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As it happened: Qualifying
By Geoff Creighton and Emlyn Hughes
The live commentary has ended. No further updates will be posted.
Hockenheim welcomes Formula 1 for the first time since 2008
Hockenheim welcomes Formula 1 for the first time since 2008 © Sutton
11:45 Hello everyone and welcome back to AUTOSPORT Live for continuing coverage of the 11th round in the 2010 FIA Formula 1 World Championship.

The practice sessions have been completed and now it is time to qualify for the German Grand Prix at the Hockenheimring.

Limited dry running has done little to change the pecking order at the front of the field, but car performance and varying degrees of success with update packages have given us good indicators for the upcoming knockout session.

Red Bull looks to have the advantage over Ferrari this weekend, with Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel once again likely to go head to head for the pole position. Fernando Alonso is right in the mix, however, and a supreme effort this afternoon may see the Spaniard mix it with the Red Bull pair.

McLaren is on the back foot after a troubled practice - just like at Silverstone two weeks ago. The team is persisting with the new blown diffuser and its drivers will again need to pull something special out of the bag to fight for the top grid slots.

If McLaren has a bad day, Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher may be able to take advantage at home, to continue the upturn in form of the MGP 001.

It's all to play for as we go into the three-tier qualifying session. Championship positions are on the line this weekend and Red Bull want to make it count.

Vettel came out on top of a late scramble in final practice
Vettel came out on top of a late scramble in final practice © Sutton
11:47 A brief but intense shower less than five minutes before the start of final practice sent the teams' plans of a mainly dry session into chaos.

Intermediates and even full wet tyres were in use for the first half of the 60-minute session, but as the track dried out, it was Sebastien Buemi who bolted on a set of hard slick tyres and immediately surged to the top of the timesheet.

This was the wake up call for the rest of the field and they duly responded. Buemi slipped down the order to 12th in the final reckoning as the top drivers engaged in a fantastic battle, trading fastest sectors and laptimes in the last 10 minutes.

Sebastian Vettel had stayed calm when the initial flurry of dry tyre laps began. He chose to stay in the pits, electing for just one run on the super-soft compound. The plan worked and it was the German who topped the session on his last lap with 1m15.103s.

Alonso fought hard but came off second best, with Mark Webber third, Felipe Massa making it two Ferraris in the top four, Nico Rosberg fifth and Lewis Hamilton rounding out the top six.

Vettel on top in final German practice

11:49 The weather has improved slightly since the end of morning practice.

There are still some light showers to the north, but they are sporadic on the radar screen and there is a good chance that it will remain dry throughout the session.

With the recent heatwave now over thanks to a low pressure system bringing inclement weather to Germany this weekend, the maximum temperature is lower than of late, at 22 degrees Celsius.

Sutil could struggle after problems this morning
Sutil could struggle after problems this morning © Sutton
11:50 Motor racing fans love to debate and discuss the action on track, and the live forum at the bottom of the screen is your chance to let everyone know your thoughts on events as they unfold at the circuit.

• Which driver will be the unlucky one in joining the other six from the three new teams on the sidelines in the first part of qualifying?

• Will Jenson Button make it through to the final top 10 shootout? The champion has placed outside the top 10 in both second and third practice.

• Do you think Red Bull will lock out the front row of the grid, or can the Ferrari drivers split the RB6s?

Tell the world what you think.

Click the SHOW LIVE FORUM link in the red bar at the bottom of your browser window if you'd like to join the debate.

11:51 Here's how the qualifying battle is shaking up within the teams:
Qualifying head-to-head

Button          3 - 7      Hamilton
Schumacher	2 - 8      Rosberg
Vettel		5 - 5      Webber
Massa		3 - 7      Alonso
Barrichello	7 - 3      Hulkenberg
Kubica	       10 - 0      Petrov
Sutil		8 - 2      Liuzzi
Buemi	        9 - 1      Alguersuari
Trulli		5 - 5      Kovalainen
Senna		0 - 0      Yamamoto
De la Rosa	6 - 4      Kobayashi
Glock		9 - 1 	   Di Grassi
11:52 News from Force India as we head into qualifying:

"Driveshaft problem has resulted in a gearbox change for Adrian [Sutil]. He's fine to take part in qualifying but will get a five place grid penalty."

Rain and rubber are key themes for the German Grand Prix
Rain and rubber have been the challenges here © Sutton
11:53 After two days of rain-affected practice, all the drivers head into qualifying with at least some compromise on the usual preparations, but the time has come to lock-off the cars in parc ferme and go out to find the ultimate one-lap pace.

