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Welcome to the Green Hell: German Grand Prix Qualifying

By Nikki Grubb-Clarke

Ahh, the Nurburgring. If you listen to James May, the place that makes cars rubbish if manufacturers choose to test them there. If you listen to everyone else, the track with the single most brilliant nickname in the whole wide world, ever. The Green Hell. Imagine it said in a deep voice, with lots of echo, and then Vincent Price’s evil laugh from the end of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ added on the end. Awesome.

All talk, unsurprisingly pre-qualifying, was about the tyres. Pirelli, after the Silverstone debacle, have had some brand-spanking-new boots made for this weekend, and have distributed them accordingly with some specific pressure and mounting instructions for each of the teams. Now I’ve been pretty scathing of Pirelli this week, (I wrote them a letter, you’ll recall. They didn’t write back. I don’t think they love me anymore!), but credit where it’s due, they’ve assessed what happened and have taken some positive action, doing what many said would be impossible with the number of tyres they’ve been able to manufacture in such a limited timescale, with the signs through FPs all very positive. Hoorah! PLEASE let this spill over into the race! It will make me a super-happy girly, if I can get through the whole of the race review without having to say the word ‘Tyres’ a ludicrously high number of times!

Williams have started celebrating their 600th GP. But their performance is still lacking. Image courtesy Williams F1 Team (for editorial use only)

Williams have started celebrating their 600th GP. But their performance is still lacking. Image courtesy Williams F1 Team (for editorial use only)

Qualifying 1

With bright skies and plenty of sunshine, we weren’t immediately treated to cars on track. First man to dip a toe in the tarmac was Paul di Resta. Sent out by his team to see where they could do him over this week? We shall see.

Free Practice had shown the RBRs and the Mercs in a class of their own, and Q1 seemed to confirm this, with the rest going onto soft tyres to post their times. Not at the top, but they eased through easily, almost with the windows down, an elbow on the window frame and the tunes blasting. That’s how easy they made it look comparatively.

Cheeky on the other hand was all about making us sweat! With time gone, this was his last chance to get into Q2. It was nervous watching….but Woop! He squeaked it – JUST! 14th on soft tyres. Doesn’t bode well for getting out of Q2!

Ah Williams. It’s your 600th GP start this weekend, and your aim is to get out of Q1. Erm…oops? And I promise, I’m not laughing at all. No really, I’m not. That’s just a nervous twitch. Honestly.

I’m getting kinda bored of saying it now, but once again, Bianchi showed his class and was dicing with Pic for the honour of being the best of the back 2. As for the Walking Wallet…well he doesn’t get any better, lets put it that way!

17 Valterri Bottas – Williams

18 Pastor Maldonado – Williams

19 Charles Pic – Caterham

20 Jules Bianchi – Marussia

21 Guido van der Garde – Caterham

22 Max Chilton – Marussia

Qualifying 2

Having breezed Q1, the Mercs and RBR pulled on their serious shoes, and went out on softs. NOW we’d see what they had!

With 2 minutes to go, the Smiley Giraffe pulled out an absolute stonker of a lap!! Better known this season for building the reputation he started to purvey last year of being the ‘Go To Man’ if you want to be taken out. He hooked it up beautifully to go just 0.030 seconds slower than Finger Boy and take 2nd.

Nico Rosberg took it easy, but it cost him a good qualifying. Image courtesy Mercedes AMG Petronas  (for editorial use only)

Nico Rosberg took it easy, but it cost him a good qualifying. Image courtesy Mercedes AMG Petronas (for editorial use only)

In what can only be described as the single biggest brain fart moment of the season so far, Nico Rosberg, who had set a reasonable time in his Mercedes, stayed in the garage – the team thinking the time he’d set was enough – and had to watch as everyone around him started setting better times. The Green Hell becoming The Silver Hell for Princess as he ended up 11th and out of Q3. Don’t worry though, I have dispatched myself to the Nurburgring with Emergency Cuddles for Ross Brawn. He really is just a big cuddly bear, isn’t he?

Sergio Perez continues his search for pace. Image courtesy Vodafone Mclaren Mercedes team  (for editorial use only)

Sergio Perez continues his search for pace. Image courtesy Vodafone Mclaren Mercedes team (for editorial use only)

Bad news again for McLaren who really are having a season that tests my knowledge of superlatives that aren’t swear words to the max. Button scraping into Q3, but Cheeky, after just squelching it out of Q1, could only manage 13th. The search for pace goes ever on.

11 Nico Rosberg

12 Paul di Resta

13 Sergio Perez

14 Esteban Guttierez

15 Adrian Sutil

16 Jean-Eric Vergne

Qualifying 3

Lew-Lew gave The Finger a last-minute shocker! Image courtesy Mercedes AMG Petronas team  (for editorial use only)

Lew-Lew gave The Finger a last-minute shocker! Image courtesy Mercedes AMG Petronas team (for editorial use only)

Oh Lew-Lew!! You’re such a scamp! All through the Free Practice sessions you’ve not been your normal ‘top of the timesheet’ self. You’ve been upset at the pace of the car, and described it as ‘undriveable’ and you’ve had a face, frankly, like a smacked behind. Oh we should have known it was all an act!  What a close finish it was – Lew-Lew chopping off the Finger to take a 2nd successive pole.

Oh JB, what happened? Image courtesy Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 team  (for editorial use only)

JB, what happened? Image courtesy Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 team (editorial use only)

JB decided not to bother setting a competitive time in Q3, along with Hulkenberg, and they will line up 9th and 10th. This still REALLY grinds my gears. This is Qualifying. This is where you fight to put your car as far up the grid as you can, and take full advantage of your car’s one-lap pace to give you the very best starting position you can get. This is where you, as a driver, showcase just how far you can push the engineering at your disposal. It isn’t where you push to get into Q3, and choose to try and gain an advantage over the cars who DO adhere to what qualifying is about by saving your tyres. If you get to Q3, you should have to go out and set a car-specific competitive lap time. If you don’t, you’re disqualified from quali, and you start from the back. It’s simply not in keeping with the spirit of the sport to sandbag in quali to try and gain a race advantage.

Prancing Stallion no more? Image courtesy Ferrari  (for editorial use only)

Prancing Stallion no more? Image courtesy Ferrari (for editorial use only)

As for Ferrari, well someone seems to have sedated their prize Stallion over the past couple of races: 7th & 8th seem to be becoming about the norm for the pair. I definitely think the Goatee has something to do with it. It’s like Alonso is the opposite of Samson, and the facial hair is sapping all his powers!

So Lovely Lew-Lew will lead the away tomorrow. Here’s hoping we have a close, safe race, with tyres that don’t go pop, thanks all the same! My blood pressure genuinely couldn’t handle going through that all over again!

...and the top 3 on the grid are: Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, and Mark Webber. Image courtesy Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team  (for editorial use only)

…and the top 3 on the grid are: Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, and Mark Webber. Image courtesy Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team (for editorial use only)

1 Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes

2 Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull Racing

3 Mark Webber – Red Bull Racing

4 Kimi Raikkenon – Lotus

5 Romain Grosjean – Lotus

6 Daniel Ricciardo – Toro Rosso

7 Felipe Massa – Ferrari

8 Fernando Alonso – Ferrari

9 Jenson Button – McLaren

10 Nico Hulkenberg – Sauber

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