Sebastian Vettel claimed pole for his home grand prix at Hockenheim – and denied Fernando Alonso a first Ferrari pole by just 0.00sec.
Felipe Massa emphasized Ferrari's improvement with third place, while Silverstone winner Mark Webber was fourth in the second Red Bull, ahead of the two McLarens. Michael Schumacher failed to reach Q3 in his home race.
Alonso had looked favorite for pole as he topped both Q1 and Q2 then led the way early in Q3, although Vettel was just 0.034s behind.
On the final runs Vettel found a further couple of tenths and got down to 1m13.791s, deposing the Ferrari. Alonso still looked set to beat it and reclaim pole with his last lap, but fell short by a tiny margin in the last sector – although the result still gives him his first front row start for Ferrari.
Massa was half a second back in third, with Webber having to settle for fourth having run wide on his final flying lap.
Jenson Button outqualified Lewis Hamilton for a change, as the McLarens claimed the row three spots, ahead of Renault's Robert Kubica.
Williams will be delighted to get both cars into Q3. Rubens Barrichello claimed eighth, two places ahead of teammate Nico Hulkenberg, and with Nico Rosberg's Mercedes splitting them.
Germany's hero Schumacher suffered the agony of another Q2 exit on home ground. Both Mercedes were struggling to get into the top 10, but slipped through into ninth and 10th with their last Q2 laps, which saw Rosberg ahead of Schumacher by just 0.008s. That was not enough for Schumacher though, as Hulkenberg – ironically the latest protege of the Willi Weber management stable that steered Schumacher's career – jumped to ninth and pushed the seven-time champion back to 11th.
Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi also only narrowly missed out, as he held a top 10 place for most of Q2 before a mistake on his last lap meant he was shuffled back to 12th, still only 0.066sec from the top ten.
Force India had a very tough session. Adrian Sutil will take a five-place penalty for a gearbox change following a practice failure but could only manage 14th anyway, while Liuzzi caused a seven-minute stoppage when he spun out of the final corner in Q1 and smashed into the pit wall, leaving him 22nd on the grid. He was unhurt, although his Force India was heavily damaged – and Virgin's Timo Glock was lucky to avoid a flying wheel detached in the crash.
Lotus had another 1-2 among the new teams, with Jarno Trulli ahead of Heikki Kovalainen, but Glock had been ahead of them until his Virgin had a mechanical problem. His teammate Lucas di Grassi fared worst of all, unable to run in qualifying at all due to gearbox problems.
Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:15.152 1:14.249 1:13.791
2. Alonso Ferrari 1:14.808 1:14.081 1:13.793
3. Massa Ferrari 1:15.216 1:14.478 1:14.290
4. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:15.334 1:14.340 1:14.347
5. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:15.823 1:14.716 1:14.427
6. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:15.505 1:14.488 1:14.566
7. Kubica Renault 1:15.736 1:14.835 1:15.079
8. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:16.398 1:14.698 1:15.109
9. Rosberg Mercedes 1:16.178 1:15.018 1:15.179
10. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:16.387 1:14.943 1:15.339
11. Schumacher Mercedes 1:16.084 1:15.026
12. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:15.951 1:15.084
13. Petrov Renault 1:16.521 1:15.307
14. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:16.220 1:15.467
15. de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1:16.450 1:15.550
16. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:16.664 1:15.588
17. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:16.029 1:15.974
18. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:17.583
19. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1:18.300
20. Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:18.343
21. Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:18.592
22. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:18.952
23. Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth 1:19.844
24. di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth
All Timing Unofficial