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Van der Garde times it perfectly for pole

20 July 2012

The weather was once again the winner as it continued to dominate track activity at Hockenheim on Friday: the rain had a taken a brief break after the end of the F1 afternoon practice session, but was back on duty in time for the start of the GP2 qualifying session 20 minutes later as a blustery squall passed over the circuit.

Tom Dillmann led the parade out of pit lane and found conditions so poor that even making the first corner on his out lap was something of a close call, and others likewise struggled to avoid slithering off in the first minutes as they acclimatised to the situation. In the circumstances, the Rapax driver's time of 1:47.674s was fairly decent, but was quickly bettered by James Calado going almost two seconds faster in the Lotus

Giedo van der Garde set a new benchmark of 1:45.783s five minutes into the session, shortly after his Caterham team mate Rodolfo Gonzalez managed to spin and stick his nose into the barrier on the sweeping long Parabolika left-hander. Gonzalez was able to return to pit lane under his own steam, but in doing so he left a trail of yellow flags in his wake because of his slow speed.

Just as he had done in the morning practice session, Davide Valsecchi once again moved into the top spot with a lap of 1:45.152s and that presaged a sudden spurt of fast laps led by van der Garde taking provisional pole back again with a 1:44.022s just 0.012s ahead of Calado, with Fabio Leimer, Nigel Melkur and Fabio Onidi also all managing to jump ahead of Valsecchi - just before a new burst of rain ten minutes into the session immediately took the edge off the track conditions once more and prevented anyone being able to build on that momentum.

With the rain picking up and falling harder still, and with visibility rapidly reducing, the cars started to come in for their mid-session intermission on pit lane. They were led by Racing Engineering's Fabio Leimer, who had just escaped a run off into the gravel at Sachs Kurve that had already caught out several F1 cars in the earlier Friday sessions.

Valsecchi was first to head back out in the DAMS, with Esteban Gutiérrez joining him in the Lotus GP. But by now the track was waterlogged and even when the rain eased off there was little chance of making inroads into the top times and Valsecchi appeared to be more in data-gathering mode, working out just how hard he could push in the conditions without running off - which he did repeatedly.

In due course almost everyone else came out for another opportunity to experience the delights of assorted spins and run-offs, but green sector times didn't start showing up until the very last minute of the session by which time there was little chance for anyone to capitalise on it for any significant positions, and the session came to a subdued end as the chequered flag came out.

That left van der Garde on the front row for the feature race, where he will be joined on the front row not by Calado - who will drop back ten positions on the grid as a penalty for causing an accident in the Silverstone sprint race - but instead by Racing Engineering's Fabio Leimer.

With Coloni's Fabio Onidi joining Ocean Racing's Nigel Melker on row two, that leaves an all-DAMS third row with Valsecchi having to be content with fifth place alongside Felipe Nasr. Melker's team mate Victor Guerin will start immediately behind them, presumably happy to have opted to stuck with GP2 this weekend and not headed home to Brazil for the latest race in the AutoGP World Series in which he is also competing in 2012. Guerin shares the fourth row with championship leader Luiz Razia, who had missed out on the sweet spot moment for his flying lap in the Arden.

Daniël de Jong had made the opposite call, allowing Tom Dillmann to set the 12th fastest time in the session on his return to the Rapax for Hockenheim. That should see him start from tenth place on the grid. Venezuela GP Lazarus's new boy Sergio Canamasas was just behind Dillmann on the timesheets after his first GP2 qualifying session.

His team mate Giancarlo Serenelli had been unable to take part in any of the qualifying session because of the damage sustained to his car in the morning practice session; he may at least have taken a little comfort from seeing Michael Schumacher have a very similar accident in the subsequent afternoon F1 practice session.

Rodolfo Gonzalez managed to set a time within the 107 per cent cut-off despite his early mishap, but Rapax's Ricardo Teixeria fell foul of the conditions and was a second outside the target time: he will have to appeal to the race stewards to be allowed to make the grid.

The feature race is scheduled for 2.40pm BST on Saturday afternoon following the F1 qualifying session, and the forecast is for thunderstorms with a 50-50 chance of more wet running in the afternoon.

Full qualifying times and provisional grid positions available.


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