Alonso ahead but wary of McLaren’s dry-weather pace

2012 German GP pre-race analysis

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Fernando Alonso starts from pole position for the second race in a row.

But it’s not just fellow front row starter Sebastian Vettel he’s keeping an eye on.

“McLaren was a bit quicker than everyone else in the dry,” said Alonso after qualifying. “So I expect a strong race from them tomorrow.”

The start

As happened on F1’s last visit to the Hockenheimring, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel share the front row of the grid. But this time it’s Alonso on pole position.

Last time Vettel swerved across the track to keep Alonso behind – and in doing so let Felipe Massa through into the lead. As we saw at Silverstone, Alonso has no qualms about using such tactics, and Vettel can expect immediate attention from the Ferrari if he makes a better start.

Hockenheim has an unusual first corner with a vast tarmac run-off on the outside which drivers often use to gain an advantage. Massa did so at the start in 2010 and escaped attention from the stewards.

From a standing start turn one is taken flat-out – the drivers don’t get on the brakes until turn two, and the jostling for position usually continues on up to the Spitzkehre hairpin and beyond on the first lap.

If lap two begins and Alonso isn’t leading it’ll be a first – he hasn’t lost a place on the first lap all year. But Michael Schumacher, who starts third, hasn’t gained a place in the last four races.

The start is especially important for those needing to make progress from lowly grid positions. Keep an eye on Lewis Hamilton and, much further back, Romain Grosjean and Nico Rosberg.


After two days punctuated with occasional, sharp showers, tomorrow is expected to be dry and warm. Track temperatures peaked at 29C in final practice but should be even warmer than that tomorrow.

The limited dry running will mean teams have to feel their way with strategy a bit. “Not all of us have done runs on heavy fuel,” said Sebastian Vettel. “I think the McLarens did but I don’t think Ferrari and us did this morning, so we will see, but it shouldn’t be a big problem.”

Lewis Hamilton indicated that, despite McLaren’s poor qualifying, they could be in a strong position for the race: “We’re in a better position for tomorrow: although we’re not starting from the best positions, 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. The great thing at Hockenheim is the great big DRS zone along the back straight – so hopefully Jenson [Button] and I will be doing lots of overtaking there tomorrow.”

Lotus also have high hopes for their performance in the race. Track operations director Alan Permane Tweeted: “I keep reading about how well others are going to do tomorrow… Here’s a prediction for you: Kimi [Raikkonen] will be on the podium…”

Hockenheim has usually been a track where drivers can pass quite easily. The DRS zone leading into the hairpin should make it even more straightforward.

Another feature of practice was that the soft tyre seemed to offer little of a performance advantage over the medium. This will most likely lead teams towards starting on the soft and attempting to run the race with two stops for medium tyres. Because Q3 took place in wet conditions, all the drivers have a free choice of tyres for the start of the race.

Here’s all the data from qualifying.

Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Fernando AlonsoFerrari1’16.0731’38.521 (+22.448)1’40.621 (+2.100)
2Sebastian VettelRed Bull1’16.3931’38.309 (+21.916)1’41.026 (+2.717)
3Michael SchumacherMercedes1’16.6861’38.010 (+21.324)1’42.459 (+4.449)
4Nico HulkenbergForce India1’16.2711’39.467 (+23.196)1’43.501 (+4.034)
5Pastor MaldonadoWilliams1’16.1811’38.731 (+22.550)1’43.950 (+5.219)
6Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’16.5071’38.659 (+22.152)1’44.113 (+5.454)
7Lewis HamiltonMcLaren1’16.2211’37.365 (+21.144)1’44.186 (+6.821)
8Mark WebberRed Bull1’16.5001’39.382 (+22.882)1’41.496 (+2.114)
9Paul di RestaForce India1’16.3521’39.703 (+23.351)1’44.889 (+5.186)
10Kimi RaikkonenLotus1’15.6931’39.729 (+24.036)1’45.811 (+6.082)
11Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso1’16.5161’39.789 (+23.273)
12Kamui KobayashiSauber1’16.4811’39.985 (+23.504)
13Felipe MassaFerrari1’16.2651’40.212 (+23.947)
14Bruno SennaWilliams1’16.4261’40.752 (+24.326)
15Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso1’16.741
16Heikki KovalainenCaterham1’17.620
17Sergio PerezSauber1’15.7261’39.933 (+24.207)
18Vitaly PetrovCaterham1’18.531
19Romain GrosjeanLotus1’16.6851’40.574 (+23.889)
20Charles PicMarussia1’19.220
21Nico RosbergMercedes1’15.9881’41.551 (+25.563)
22Timo GlockMarussia1’19.291
23Pedro de la RosaHRT1’19.912
24Narain KarthikeyanHRT1’20.230

