Formula One: Lewis Hamilton is praying for dry day at Hockenheim
Lewis Hamilton has vowed to hunt down his rivals in today’s German Grand Prix after more cold water was poured on his hopes of pole position.
In dry conditions the McLaren, that has a raft of new updates for this weekend, appears to be a race-winning contender again.
Certainly Hamilton and team-mate Jenson Button comfortably made it out of the opening 20-minute qualifying session at Hockenheim when the circuit was dry.
The British duo only needed the slightly slower medium compound Pirelli tyres whilst their rivals were all forced to turn to the faster soft sets to guarantee their place in Q2.
But the thunder that cracked overhead in between the two sessions will have sounded like a death knell, the loud boom a pre-cursor to the rain that ultimately wrecked their qualifying chances.
Put simply, the McLaren is hopeless in the wet, like “driving on ice” according to Hamilton who qualified eighth fastest, a place behind Button, the latter starting ahead of the 27-year-old for the first time this season.
Due to a five-place grid penalty for Red Bull’s Mark Webber, the Australian drops from third to eighth, elevating Hamilton and Button to seventh and sixth respectively. Behind Webber will be Force India’s Paul Di Resta and Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen.
In between the first two periods a loud rumble of thunder was the precursor to the rain that turned Q2 and Q3 into wet sessions.
As the 15 minutes of Q2 started, just as the rain was taking hold, there was a dash out of the pits from all the drivers on the intermediate set of tyres.
It was an attempt to make the most of the track conditions before the circuit became soaked, and for most it proved worthwhile.
Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo missed out on a place in the top ten by 0.060secs, qualifying 11th ahead of Sauber duo Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi.
The big losers were behind them, with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa 14th, followed by Romain Grosjean in his Lotus, Williams’ Bruno Senna, and unhappily for Mercedes on home soil, Nico Rosberg.
For Grosjean and Rosberg, their situations are compounded by the fact they both face five-place grid penalties for gearbox changes which will see them start 20th and 22nd.
As an indicator of just how bad the McLaren was on full wets in Q3, polesitter Fernando Alonso finished three-and-a-half seconds ahead in his Ferrari.
“I really don’t understand what happened at the end (of Q3). We need to investigate and find out,” said Hamilton yesterday. “We were looking good in Q1, in the dry, and again in Q2, and it was okay in Q3 until the end. I don’t understand how everyone went that much quicker. I’m not sure what we did wrong.
“It means tomorrow’s going to be a tough race, as it always is, but I plan to hunt down everyone that is in front of me. The great thing is there is a big DRS (overtaking zone) down the back (of the circuit), so I hope we will be doing some overtaking tomorrow.”
Championship leader Alonso is joined on the front row by Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, with fellow Germans Michael Schumacher in his Mercedes and Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg to start third and fourth.
On the third row will be Williams’ Pastor Maldonado ahead of Button, starting from his highest grid slot since the Bahrain Grand Prix, and then Hamilton.
Button said: “The positive we can take is that the car is quicker in the dry, and tomorrow is supposed to be dry.”
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