He likes the N?rburgring, does Mark Webber, and two years on from storming to his breakthrough F1 victory there, the Australian has returned to claim a superb pole position for the 2011 German Grand Prix this weekend - his second in swift succession this season.

From the moment the crucial top ten shoot-out got underway, Webber was indisputably 'the man'. Although Lewis Hamilton pipped Fernando Alonso by just over a tenth of a second to briefly snatch the best time on his first run in Q3, the pair were then both blitzed by Webber, who produced a scintillating effort to go fastest to the tune of the best part of half-a-second - a target that even world championship-leading Red Bull Racing team-mate Sebastian Vettel was unable to match.

Both Alonso and Hamilton were much closer to the Red Bulls on the second run, but whilst the Ferrari star's improvement in lap time did not improve his position, the McLaren-Mercedes star did move up the grid, splitting Webber and Vettel to snatch the outside starting spot on the front row with what he enthusiastically described as a 'wicked lap'.

Webber, though, was truly imperious, and a better lap time again sealed the deal, with Vettel unable to reclaim second from Hamilton on his own final 'flyer' - marking the first time all season, and indeed in the last 15 races, that the young German has failed to make the front row of the grid, and on home turf, to-boot.

Alonso ended up fourth, ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa, Nico Rosberg in the lead Mercedes GP, Jenson Button - more than a second behind McLaren team-mate Hamilton - Adrian Sutil, Vitaly Petrov and five-time N?rburgring conqueror Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton and Alonso were similarly the early pace-setters slugging it out in in Q2, before defending world champion Vettel split the pair, whilst Petrov, Schumacher, Sutil, Sergio P?rez, Rubens Barrichello, S?bastien Buemi, Paul di Resta, Jaime Alguersuari and Pastor Maldonado were the ones needing to improve to guarantee themselves of a passage through to the top ten shoot-out.

Maldonado was the first to rescue himself by slotting into ninth, displacing Schumacher from the top ten, whilst P?rez and Barrichello both missed the cut as the top six of Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso - who had gone straight on after locking-up into Turn One - Webber, Button and Massa all remained in the pits. di Resta then popped up into ninth, pushing Petrov out of the top ten and leaving Maldonado on the bubble, before Schumacher and Sutil secured their Q3 shots, as Petrov knocked his own Lotus Renault GP team-mate Heidfeld out.

The latter - one of only two of the six Germans in the field not to make the Q3 cut - was joined in the Q2 casualty list by di Resta, Maldonado, Barrichello, P?rez, Buemi and Alguersuari, as Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso, Webber, Rosberg, Button, Massa, Sutil, Petrov and Schumacher all progressed safely on.

Schumacher gave the partisan fans packing the grandstands something to cheer about early on in Q1 by storming to the top of the timing screens, with countryman Heidfeld backing him up in second, but Hamilton soon blew them both out-of-the-water with a dazzling opening salvo, despite finding himself badly baulked and compromised by the Virgin of Timo Glock at the end of the lap.

'Schumi' was having fun-and-games of his own in the final sector, entering the chicane that he had helped to design rallycross-style, whilst the usual suspects swiftly ensconced themselves up at the sharp end of proceedings, with Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel, Webber and Button covered by a mere three tenths of a second.

Down at the other end of the order, by stark contrast, the likes of Barrichello, Maldonado, di Resta, Sutil and even Heidfeld were looking to be under pressure, whilst the latter's team-mate Petrov left it late before posting his first 'flyer' but was 'on it' immediately, vaulting straight into fifth on a set of the softer rubber despite encountering traffic.

Others to resort to a set of Pirelli softs to save their skins were Heidfeld, Schumacher, Force India F1 duo di Resta and Sutil and Williams pairing Barrichello and Maldonado, with Massa curiously electing to do the same, even though the Brazilian was scarcely in any real danger of tripping up at the first hurdle. That little flurry of action left Rosberg in the danger zone, although the home hero rapidly extracted himself from there again, meaning Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi - not on-track at the end of the session - surprisingly became the first N?rburgring fall guy.

The Japanese ace was joined in those exiting stage-right by Heikki Kovalainen - who for a while had threatened to make it into Q2 again - and Glock, who chose to use the pit-to-car radio transmission once the chequered flag had fallen to berate his team for a car that he lamented had once more 'made life difficult' for him.

Glock had briefly been jumped by the consistently-improving Karun Chandhok on his competitive debut for Team Lotus, with the Indian ultimately ending up 21st - just eight tenths shy of Kovalainen in the sister car - whilst J?r?me d'Ambrosio placed 22nd, ahead of the Hispanias of Vitantonio Liuzzi and Daniel Ricciardo, the Australian a scant 0.025 seconds adrift of the far more experienced Italian for only his second grand prix, having flirted with the 107 per cent rule in FP3. Liuzzi will, however, begin the race from last position due to a five-place grid drop for a gearbox change.

The top ten at the end of Q1 was composed of Massa, Sutil, Heidfeld, Schumacher, di Resta, Rosberg, Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel and the impressive Maldonado.

To see the qualifying times in full, click here