Seems hard to believe but it has been 31 Grand Prix' since the last time Ferrari was in pole position, Singapore 2010.
Today Alonso and Ferrari got there the hard way, barely making into Q3 after a near miss with a wall and a strategy error in starting Q2 on intermediates rather than the full wet "monsoon" tires that were needed at the moment.
Incredible onboard footage from the BBC, check out the different styles, lines and front suspension behavior. All drivers earned their keep this week end.
Qualifying was red flagged when the rain made it impossible to keep cars on the track and this, predictably raised the anger of some fans who felt the rain delay gave an advantage to Ferrari who had not been able to set competitive times in the first nine or so minutes of the session. Everyone improved in the final minutes when the session resumed, but Alonso squeaked in on a last lap which was marked by a yellow flag in the last sector because of Grosjean spinning. Predictably, conspiracy theorists are in full swing. However, rules state one cannot improve their time in the sector where a yellow is displayed and Alonso managed to run that final sector 3/1000th of a second slower than his best time (31.313)! Letter of the law if not the intent.
Q3 was a session for intermediate tires and it was Alonso and Webber who dominated the session. Schumacher was third somehow, his car looked completely un drivable at times. Grosjean had beached the car so he was not in it and would start P10 but this Lotus is really coming alive with Kimi in row 2.
The disappointment of the day has to be Mclaren. Hamilton could just not pull it off on intermediates, and it was interesting to see him checking out the tire temperatures with his hands on the Ferrari and the Bed Bull in park fermee. Button instead is still lost at sea, he's like Massa at the beginning of this season, apparently incapable of coming to terms with the characteristics of the car this year. Button, even more than Vettel and unlike Alonso, Webber and to some extent Hamilton, cannot come to terms with a car that is not 100% to his liking.
Tomorrow it will likely be wet to very wet so it will be a game of staying out of trouble and getting to the end.
The buzz is how has Ferrari managed to improve from unlivable heap to competitive, a very interesting video by Giorgio Piola, the world's leading technical illustrator, showcases the improvements Ferrari has made to the F2012 since Valencia. It's in Italian but you will get the idea.
Essentially : Williams Style brake ducts to improve cooling while cutting drag.
A return to the original F2012 concept of "outside blowing" exhausts albeit in a modified manner along with longitudinal airflow modifiers guiding air into the diffuser.
New mirror pods for Alonso (integrated with one of the two cockpit side fins) and a smaller front wing main flap again, to cut drag.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap 1. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m51.746s 2. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m51.793s + 0.047 3. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m52.020s + 0.274 4. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m52.199s + 0.453 5. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m53.065s + 1.319 6. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m53.290s + 1.544 7. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m53.539s + 1.793 8. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m53.543s + 1.797 9. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m54.382s + 2.636 10. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault no time Q2 cut-off time: 1m56.931s Gap ** 11. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m57.009s + 2.112 12. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m57.071s + 2.174 13. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m57.108s + 2.211 14. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m57.132s + 2.235 15. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m57.426s + 2.529 16. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m57.719s + 2.822 17. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m57.895s + 2.998 Q1 cut-off time: 1m47.105s Gap * 18. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m48.044s + 1.765 19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m49.027s + 2.748 20. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m49.477s + 3.198 21. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m51.618s + 5.339 22. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m52.742s + 6.463 23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m53.040s + 6.761 24. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m54.143s + 7.864 107% time: 1m53.718s
* Gap to quickest in Q1
** Gap to quickest in Q2