Alonso on top in final Hockenheim practice
21 July 2012 – Ahead of qualifying for the German Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso narrowly edged out Lewis Hamilton to top Saturday morning practice. As Mark Webber took a five-place grid penalty, the quickest times were set on a dry track, but a heavy downpour washed all Slick rubber off the racing line in the closing minutes.
After the rain of Friday, Lotus elected not to run its new Super DRS as it had not enjoyed enough dry track time to fully evaluate the component. On the contrary, McLaren is pleased with their latest upgrades which include new sidepods and new rear wings on the cars of Hamilton and Jenson Button. Today marked a quiet session for the latter, who finished last as he did not have a run on the Soft compound tyre.
All in the paddock were pleased to hear that Marussia reserve driver María de Villota has returned home to Spain after her English testing accident, but there was frustration in the team garage as Charles Pic ran into trouble; the Frenchman is expected to take a ten-place engine penalty ahead of qualifying. Also penalised is Webber, whose gearbox has been changed; because Romain Grosjean and Nico Rosberg have received the same fate, three possible pole contenders are already out of the running.
Lotus split up this morning’s programme, with Grosjean leaving the pits on white-marked Medium compound tyres as team-mate Kimi Räikkönen went out with the yellow-walled Softs on-board. Sebastian Vettel – one of five Germans in the field – led the way after 25 minutes before Alonso moved ahead at half past eleven. The Red Bull driver then remained in the pits for a prolonged period as torsion bars were adjusted in a bid to improve front-end responsiveness.
At McLaren, Jenson Button reported too much front wing on his car, meaning it was turning too sharply into some corners which is not suited to his driving style; however, as the tyres lose grip, this could help the Englishman who usually suffers easily from understeer. 15 minutes before the end of the session, Alonso posted the eventual fastest lap of 1:16.014, demoting Hamilton – on his 100th Grand Prix weekend - by just 77 thousandths of a second.
Not only did the late rain send up umbrellas as cars dived for the pit lane, but removed the Slick rubber laid down on the race track; this should result in a dramatic qualifying session as drivers straggle for grip. 2012 marks Hockenheim’s first German Grand Prix for two years, as the venue now alternates with the Nürburgring.
Qualifying for the 2012 German Grand Prix begins at 2pm local time (BST +1) and can also be followed through the interactive GPUpdate.net Live Report