21 July 2012
Alonso fastest in final Hockenheim practice
Fernando Alonso edges Lewis Hamilton to top final practice - before the rain returns to Hockenheim.
Fernando Alonso claimed the mental edge ahead of qualifying for the German Grand Prix by topping the final free practice session at Hockenheim on Saturday morning.
The Spaniard, who holds a 13-point lead over Mark Webber at the head of the championship, beat both his rivals and the rain to claim top spot in the hour-long session, posting a 1min 16.014secs best before retiring to the pits several minutes ahead of the chequered flag. Anyone who hoped to usurp the Ferrari then had their ambitions dashed by the first drops of rain, which eventually turned into a torrential downpour as the final cars left the circuit.
Alonso's lap narrowly pipped that of Lewis Hamilton, who had early posted a 1min 16.091secs in the best of the McLarens, as the top eleven drivers got to within a second of the ultimate pace. Neither McLaren featured at the sharp end for much of the session, preferring instead to concentrate on the final stages of its evaluation programme before finally bolting on the qualifying set-up and going for a better lap. While Hamilton was able to vault straight into P1, however, team-mate Jenson Button - who had topped the rain-affected Friday times - was caught out by the late precipitation and proved unable to move off the foot of the table.
Sergio Perez and Kimi Raikkonen were third and fourth fastest, both within a couple of tenths of Alonso, while the two Red Bulls were a simialr distance behind the Lotus, Mark Webber ahead of Sebastian Vettel. The Australian, however, will suffer in qualifying after picking up a gearbox penalty prior to the session, joining both Nico Rosberg and Romain Grosjean, who suffered similar fates in the run-up to the weekend.
Friday afternoon's fastest man, Pastor Maldonado, Felipe Massa, Kamui Kobayashi and Bruno Senna rounded out the top ten, with Grosjean the final man within a second of Alonso's benchmark. Joining Button at the 'wrong' end of the table, meanwhile, were the two Mercedes, with Michael Schumacher 15th and Rosberg 17th, although the seven-times champion was the only one to manage to find time as the rain began.
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