Proving that local knowledge can be very useful to a racing driver, Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing) snatched pole in the closing seconds of qualifying at Hockenheim this morning. He edged out his team-mate, Renger van der Zande, who in turn had...
Proving that local knowledge can be very useful to a racing driver, Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing) snatched pole in the closing seconds of qualifying at Hockenheim this morning. He edged out his team-mate, Renger van der Zande, who in turn had just gone faster than Daniel Ricciardo (Carlin Motorsport), the Australian finishing 3rd. National Class pole went to Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport), ahead of Gabriel Dias (T-Sport) and Victor Correa (Litespeed F3).
On a rapidly drying track, but under heavy grey clouds, no one was prepared to risk getting caught out by the weather, which meant that pretty much everyone went out straight away. It went very Carlin at the front for a while, with Ricciardo, Robert Wickens, Max Chilton and Henry Arundel claiming the top four positions. However, that didn't last long, and van der Zande soon got ahead, pulling Nick Tandy (JTR) and Jay Bridger (Litespeed F3/Bridger Motorsport) with him. Ricciardo fought back to go 2nd, while Marcus Ericsson joined in too with a time that put him 4th.
It briefly got a little strange when Stephane Richelmi (Barazi Epsilon) rocketed up to 4th, a long way forward of where he usually is. He didn't stay there long, and in fact crashed out the next lap. Just before the yellow flags inevitably came out and everyone actually slowed down there were a whole series of changes. Chilton slotted in to pole for an eyeblink before Ricciardo came back at him. Riki Christodoulou (Fortec Motorsport) went 4th, while McKenzie made an early stab at the National Class pole, a time that put him in an impressive 5th overall. To no-one's very great surprise, the next provisional pole time went to van der Zande, who edged into the 1.36s. Given how cool the weather had turned, you could pretty much guarantee that wasn't going to be the end of it. And it wasn't by any stretch of the imagination. Wickens and Chilton edged into 3rd and 4th, while Ricciardo went faster joining van der Zande in the 1.36s. Meanwhile Dias snatched 3rd overall and National Class provisional pole, while Grubmuller suddenly appeared near the top of the screen, occupying 3rd until Tandy took it away.
With yellows now clearly displayed at post 5, there was something of a dive for the pits while it all got sorted out. Certainly those who stayed out slowed their lap times noticeably after yesterday's penalties. As soon as the green flags were shown, though, the action started up again. Christodoulou got back on the pace ahead of the rest for 3rd but was then edged out by Dias, who was pushing very hard. Bridger was the next to show well, getting on pole ahead of Ricciardo and van der Zande! If he had managed to keep it that would have been something, but the others clearly had something to say about it, especially Ricciardo. He became the first of the drivers to get into the 1:35s, with a half second advantage, but again he couldn't keep it. Before he lost out to van der Zande again, Wickens went 5th which pushed Dias back to 6th overall. Christodoulou then went 2nd, though he was still in the 1:36s.
It was changing rapidly now, with Grubmuller up to 5th, Adriano Buzaid (T-Sport) in 7th and Chilton grabbing 3rd, only to promptly have it taken away by Christodoulou. Meanwhile Huertas, showing that he's beginning to get the hang of F3 nicely thank you, was up to 7th. 3rd was still in dispute, the latest occupant being Grubmuller, who was now just ahead of Buzaid. Dias had been pushed down to 10th now, but it was still a good effort from the National Class man.
With the track still improving it was starting to look as if it might be the last man to cross the line who would claim pole. Chilton improved to 5th just as Grubmuller made a fresh bid for pole with a time of 1:34.800. He didn't keep it long, once again being beaten out by team mate van der Zande, while Buzaid shot back up to 4th. The National Class pole now was firmly in the hand of McKenzie, who was 8th overall. Dias had gone off the boil and was now slipping down the order.
While Tandy came back up to 5th, Bridger and Ericsson were fighting over 8th, the Swede having the advantage now. The pair were joined by Wayne Boyd (T-Sport) who got between them for a while. Huertas wasn't done either, and moved up to 4th, but was then demoted by Chilton, while Ericsson leapfrogged to 3rd, and Huertas responded with a time that was good enough for 5th. They all lost a place when Ricciardo came back at Ericsson to reclaim 3rd, and elsewhere Christodoulou returned to the top 10 with 7th. The pole battle still wasn't over either. Grubmuller put in a charge to go 3rd, while Chilton improved to 4th. Shortly afterwards Ricciardo reclaimed pole, but he couldn't keep it and in the closing seconds Grubmuller snatched it back, and to add insult to injury that man van der Zande took 2nd to make it an all Hitech front row.
Afterwards both Wickens and Ricciardo had their fastest laps disallowed for driving outside the circuit boundaries - in other words they both went over the red spot painted on the outside of the Nordkurve, but it made no difference to their respective positions.
And so Grubmuller claimed his second pole position of the year, on a circuit he's familiar with, with van der Zande lining up beside him. Ricciardo was 3rd and wondering just what he has to do to out-qualify the Dutchman, while Chilton headed up the rest of the pack. Ericsson was 5th, from Buzaid, Christodoulou (who made a last lap improvement to claim the place), Huertas, Boyd and Tandy. Bridger finished up 11th from Garcia, National Class poleman McKenzie, Daisuke Nakajima (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Wickens, Arundel, Dias, a very out of sorts Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing), Correa and Richelmi.
Weather: Cold, cloudy, damp.