No surprises for Ferrari in hot Hockenheim qualifying

Qualifying Review:

The extensive experience of Scuderia Ferrari’s world champion drivers could be a great asset in what looks like being a very tough race, the hottest of the year, tomorrow at the Hockenheimring. From seventh on the grid, Fernando Alonso will be aiming to make up as many places as possible, as will Kimi Raikkonen, who faces more of an uphill struggle, as he will watch the lights go out from the sixth row of the grid in twelfth place.

Like all the other drivers with the exception of Bottas and the unfortunate Hamilton, who crashed his Mercedes at the Sachskurve, because of a brake problem, Fernando and Kimi used both the Soft and Supersoft to be sure of making the cut from Q1 into Q2. The Spaniard did it by setting the seventh fastest time and the Finn the eleventh.

Q2 proved much tougher and would mark the end of Raikkonen’s participation in qualifying, as he failed to make the cut into Q3, setting the twelfth fastest time. He was unable to improve on his first run after losing a few tenths at Turn 2. Fernando however was through in seventh place. And indeed, that’s where he would stay come the end of the final part of qualifying, to secure a place on row 4, which he shares with Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat. As usual, the Spaniard had rung every last drop of performance out of his F14 T.

With Hamilton out of the way, Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg ensured the home crowd were able to cheer a pole position set by a German driver on a German track in a German-entered car. It was the fifth time this season he has topped the Q3 timing sheet. Next up were the Williams duo, Valtteri Bottas on the front row, with Felipe Massa sharing row 2 with the McLaren of Kevin Magnussen. Kimi has the Dane’s team-mate Jenson Button on the inside of him on row 6.

Pirelli went for the very aggressive choice of running Soft and Supersoft tyres here and they will face a stern test tomorrow, on the assumption the forecast is correct and we have another very hot race day. However, even the softest tyre in the range looked consistent enough on Friday, hotter than today, to do a run of 12 laps or so, therefore a reasonably conventional two stop race, running Supersoft, Soft, Soft, is the most likely scenario. The forecast for rain? Pundits reckon it’s becoming less likely, with the possibility of a nice cool shower once the chequered flag has been waved.

Fernando Alonso: “We can’t be happy with seventh, but it reflects the fact this weekend has been one of ups and downs. Apart from the actual numbers in today’s qualifying, I did find I was more at ease in my F14 T and I think I got the most out of it. I reckon in the race we will suffer more because of tyre degradation. With such high temperatures, the rear tyres slide a lot and it will be really important to choose the right number of stops to make. The forecast is unclear as to whether the rain will arrive during or after the race and so we have to be clever at being ready to anticipate it if we want to be in the game. Here, as in Austria, Mercedes and Williams seem out of reach, but we will do all we can to be at the front of the following group. I hope to see a bunched up race, with a lot of overtaking, even though I’m not expecting too many surprises because the absence of FRIC hasn’t produced any significant changes, nor closed the gaps much.”

Kimi Raikkonen: “This weekend, a few technical problems meant I spent more time in the garage than usual, but already, as from yesterday afternoon, my feeling with the car had improved. Today, in Q1 things went reasonably well, but then in Q2, when I fitted the second set of new Supersofts, my car was sliding all over the place and I lost the back end in turn 2. After that, it was impossible to put a good lap together. I’m not happy with my grid position, but I hope things can go better in tomorrow’s race. It’s likely the weather could be different tomorrow and the temperatures will be lower. We will try and make the most of any opportunity because we want to have a nice race and bring home a good number of points.”

Pat Fry: “The result of qualifying is far from satisfying, even if it’s more or less what we were expecting, given the current performance level of our car. The race looks like being very difficult and the weather, with an uncertain forecast for tomorrow, could be the key factor. Temperatures were very high again today and in these conditions, it’s never easy for the drivers. This track requires maximum concentration as it is a relatively short lap and it only takes very little to lose a few tenths and find yourself down the back. Indeed, Kimi unfortunately lost a few in turn 2 in the second part of qualifying and didn’t make it to Q3. As for Fernando, he managed to improve in the final part, compared to his times in Q1 and Q2 and as usual, he pushed his car to the limit. He could not have done more. Tomorrow, rain could appear and throw up some surprises and we must be ready to exploit the slightest opportunity. However, if it doesn’t rain and it stays hot, I think tyre management and reliability of the cars will be the key factors, putting aside outright individual performance levels.”