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Fernando Alonso16.671 (5)35.777 (11)23.625 (2)
Sebastian Vettel16.847 (17)35.628 (6)23.897 (12)
Michael Schumacher16.799 (12)35.884 (18)23.906 (14)
Nico Hulkenberg16.819 (13)35.508 (1)23.786 (7)
Pastor Maldonado16.654 (4)35.849 (16)23.678 (5)
Jenson Button16.731 (6)35.814 (14)23.848 (9)
Lewis Hamilton16.737 (7)35.516 (3)23.810 (8)
Mark Webber16.775 (10)35.739 (9)23.915 (15)
Paul di Resta16.832 (16)35.621 (5)23.899 (13)
Kimi Raikkonen16.545 (2)35.512 (2)23.636 (3)
Daniel Ricciardo16.825 (15)35.758 (10)23.933 (16)
Kamui Kobayashi16.762 (8)35.777 (11)23.849 (10)
Felipe Massa16.775 (10)35.631 (7)23.859 (11)
Bruno Senna16.821 (14)35.842 (15)23.763 (6)
Jean-Eric Vergne16.893 (18)35.673 (8)24.095 (18)
Heikki Kovalainen17.078 (19)36.381 (20)24.161 (19)
Sergio Perez16.578 (3)35.601 (4)23.547 (1)
Vitaly Petrov17.365 (21)36.318 (19)24.709 (20)
Romain Grosjean16.771 (9)35.877 (17)24.031 (17)
Charles Pic17.391 (22)36.847 (22)24.941 (22)
Nico Rosberg16.527 (1)35.800 (13)23.661 (4)
Timo Glock17.224 (20)37.121 (24)24.822 (21)
Pedro de la Rosa17.479 (23)36.776 (21)25.195 (23)
Narain Karthikeyan17.505 (24)37.110 (23)25.512 (24)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso318.1 (197.7)
2Nico RosbergMercedes316.6 (196.7)-1.5
3Michael SchumacherMercedes316.1 (196.4)-2.0
4Felipe MassaFerrari315.9 (196.3)-2.2
5Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso315.8 (196.2)-2.3
6Lewis HamiltonMcLaren315.3 (195.9)-2.8
7Kimi RaikkonenLotus315.2 (195.9)-2.9
8Fernando AlonsoFerrari314.6 (195.5)-3.5
9Jenson ButtonMcLaren314.4 (195.4)-3.7
10Paul di RestaForce India313.8 (195.0)-4.3
11Romain GrosjeanLotus313.6 (194.9)-4.5
12Nico HulkenbergForce India313.3 (194.7)-4.8
13Pastor MaldonadoWilliams312.7 (194.3)-5.4
14Bruno SennaWilliams312.6 (194.2)-5.5
15Sergio PerezSauber311.8 (193.7)-6.3
16Heikki KovalainenCaterham311.7 (193.7)-6.4
17Vitaly PetrovCaterham311.7 (193.7)-6.4
18Kamui KobayashiSauber311.2 (193.4)-6.9
19Charles PicMarussia308.3 (191.6)-9.8
20Mark WebberRed Bull307.6 (191.1)-10.5
21Sebastian VettelRed Bull307.6 (191.1)-10.5
22Pedro de la RosaHRT307.3 (190.9)-10.8
23Narain KarthikeyanHRT306.9 (190.7)-11.2
24Timo GlockMarussia306.5 (190.5)-11.6

2012 German Grand Prix

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Image © McLaren/Hoch Zwei

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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42 comments on “Alonso ahead but wary of McLaren’s dry-weather pace”

  1. McLaren and specially Lotus looking mighty strong for the race. While I think Alonso is going to win, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Button and Räikkönen up there….

