x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

It is Spain's Fernando Alonso who reigns in the rain for pole

The Ferrari driver did not let the rain slow him down from grabbing the pole at Hockenheimring, while German fans can be happy with three of their drivers in the top five.

Fernando Alonso lets everyone know where he finished after qualifying at Hockenheim for the German Grand Prix.
Fernando Alonso lets everyone know where he finished after qualifying at Hockenheim for the German Grand Prix.

HOCKENHEIM // Like a likable villain, Spaniard Fernando Alonso rained on the German parade at the Hockenheimring on Saturday, beating Sebastian Vettel - one of five native drivers - to claim pole position ahead of Sunday afternoon'sGerman Grand Prix.

Ferrari's 30 year old proved quickest in treacherous conditions as he finished almost half a second ahead of Red Bull Racing's reigning world champion.

Mark Webber, Vettel's teammate, was third quickest, but will start from eighth on the grid after being handed a five-place penalty for changing his gearbox.

Webber's demotion means Michael Schumacher, Germany's seven-time world champion, will start from third at a race he has won four times previously.

The Mercedes-GP driver was once nicknamed Der Regenmeister (The Rain Master), but it was Alonso who Saturday proved most capable of coping in inclement weather.

"It was not fun, that's for sure," Alonso said after securing his second consecutive pole.

"The problem is that you don't know the conditions. It was similar in Silverstone [two weeks ago for the British Grand Prix]. You wait five, seven minutes in the garage and then when you go out you have completely different grip and completely different standing water in places that you don't expect it."

Midway through the hour-long session, Alonso complained over his team radio that the conditions were too wet to race, but with a brief respite arriving soon after, the remaining 10 drivers were sent out to do battle.

"There was a lot of aquaplaning and we are driving 280-290kph there," he said.

"When you have these type of conditions its very difficult to put a clean lap together, and it's very easy to finish in the gravel, the grass or in the wall.

"It is a little bit of a survival moment. You try to complete the lap, avoid any problems and then whatever position you get, you are happy." Vettel expressed anger during the session after finding himself stuck behind Webber in the wet while completing a quick lap, but he acknowledged later that his teammate possibly struggled to see him in the rain.

"The thing is, if you are too close to someone in these conditions, you can't see anything," he said.

"Even if he is three or four seconds ahead, when you hit the straight, the spray comes up, you see nothing, you don't see the rivers and puddles and all of a sudden you are sideways, the car is in seventh gear at 280kph and it's a surprise."

Webber, who trails Alonso by 13 points in the championship standings, conceded that "eighth is not ideal," while Schumacher was delighted to move up to third.

"That's certainly a nice way to start the German Grand Prix," he said.

"We had been expecting a position between fifth and seventh on the grid, so fourth in qualifying, which will become third place on the grid, is even better."

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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