Personally, We guess it’s been one of the great qualifying sessions in recent times. Yea, We have said it quite often this season with the races and may be one or two particular qualifying sessions but for most of the show, it has always been the wait and watch game in Q3. Nothing of that sort was seen in Germany as all the drivers made a fair attempt at the pole. It was an all out effort from all the drivers and with weather spicing up things, it really ended up as one of the best qualifying sessions with the drivers using the slicks, Inters and Wets and we guess that can sum it up
“I am very happy! When qualifying is run in these conditions, it’s very difficult to put together a clean lap and it’s very easy to end up in the grass, the gravel or in the wall! It’s something of a fight for survival: before anything else, you have to get to the end and then look at where you’ve finished" - Fernando Alonso
"The conditions were extremely difficult during the qualifying session today, probably the most challenging of this season so far" - Norbert Haug
"It was a session that had a bit of everything because we ran on slicks, intermediates and wets" - Hulkenberg
Even though with enough modern technology and with the Teams radars quite well suited for the European races but in yesterday’s qualifying session it once again proved that you cannot really depend on the technology for one to make a qualifying strategy at least some teams learnt the hard way out. Q1 saw all the teams fighting it out for track space in the early minutes itself as everyone battled it out to set a lap time on board as they feared for the conditions getting worse. Ironically both the Force India’s who were the early runners of the session found themselves in the spot of bother as they were close to getting relegated and thus they had to make a switch to the option compound to set a better lap time, Q1 was also of few surprises as the biggest one was of Kimi Raikkonen’s lap time which was done on the harder of the two compound and that put him on Top quite comfortably. Mercedes had a narrow escape with Schumacher who was almost certain to get relegated out but managed to squeeze into Q2 in the dying moments of Q1. It was quite a gritty effort from the Mercedes team for opting to put Schumacher on the harder compound although he was on the verge of getting eliminated. The Mclaren Team meanwhile found it easy and with the clock showing 4 minutes or so left for the Q1 session, Both the drivers were out of their car and were looking to ease themselves only for them to get back in after the midfield teams set their lap times on the softer compound and Kimi Raikkonen setting a much talked lap time on the harder compound that put him ahead of Mclaren’s. Although neither of the McLaren drivers ventured out onto the track again in Q1, It was surprising to see their confidence levels after what they gone through the weekend and also at Silverstone. Close to end of Q1, We had the expected rain showers and that sent few people in the grandstands back to their comfort zone. With the track conditions expecting to get much worse, all the drivers again ventured out onto the track on the Intermediate tyre compound. And as most of the commentators and analysts pointed out that the best conditions for the drivers to set a proper timed lap is in the first two laps of their stint. Most of the drivers were doing the same and were told by their respective engineers to get the most out of the situation. As luck would have it, Q2 was the most happening sessions with the drivers trying to get at least a bonker lap and with the conditions getting worse some drivers were taking the wild route. Huge names were relegated in Q2 and that included Rosberg, Grosjean, Senna, Danniel Ricciardo, Massa and the two Saubers of Perez and Kobayashi. It was a huge affair for many of these drivers. Ricciardo was one of the few drivers who were hoping for the wet conditions as that would suit their car. The Saubers were the unfortunate ones having been outpaced by others. The 2 other drivers who were relegated in the session were blaming their tyres for the trouble while Grosjean seemed to be baffled by the lack of speed all together. To add to their woes, Rosberg and Grosjean were two of the three drivers who were having an unscheduled Gearbox change which meant that they will be losing out 5 Places on the Grid.
"I am very disappointed with the way qualifying went. I did not manage to do a time at the start of Q2 because I went wide at Turn Eight and so was unable to put together a good lap in the only window available to do so" - Massa
The start of Q3 saw rain almost ceasing. However all the drivers ventured out onto the track to set a time on board much to the delight of the fans. Hulkenberg who is driving in his home race aqua planned heavily and was fortunate to keep the car going in the early stages of the Q3. Thats the stage when Top 6 were occupied by the usual contestants. The excitement only grew in the final stages when Alonso and Ferrari went with a Masterstroke of opting for a fresh rubber and that put Alonso on the top of the time sheets ahead of Vettel and Webber. The surprise package however being the Force India and Hulkenberg with them qualifying on P5 and will move up a place following Webber’s penalty. Maldonado again put up a strong finish on P6 ahead of the Mclaren’s. Rounding off the Top 10 were Di Resta and Raikkonen.
