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Rosberg holds off Williams duo to take Hockenheim pole

NEWS STORY
19/07/2014

It's hard to tell whether yesterday's session were a false dawn or whether this morning's final practice was the true indication of where we're at.

Yesterday, the gap between Mercedes and its rivals was narrower than we can remember, while this morning the closest driver to pace-setter Nico Rosberg, other than his teammate, was Fernando Alonso, who was 0.605s off the pace.

FRIC or no FRIC the Silver Arrows appear to be handling the situation perfectly in which case, if we are to avoid season-long domination of the kind not seen since 1988, Charlie Whiting and the boys had better come up with some fresh ideas.

While the software upgrade at Renault hasn't (yet) delivered the improved performance - officially reliability - we had hoped for, we can only hope that Red Bull can rediscover some of the pace it appeared to have found yesterday.

Judging by the offs and lock-ups, FRIC, or rather the lack of it, is making a difference, with some teams losing out and others gaining, but for how long?

Williams is looking good, possibly best of the rest, as is Ferrari, though Kimi Raikkonen has suffered reliability issues in two of the three sessions. McLaren, possibly the car sporting the most updates this weekend, has also seen an improvement, while Force India and Lotus have lost ground.

McLaren has also played its 'joker' in terms of the gear ratio rule, the Woking outfit thereby changing the ratios on both cars without penalty.

Whilst much will be made of pole today, as ever, the fact is that if we merely consider the most recent races reliability rather than where one finds oneself on the grid is the major factor. At Silverstone, Rosberg finally discovered that the F1 W05 Hybrid is not bulletproof.

Also, whilst Pirelli warns that heat is going to be a major factor this weekend, all week the weather forecasters have been predicting stormy weather for Sunday. And as anyone in southern England will tell you, after two days of high temperatures and nights of heavy thunder and lightning, they may have a point.

As we await the start of Q1, the air temperature is 32 degrees C, whilst the track temperature is 55 degrees.

Vettel is deep in thought, headphones in place, listening to the latest from Cheryl Cole... or whatever her name is these days.

In the Caterham garage the mechanics are still working on Ericsson's car following a hydraulics problem this morning. A nightmare weekend for Christijan Albers and his team thus far.

"There's a cut-off point just after halfway through Q1, after which we have to concede and turn our attention for car #10 to tomorrow..." tweets the Leafield team.

The lights go green and Bianchi is at the end of the pitlane waiting. Unlike Silverstone two weeks ago there is no threat of rain (we wish!) and consequently no need for a 'banker lap'.

That said, Button, Massa and Hulkenberg are also early risers.

In fact, having passed Bianchi and a few others, Button is the first driver to post a time, the McLaren driver crossing the line at 20.264, within moments Hulkenberg and Massa (19.389) go quicker.

Rosberg is told to take it easy in order to accommodate his tyres on his first lap.

A 19.379 sees Magnussen go quickest.

While everyone is on primes, the Lotus duo are already on options, as are the Caterhams and Marussias. Desperate times for the Enstone team.

Hamilton and Alonso trade fastest sector times, the Briton going quickest (18.683), while teammate Rosberg can only mange 24.449 following a massive lock-up at T8. Alonso goes third with a 19.112.

Bottas goes quickest in all three sectors, stopping the clock at 18.215, 0.468s quicker than Hamilton.

As Vettel struggles, finally crossing the line at 19.145 to go fifth, Ricciardo posts 19.343.

Hamilton runs wide in T1 but on his subsequent lap goes quickest in S1. Another mistake by Rosberg, this time at T2, sees him fail to improve.

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