With only limited dry running at the end of final practice, and a Porsche Supercup session in between, track conditions will be far from ideal at the start of the hour. Grip level will continue to build as the session goes on, meaning it will be one of those days when the last man over the line has the best track conditions.

With the very durable hard tyre taking some time to build up to temperature, expect the leading drivers to start with a long run on that rubber - building laptime as the grip improves, the tyres warm and the fuel burns off.

Those in the immediate scramble to escape Q1 will need to deploy the clearly faster super-soft option, and may find that they can surprisingly also get more than one good lap of grip out of the option tyre.

With showers never too far away, and the top teams looking quite close on pace, a hard fought session is in prospect.

11:55 Qualifying for the German Grand Prix is now just five minutes away.

11:56 The track temperature is 24 Celsius under cloudy skies.

11:58 Over the circuit, dark clouds remain in evidence, reiterating the fact that a shower cannot be ruled out completely.

11:59 Sebastian Vettel moves towards the cockpit of his Red Bull as he attempts to take pole at his home event.

11:59 Nico Hulkenberg is advised on the Williams team radio that it should be dry throughout qualifying, but that light showers are around and should pass either side of the circuit.

0 min: The first segment is underway.

0 min: Alonso, Petrov and di Grassi are first out.

1 min: Tonio Liuzzi exits the pits to join the early runners on the circuit.

1 min: Massa is also out, with the Ferrari pair on hard tyres.

1 min: The Mercedes pairing of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg also head out for an early attempt.

2 min: Di Grassi appears to have been on an installation lap and is heading back to the Virgin garage after problems this morning.

2 min: Hamilton and Button are also out, with the front runners electing for long runs to check out the grip levels.

2 min: Adrian Sutil is on track. The German lost the whole session this morning with a driveshaft failure and will have a fight on his hands just to make it through this stage of qualifying.

3 min: Sebastien Buemi and Rubens Barrichello come out as the early runners begin qualifying laps.

3 min: Petrov clocks the first time at a 1m18.210s.

3 min: Alonso is immediately quicker with a 1m17.665s, quickly beaten by team-mate Massa.

4 min: Hamilton splits the Ferrari pair with a first effort of 1m17.140s.

4 min: Liuzzi posts 1m18.952s to go fourth but Schumacher immediately takes that place off him with a 1m18.565s.

4 min: Alonso moves the benchmark forwards in 1m16.430s.

5 min: Sutil's first effort places him sixth in the Force India. Rosberg is only 10th after his first timed lap.

5 min: Nico Hulkenberg moves into the top six after just one timed lap. The Williams is looking strong this weekend.

5 min: The session has been stopped.

5 min: Liuzzi has crashed heavily out of the final corner.

12:06 There is a lot of damage to the left side of the Force India. He lost control out of the final corner and crashed into the pit wall.

12:06 The clock is suspended with 14m30s remaining in Q1.

12:07 Liuzzi is out of the car and appears to be unhurt, but his car is badly damaged. Needless to say he will be eliminated.

12:08 Replays show that Liuzzi ran wide onto the exit kerb and the green matting at the final corner and some water from this morning's rain has been retained there. The car snapped sideways and the Italian met the barrier on the other side of the track.

12:08 This accident is reminiscent of the crash that befell Timo Glock in the Toyota during the 2008 grand prix.

12:09 Marshals are now sweeping the track clear of debris at the crash site. Meantime, a flatbed truck with a crane arm has arrived to winch the Force India off the track.

12:09 The car is now being lifted by the crane arm and will gently be lowered into the pitlane.

12:10 The order is Alonso from Massa, Button, Hamilton, Kubica and Hulkenberg in the top six under the red flag.

12:10 The marshals are very carefully handling the car as it is transferred over the barrier.

12:11 Adrian Sutil states on the Force India team radio that his car had bundles of oversteer and he felt poor grip everywhere.

12:11 The crashed car of Liuzzi is now on the flatbed truck and will be driven towards the Force India garage.

12:11 The session will restart at 14:13 local time.

12:13 The session has restarted.

6 min And here is a first for the German Grand Prix weekend - the sun has come out.

6 min: Immediately, Vettel, Webber, Barrichello, Yamamoto and Senna are on the circuit.

6 min: The Lotus pair join the cars heading out of the pits.

6 min: Liuzzi has arrived back in the paddock and is rubbing his back as he talks to reporters about what happened.

