so difficult to drive at the moment."
The Q2 session saw Mexican Sergio Perez out early for Sauber followed by the hungry-looking Massa whose fastest time was soon overhauled by Alonso and then Hamilton.
The Briton appeared to have found some extra grip and speed as he was half a second quicker than at any previous time throughout the weekend.He stayed top ahead of Vettel and Alonso as the session ended with a flurry of late action that lifted Schumacher, Petrov, Sutil and Rosberg into a top ten shootout that contained four of the six German drivers.
That meant an exit for one German Nick Heidfeld of Renault along with Briton Paul Di Resta of Force India, Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado of Williams and his team-mate Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, Mexican Sergio Perez of Sauber and the two Toro Rosso drivers Swiss Sebastien Buemi and Spaniard Jaime Alguersuari.
Hamilton then delivered another fine fast lap in the Q3 shootout to set up a tense finale.
Here are the results:
|2011 EUROPEAN GRAND PRIX QUALIFICATION RESULTS|
|8||14||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:32.010||1:31.809||1:32.286||18|
|12||15||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:32.560||1:32.651||15|
|Q1 107% Time 1:38.253|