x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Webber secures pole in Germany

The Australian will start on pole position for the first time in his F1 career following a stunning qualifier.

Mark Webber in action in his Red Bull-Renault as he drove to the first pole position of his career.
Mark Webber in action in his Red Bull-Renault as he drove to the first pole position of his career.

All the talk in the build up to the German Grand Prix had been over Sebastian Vettel's burgeoning championship credentials, but Mark Webber made a strong statement that there are two Red Bull drivers in contention for the title. The Australian drove to the first pole position of his career at the Nurburgring after coming out on top of one of the most entertaining qualifying sessions of the season, due to a brief shower of rain. Vettel, who won in Britain three weeks ago, trails championship leader Jenson Button by 25 points in the standings, but Webber is only a further three and a half points adrift and victory today will certainly keep him in the hunt. Rubens Barrichello lines up second in his Brawn ahead of teammate Button, who just pipped Vettel for third place. On a drying track Webber flew round in the final seconds to clock 1min 32.380sec to claim his first top spot in his 132nd race, a bizarre statistic given the former Minardi, Jaguar and Williams man has always beenrenown for his qualifying speed. "This is a very special day for me," he said. "I've been close to getting pole a few times in the past, and now we're here. The team have done a very good job; I've been quick all weekend, but we got really tested today. "I'm now in a fantastic position to get my first win. Obviously the Brawns have had a strong season and will push us. "But we're up for the fight - I certainly am - and I'm up for trying to win my first race."

Rain arrived at the end of the final part of the first part of qualifying, intensifying as the second session began as a number of drivers were caught out by the damp conditions on slick tyres. Kazuki Nakajima's Williams, Felipe Massa's Ferrari, and Heikki Kovalainen's McLaren all went off the road before the rain relented and the track dried quickly. More unpredictable weather is forecast for today, and Button said his main aim from third was to try to preserve as much of his points advantage as he can.

"It is going to be an interesting one," he said. "The weather isgoing to be similar to today - wet and dry - so with a little bit of luck, we'll make the best of the situation." Vettel was disappointed with fourth and said: "The circuit was getting better through the session, but my last lap wasn't magnificent, which is why I'm not on the front row." McLaren showed a return to form as Lewis Hamilton took fifth ahead of teammate Kovalainen, while the surprise of the day was Adrian Sutil, who achieved his and Force India's highest qualifying position with seventh. The Ferrari duo of Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen are eighth and ninth, with Nelson Piquet's Renault completing the top 10.

gcaygill@thenational.ae