    1. If the pace Raikkonen showed in Q1 is for real and isnt a fluke. He can certainly win this one. He is in a better position than he was in Bahrain at the start of the race. Other than that Hockenheim is more overtaking friendly than Bahrain.

      1. I don’t think Hockenheim is better for overtaking than Bahrain. Bahrain has a loong straigth line (start/finish line) plus another two straight lines, smaller, but good for overtaking. Hockenheim has one “straight” line, where is hard to overtake somebody if he will take the interior…

        1. They added the DRS zone into the hairpin so that should makes things easier.

          As others have said if the Q1 pace of Raikkonen is legitimate he could win the race. His lap was fast than others attempting to do the same on the soft tires. If it rains he is probably going to go backward, his pace in Q3 was shockingly bad.

    2. What, exactly, makes you think Button will be up there instead of Hamilton? Honestly just curious, as he’s pretty much been embarassingly slower than Lewis all season.

      1. Nothing, really. I preferred to mention a single McLaren name and chose the one on the higher grid position. Some people are really touchy aren’t they….

        Anyways Räikkönen mentioned he would get the pole “rather easily” if it wasn’t for the rain, and Lotus mentioned on Twitter they expect, so to speak, Räikönnen to be on the podium. They are quite confident, so yeah, maybe they’re that good.

        1. I really do hope they make up on that promise, could be another smasher of a race then.

      2. To say Button has been “embarassingly slower” than Hamilton all season is a gross overstatement.

        Australia: Button was much faster and won the race convincingly.
        Malaysia: Button was at least matched with Hamilton on pace and ahead of him after the first pit stop until he shunted Karthikeyan and took his front wing off.
        China: Faster and finished ahead of Hamilton again
        Bahrain: Slightly slower, lost out badly during the first lap of the race after qualifying right behind Hamilton and was eventually forced to retire with a broken exhaust.

        After this Button had by far his worst run of form this season and also his worst form in the last 4 years at least:

        Barcelona: Qualified 11th after being fastest in P2 whilst Hamilton qualified on pole then got relegated to last place for being underfuelled. Finished behind Hamilton despite starting 14 places ahead in the race.

        Monaco: Qualified a lowly 13th after being fastest in P2 again whilst Hamilton qualified in P4. Finished in 16th after getting crowded out at turn 1 and stuck behind Kovalainen for his entire race.

        Canada: Qualified 10th to Hamilton’s 2nd place after being way slower than Hamilton in all practice sessions. No pace in the race and massive tyre degradation, eventually finishing over a lap down to race winner Hamilton. It’s safe to say that Button was actually embarassingly slower than Hamilton at this race.

        Europe and Silverstone: A return to some semblance of form for Button. Faster than Hamilton in all three practice sessions at Valencia but flopped in Qualifying where it counts. Unlucky safety car timing during the race heavily compromised his strategy.

        Unlucky to be faced with yellow flags in the final sector of his last lap in qualifying at Silverstone where he was ~2s up on previous best after pitting for a new set of inters and set to go fastest in Q1 after struggling with tyre warmup earlier in the session. Slowed down a lot for yellows and didn’t make it through to Q2. Hamilton qualified 8th. Both drivers struggled for pace in the race and finished 8th (HAM) and 10th (BUT).

  2. Only 8 of the 24 drivers are going to be starting where they qualified, due to all the grid penalties.
    (Alonso, Vettel, Di Resta, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Glock De La Rosa, Karthikeyan)

    1. @michaeldobson13, I think Glock & Karthikeyan will still start where they qualified, but we get your point.