"The great thing at Hockenheim is the great big DRS zone along the back straight - so hopefully Jenson and I will be doing lots of overtaking there tomorrow!” - Lewis Hamilton
"Once again, Fernando had a fantastic qualifying, getting the most out of the car or maybe even a bit more than that" - Pat Fry
"Once again, Fernando has demonstrated just how talented he is: that was some qualifying from our driver" - Stefano Domenicali
"In these conditions it’s extremely difficult, as you can lose the car through the rivers on the track. I lost some time running into Mark at the end of one lap" - Vettel
"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" - Lewis Hamilton
Perhaps not an ideal situation for many. Alonso and Ferrari were always the contenders for Pole in the changeable conditions like this. Vettel was furious as he found Webber on the way to one of his best timed lap. Vettel was furious as he believes he could have been on Pole but acknowledges the fact that Alonso’s strategy was aggressive and it was quicker then his. Webber did the best he could but the fact that he is one of the three drivers to get a penalty of unscheduled Gearbox change would definitely make matters worse although the top brass of Red Bull are putting up a brave face, Webber will have a hard task in his hands unless something dramatic happens up the field. The Mclarens who are ahead of Webber will be hoping for dry weather and that’s their secret weapon. The Mclarens off late have seem to lost their pace in the changeable and wet weather conditions and despite the upgrade they seem to lack something. Schumacher and Mercedes are one of those few who would be banking on changeable conditions as the conditions would be very hot if it remains dry for the race which would mean that their tyre wear will be significant and this team for sure doesn’t like hot weather and tyre wears. Maldonado once again arose from the woods and this was a better performance from the Venezuelan. Kimi Raikkonen meanwhile like the Mclaren’s would be hoping for hot weather where the Lotus is always known to be easy on the tyres and also seem to perform significantly better. Although most people have forgot about the exciting lap from the Finn in Q1 where he set an amazing time on the prime compound, The hotter the conditions, the better the chance for the Finn and he could be very well on his way to the podium.
"Naturally I'm particularly happy for all the Mercedes colleagues in the grandstands: they support us throughout the year and we wanted to give something back to them" - Schumacher
“The bad news is that we weren’t quick enough in Q3’s wet conditions; but the good news is that the dry pace of our car appears to be very good." - Martin Whitmarsh
"I was getting ready for my final run but the traffic didn’t really work out for me and I struggled to get the lap when it really counted" - Paul di Resta
Perhaps the most surprising drive came from the Force India and Hulkenberg who eventually found himself wanting when his car aquaplaned heavily in the early stages of Q3. After having qualifying P5, He will move up a place on the grid and this would mean that three of the Top 4 are Germans. The Force India is not the same car as it was in 2009 although there is a long straight here with the DRS, Force India is still vulnerable as there are many cars behind who are known to be significantly faster in the dry conditions, It would require a heroic effort from Hulkenberg to finish where he started although there is severe level of unpredictability this season, It’s too much to ask from a car which although proved to be consistent but still doesn’t have the pace to be in Top 6 all the time. Di Resta although once again forged his way into Q3 still doesn’t seem to delived when it needed. Not the first time we see this from the reputed Scot and the best way to silence the critics is to deliver a strong finish.
"Yesterday I was quite confident in the wet and in the dry so it is frustrating, especially on top of the gearbox penalty. But I will still hope to score some points tomorrow because a lot is possible in the races this year. I will definitely push a lot in front of all our fans here" - Rosberg
The real fireworks however is outside Top 10 with some big names wanting to get out of the blocks, Rosberg will be one of the drivers whom one can pick to deliver a better result of out of the rest. Having faced a problem with his Tyres in Q2, Rosberg is the one to watch out for in the race. Although they have quite a few issues in the dry conditions, Rosberg’s pace in Q1 was quite brilliant and with their double DRS, Rosberg quite very well leapfrog a few people with its aid. Even a Top 8 finish in the race is quite possible for the young German. Massa with his improved performance in the recent races was unlucky after having run wide in Turn 8 which resulted in near collision with Alonso agreed to the fact that had it not been for those mistakes, He could have been on the Q3 shootout. Massa unlike others in this region doesn’t have any added penalties to his name and he will be starting in P13 which although is ‘too far back’ would be enough for him to be in the hunt for potential points but unlike Rosberg, Massa faces a huge uphill task and would require lots of gritty drive from him. Grosjean who had seen first Q2 dropout faced lots of issues with this track which might not be to his liking. This particular track is tend to be dealt with care and on number of occasions through the weekend, Grosjean found himself trying to get the car on the racing line. He ran into the gravel quite a few times and was struggling for pace and grip. And plenty of analysts have suggested that Grosjean is ‘overcooking’ and is aggressive which although is debatable, With added penalty and starting at near the end of the field and with no proper pace shown throughout the weekend. A Top itself seems to be a tall order for the Frenchmen.
The three new teams all have their own tasks this weekend with at least two teams trying to gather more dry mileage for their updated parts while HRT is trying all it can to stay close to Marussia. Caterham is looking strong with Kovalainen who was nearly a second faster to his teammate but the potential of CT-01 is yet to fully uncovered and this Team will be hoping for some dry race and use it as a test session rather. The same goes for Marussia and Pic’s performance has to be noted for after he missed FP3 with a Engine change and came back into the qualifying and outclassed his experienced Teammate who seemed to struggle with the car
It should be a exciting race for one or more reasons, Although it’s too soon to predict the Top 3, The best bet is obviously on Vettel in case the race is dry. Vettel will be the hard man to beat and will be looking hard to win race in the month of July which seems to be a hard task for him. The pace of plenty of drivers in the dry is significantly different to what they do in the wet and this keeps the race open. Also the fact that Pirelli have yet to gather enough mileage in the dry conditions here would also mean more of a gamble in the strategy. With Pirelli expecting a 0.5 seconds gap between two dry compounds, Wonder what strategy the Teams are opting for. But wait, Did someone just talk of One stop strategy?
It’s not long before we find out!