Hulkenberg takes first ever pole in sensational qualifying
Nico Hulkenberg has secured a magnificent pole position for Williams after simply outclassing all his rival, topping everybody by more than a full second. Sebastian Vettel is second, Webber third and Hamilton fourth. Championship leader Alonso is only 5th.
Just like in the morning, the start of qualifying sees a wet track, and even more so rain is expected during the course of the session.
Because of this forecast, literally all drivers are out as soon as the session kicks off. All drivers are on intermediates, and Sebastian Buemi is the first one out of the pitlane. He posts a 1:22.744.
4 minutes into the session, Webber tops the times, ahead of Maa and both Toro Rosso drivers. Kubica is 5th, Vettel 6th, but all cars remain on rack for another lap. One minute later Nico Hulkenberg goes fastest, only to be topped by Schumacher 20 seconds later.
After 8 minutes, Vettel is ahead, marginally quicker than his teammate Webber. Rosberg is 3rd with the Williams drivers behind him. Another minute later Alonso sets the fastest time while Hamilton in 5th place is told that rain is expected soon.
Due to the tricky conditions, many driver meanwhile ruin some of their laps. Liuzzi was the first to go off. Rosberg and Di Grassi follow suit minutes later, but none of the cars are damaged and they can all rejoin the track without much trouble.
At the start of the closing minute, Webber is fastest, ahead of Vettel, Kubica, Kobayashi, Barichello and Alonso. Both Force India cars meanwhile are in trouble and only have the new teams' cars behind them.
Seconds before the end, Alonso puts in the fastest time, but the was really no point as he was already safely through to Q2. A strange move for someone who is short on engine mileage. Eliminated are Sutil, Glock, Trulli, Kovalainen, Di Grassi, Klien and Senna.
During the 4 minute break, the expected rain finally falls, but it is little, and the skies have cleared up again by the time the cars come out back on track. The short few raindrops have only delayed the track drying up, but it still isn't really wet.
Robert Kubica is the first man out, again on intermediate tyres, just like any other driver that takes the track early on.
5 minutes after the green light for Q2, Barichello goes fastest on used intermediates, setting a 1:19.384, seconds before Vettel tops that by another tenth. As no more rain is expected, the track will steadily improve throughout this session.
4 minutes ahead of the end of the session, Massa comes in for a new set of intermediates. At the time he is only 14th. Button is in a similar position as he's only 11th and will be out if he doesn't find some time.
Massa's first attempt on a brand new set is only good for 8th, 4 tenths slower than his teammate Alonso who is in fourth place. As the times are fairly close, nearly all drivers are out on track to secure a place in Q3.
The trick here is to find some trackspace right when the tyres are at their optimal temperature.
assa goes through by setting a laptime 0.008s quicker than Jenson Button. That means Button is out of qualiying and will start from 11th place on tomorrow's grid. Kobayashi is 12th, ahead of Rosberg, Alguersuari, Buemi, Heidfeld and Liuzzi.
At the start of Q3, it's Alonso who takes the track first, ahead of Hulkenberg, both Renaults, Vettel and Hamilton. The cars are still on intermediates while a thin dry racing line is starting to show.
After Alonso's second lap, Hamilton is fastest, ahead of Schumacher, Vettel, Alonso, Webber, Hulkenberg, Petrov, Kubica, Massa, Barrichello. In the meantime dry option tyres are being brought into the pitlane.
Hamilton is the first to switch, he has little more than 5 minutes left. Schumacher dives into the pitlane too but awaits leaving to find the right time. He probably does not have enough fuel on board to put in another 4 laps, the maximum possible during the remainder of the session.
The last section of the track appears wettest. Webber and Kubica went off there but without any damage.
On his first lap on slicks, Hulkenberg takes the lead and improves even more on his second attempt. Vettel went second quickest, Webber third and Hamilton fourth.
Everybody failed to improve on Hulkenberg, and on his final lap, he even improved nearly a full second, despite his earlier lap already being good enough for pole. This is absolutely a sensational pole position for the Williams team.