    2. Well, if the Red Bulls do run into trouble for their fishy engine mapping, that would leave just Alonso starting where he qualified!

  3. Seems a long time since Hamilton made a blistering start. Might be a good moment to remember how.

    1. Hamilton is not necessarily ‘great’ at starts but nor is he a bad starter, average & clean at best, I still expect to make up a few positions at the start though.

      1. Kind of stinks that he has Button in front, might make him less aggressive.

    2. Mclarens seem to have been exceptionally poor off the line for a few years now, maybe an inability to cope with max fuel loads or getting heat into the tyres instantaneously. Red bull in particular have eviscerated them at most starts in recent times. Ferrari too, although their grid positions have been much less frequently optimal. I have come to dread race starts these days…

      1. Hamilton has Maldonado right in front of him. The first lap will end in tears. Called it.

        1. No. Maldonado to play skittles with SCH and HUL in fron to him, possibly VET too. ALO will cruise away from the disaster zone wondering where everyone else has gone. BUT in second place, HAM in third. The first lap will end in laughter. Called it.

          Anyway, congratulations to Wiggo, in another wheeled sport.

        2. would not have been the case if he had been allowed to do the same as button did – to pit for fresh wet tyre. could have jumped a few places forward but sam michael chose button as the benchmark instead to counter alonso’s pace when he can’t even beat maldonado’s time. if lewis car had been fitted as button’s he could have easily been up there amongst the top 4 the least..crap!

          1. @boss
            Actually Hamilton had the same option, I dont know if he got new tyres, but he just abandoned his last lap. And another thing, the drivers have different race crews, and I dont think it is up to SM or MW to decide those things, so you can hardly blame anyone else but Hamiltons crew for not doing the same as Button, but only if they didnt do the same.

  4. a dry race for tomorrow is not a 100% given, most of the teams were sure about a wet race for silverstone.
    anything can happen tomorrow either on a wet or dry track. it is not easy to defend from the front but it is also not easy to come from back to fight for podium.

  5. Can´t wait till tomorrow… It´s going to be a heck of a race!!! I just hope Ferrari gets the strategy right this time!

    1. As much as I want Alonso to win, he never seems hang onto the lead when he starts from pole. I’d have preferred him in second and taken Vettel into the first corner.

      1. thats right , thats cause the ferrari lacks pace compared to the other cars.

  6. . The great thing at Hockenheim is the great big DRS zone along the back straight

    *groans* Actually the great thing about this track was that it’s a cracking circuit and usually delivers overtaking anyway.

    1. @steph

      Too right! Hockenheim would be a great track to see how a DRS-free race would work out.

      1. +2 KERS & its strategic use around the lap is more than enough of an overtaking aid, if we even need them at all…

  7. Chris (@tophercheese21)
    22nd July 2012, 2:10


    1. yeah go hamilton go

  8. It’s interesting Ferrari find some top speed in qualifying compared to practices.

    1. If found guilty they will have to start from the pit line at the least as their engine mapping will have to be changed and contravine Parc Ferme

      1. what did they do wrong exactly?

        1. FIA technical delegate says, “Having examined the engine base torque map of car numbers 01 and 02 it became apparent that the maximum torque output of both engines is significantly less in the mid rpm range than previously seen at other events” and blah blah…

          or in a word “It seems they breached the regulations.”

        2. Their engines gives to much tourqe in the mid-range RPM.

          1. Not enough torque, suggesting that the engine revs are being used for somthing other than turning the wheels. Eg exhaust gasses providing and aerodynamic benefit.

      2. in worst case they can be banned from this or a couple of races, I guess.

  9. News just in RedBull under investigation for illegal engine mapping.

  10. Can things just fall any more in place for Alonso this year???

  11. I’d expect Lotus on the podium as well, the DRS zone here looks very generous and it’s a fast enough car as it is.

    Can only see RBR beating Alonso in the pits, which is something they’re usually pretty good at.

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