| Red Bulls Sebastian Vettel (left) and Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, in Hockenheim, on Saturday. (AFP) |
Hockenheim: Home hero Sebastian Vettel will start Sundays German Grand Prix on pole after holding off a fierce challenge from Ferraris Fernando Alonso.
The Spaniard, quickest in the first two qualifying sessions, seemed poised to take Ferraris first pole for 28 races, stretching back to the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix. But roared on by his home fans at Hockenheim, Red Bulls Vettel snatched top spot from double world champion Alonso by just two thousandths of a second on his final flying lap to spark joyous scenes amongst the German fans.
Vettel will almost certainly claim this to be the best pole of his six this season and 11 of his career. Fortunately, there was none of the rain that blighted practice on Friday, as well as the start of this mornings final session.
It served up a stunning display, with Ferrari proving they are back with a bang given their recent problems, as Felipe Massa will start third.
Mark Webber, winner last time out at Silverstone, is fourth on the grid followed by the McLaren duo of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, the former outpacing the latter for the first time in seven races. Renaults Robert Kubica is seventh, followed by Rubens Barrichello and teammate Nico Hulkenberg 10th as the Williams duo sandwich Mercedes Nico Rosberg.
For the third time in four qualifying sessions, Michael Schumacher failed to make it out of Q2, with fellow German Hulkenberg proving to be his undoing on this occasion.
Towards the end of the 15 minutes, Schumacher had crept into the 10th position, only for Hulkenberg to knock the seven-time champion down to 11th with his final flying lap.
The 41-year-old missed out on a top-10 place by just 0.008secs to teammate Rosberg, hardly what the team were hoping for on home turf.
It was very close all session, said Vettel, adding, We knew it would be a difficult session, and two thousandths of a second is not what you are looking for, so we had to push very hard and it was very exciting. Im extremely happy because its my first time on pole at home, but the challenge will come tomorrow when it will be a tough fight against the red cars.
Massa, back in the top three for the first time since the season opening Grand Prix in Bahrain, said: It was a good performance from us in what was a very tough qualifying.
Force India now face a tough task to get points, as Adrian Sutil will start from 19th and Vitantonio Liuizzi from 22nd on the grid after a disastrous qualifying here on Saturday. Problems started during the last practice session when Sutils VJM03 encountered technical snags and he could race just two laps without setting any time.