Australian Mark Webber grabbed the first pole position of his Formula One career yesterday when he outpaced all of his rivals in qualifying for today’s German Grand Prix.
The 32-year-old Red Bull driver made the most of changeable weather conditions to emerge in front with a best lap of 1 minute, 32.230 seconds. That lifted him clear of Brazilian Rubens Barrichello of Brawn GP, who was second fastest, as dry weather followed a rain-hit session.
Championship leading Briton Jenson Button, in the second Brawn, was third fastest ahead of German Sebastian Vettel in the second Red Bull.
“Great, thank you guys — awesome,” Webber said on his slowing down lap after being told that after 128 races he had topped the times to take the prime starting position for a Grand Prix.
Defending world champion Briton Lewis Hamilton was fifth for McLaren-Mercedes, proving that his team’s efforts to improve their car were working at last after a series of desperately disappointing performances. His teammate Finn Heikki Kovalainen was sixth ahead of German Adrian Sutil of Force India, in their first top 10 position, Brazilian Felipe Massa and his Ferrari teammate Finn Kimi Raikkonen, with Brazilian Nelson Piquet 10th for Renault.
Webber ended Q1, the first mini-session, on top ahead of Fernando Alonso, with Vettel third and Hamilton fourth in the resurgent McLaren, but it was goodbye for the bottom five. That meant the exit of Pole Robert Kubica of BMW Sauber, Swiss Sebastien Buemi of Toro Rosso, Italian Giancarlo Fisichella of Force India, German Timo Glock of Toyota and Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais in the second Toro Rosso.
When Q2 began, the steady drizzle and the wet track conditions caught several drivers out. Japanese Kazuki Nakajima in his Williams slid off the track, Hamilton brushed a curb and Massa ran wide and off the track across grass. The conditions meant that everyone was struggling to clock times that would carry through to the top-10 shootout.
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With six minutes remaining, Barrichello chose to switch back to dry tires and went out and clocked the fastest lap by almost four seconds — making the most of a brief dry window before rain returned. The conditions caught several teams out when the rain returned and in the panic in the pit-lane, Vettel managed to collide with Nakajima. Button, with a late lap, just squeezed through into the top 10 with Hamilton, as both Alonso and Raikkonen slipped off the slippery surface.
In the end, the rain claimed the hopes of German Nick Heidfeld in his BMW, Alonso, fuming as he stepped out of his Renault, Nakajima, Italian Jarno Trulli of Toyota and German Nico Rosberg of Williams.