Alonso splashes to Silverstone pole

July 7, 2012 5:59 pm

Fernando Alonso underlined his credentials as pretender to the 2012 Formula One World Championship this afternoon by securing pole position in a rain-soaked qualifying session for the British Grand Prix.

The Spaniard overcame a fifty minute rain shower that saw qualifying halted while stewards and marshals attempted to make the circuit safe for racing.

Hometown heroes Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton and Paul Di Resta all failed to impress as both Button and the Scot fell foul of yellow flags while on course for faster times.

Qualifying for the 2012 British Grand Prix was a washout, with many fans being asked to ‘stay away’ from the circuit as car parks became flooded

When the first qualifying session got underway there was a mad scramble for the pitlane exit as the teams’ weather radar led them to believe heavy showers would sweep across the track shortly after the qualifying hour started. With all cars out on the circuit, traffic was always going to be a problem for the faster championship contenders and sure enough Jenson Button suffered the most once again. Languishing in 18th with minutes to spare, the Briton opted to fit a fresh set of tyres and while they gave him enough grip to be fastest through the first two sectors of Silverstone’s sweeping track layout, he was scuppered when confronted with the spun Marussia car of German Timo Glock in the final corner. Button had to back off, and his day was over. ‘The only good thing is that I’ll have more tyres in the race. These guys are going to be running around for two more sessions, and it’s going to be wet tomorrow,’ smiled the ever-cheerful Brit, ‘So, 18th, but I’ll have better tyres. But the race will be difficult.’

 

Romain Grosjean was fast – but span out of contention

Second qualifying started in similar conditions but a particularly violent rainstorm soaked the Northamptonshire countryside and left Alonso and team-mate Felipe Massa in the doldrums down in 15th and 16th places when the session was red-flagged and called to a halt with six minutes remaining on the clock. A tense wait followed for the best part of an hour before the rain eased and the circuit was swept clear by an army of broom-toting marshals.

 

Alonso and Massa both improved enough to qualify for the top ten shootout, while early pacesetter Sergio Perez experienced a disheartening turnaround in fortune. Lying 1st when the session was stopped, the Mexican wound up his day perplexed and in 17th place in Q2.

The final part of qualifying boasted a drying track and the times tumbled as first Massa, Michael Schumacher, Alonso and then Mark Webber all took their turns at heading the field. Schumacher fell away as the speed heightened to leave Webber locked in battle with the Ferrari team-mates. Massa initially appeared to have an edge on his Spanish team-mate but the indomitable Alonso blew his Brazilian companion away by lapping almost a full second faster, only to be beaten across the timing beam by Webber. The Australian was on pole at Silverstone in 2011 and determined to claim another victory to add to the one he collected here in 2010. Yet the championship leader found the time he was looking for on his final lap and secured pole position by just 0.047 seconds. Webber was nonetheless pleased to be starting ahead of team-mate Sebastian Vettel as the World Champion struggled to an eventual 4th on the grid, behind countryman Michael Schumacher who was 3rd at the last race in Valencia.

Mark Webber showed the speed he has at Silverstone by taking 2nd on the grid behind Fernando Alonso

Massa faded to an eventual 5th on the grid, an improvement of sorts following his disastrous start to 2012. Kimi Raikkonen and Pastor Maldonado took 6th and 7th respectively, while Lewis Hamilton faltered in front of his home fans and could only outpace Nico Hulkenberg when it came to the crunch for 8th place on the grid. Romain Grosjean rounded out the top ten but was unable to compete in final qualifying after spinning out at the very end of the second session. Paul Di Resta was 11th ahead of Kamui Kobayashi, a despondent Nico Rosberg, Daniel Ricciardo, Bruno Senna and Jean Eric Vergne.

 

Alonso spoke of his first pole since September 2010 with the BBC. ‘It was not easy. To complete a lap with no huge mistakes is not easy in these conditions. [I’m] Happy to be on pole after nearly two years. In these conditions the qualifying is probably the least important of the year but obviously for visibility it is always better to be on pole.’

If he can convert that pole to his third win of the season tomorrow, Fernando Alonso will have a very clear view ahead …and it might just be the sight of the 2012 World Championship beckoning.

Anthony French

 

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