6 min: The Red Bull drivers are on a hot lap now and Webber is quicker as Vettel backs off, looking for a clear space on the next lap.

6 min: With Liuzzi taking up the spare elimination slot, the top teams are free to treat this as a test session on the harder tyres.

6 min: Webber clocks 1m16.024s to go fastest, as Vettel crosses the line in 15th place.

6 min: Hamilton tops the times with a quick 1m15.505s.

6 min: Vettel now has another crack at a time but his first section is again two tenths of a second slower than team-mate Webber's lap.

10 min: Nevertheless, Vettel goes ahead of Webber with 1m15.881s and into second place.

10 min: Hamilton has pitted while Button takes second quickest in 1m15.823s.

11 min: Vettel improves again and tops the times with 1m15.152s as Webber comes through for fourth place in the other car.

11 min: Kobayashi grabs fourth quickest in his Sauber.

12 min: Nico Rosberg shoots up the list from 22nd to sixth with a lap of 1m16.178s as his team-mate Schumacher runs wide at Turn 1.

12 min: Schumacher moves up to 12th place on the next lap with a time of 1m17.029s.

12 min: Massa makes his move as he takes fourth quickest with a lap of 1m15.579s.

13 min: Alonso states his intent with a 1m15.281s to go second quickest and just over a tenth off Vettel's benchmark.

13 min: All but one of the drivers have set a time. Lucas di Grassi is 24th and came back into the pits with a problem after one lap.

14 min: Massa has made a mistake at Turn 1 and explored the run-off but the Brazilian continues without too much trouble.

14 min: So we have 23 drivers with times on the board. Sutil moves out of the dropzone with 1m17.576s and will be safe.

14 min: Alonso meanwhile is setting the pace with a 1m14.808s, the quickest time of the weekend so far.

15 min: Massa connects a good lap and is up to third with a time of 1m15.216s.

15 min: Petrov is 17th and under threat from Glock for the final berth in Q2, but the Russian moves up to 13th with 1m16.521s as the gap opens up between the established and new teams.

16 min: The leading contenders are now in the pits and will not feel the need to run again.

16 min: Liuzzi's accident means he will be eliminated with the six drivers from the three new teams.

17 min: Sutil is up to 12th, which is a strong recovery from his loss of practice time this morning. However, he will face a five-place gearbox penalty on a tough day for Force India.

18 min: Massa is continuing on a long run to improve his feel for the circuit ahead of Q2.

18 min: Jarno Trulli posts 1m17.677s to move up to 18th and the lead of the news teams battle. Glock is 19th with Kovalainen 20th.

19 min: Kovalainen is just 0.02s behind Glock and Lotus will look to move the Finn up ahead of the Virgin racer.

12:27 The chequered flag is out on Q1.

12:28 Kovalainen does move ahead of Glock and into 19th position with 1m18.300s so the two green machines lead the new teams battle.

12:28 Alonso topped the segment from Vettel, Massa, Webber, Hamilton and Kubica.

12:29 Glock was sidelined with brake problems in the final part of the first segment, while di Grassi took no part with a gearbox problem.

12:30 The first period of qualifying has been completed. The following seven drivers have been eliminated:

18) Trulli
19) Kovalainen
20) Glock
21) Senna
22) Liuzzi
23) Yamamoto
24) di Grassi.

12:31 Tonio Liuzzi's chances of points this weekend have been dealt a severe blow with that accident early in the session.

12:31 Things should be much tighter in the second period with the chance of some high-profile eliminations.

12:32 The Italian should have progressed smoothly, but will spend the first lap of tomorrow's race racing against the Lotus and HRT teams.

12:32 The super-soft rubber will be in widespread use in this next segment as the level of competition steps up a notch.

12:33 Further replays in the break between segments show that Timo Glock had a very lucky escape, as the tyre and suspension arm from Liuzzi's car bounced right across the track in front of him.

Glock did well to jink to the right to avoid crashing into the errant wheel.

12:34 The challenge is reset now for the 17 drivers that have progressed. The object is to get into the top 10 in the next 15 minutes.

0 min: The fight to make the pole shootout is underway.

0 min: Hamilton and Alonso are straight out to bank a time.

0 min: Vettel, Webber and Barrichello are among the first group of drivers to head out onto the circuit.

1 min: Alonso is using hard tyres to set his first effort of the segment.

1 min: Toro Rosso drivers Buemi and Alguersuari join the party as they look to achieve the incredible and break into the top ten.

2 min: All the championship contenders are on the harder tyres for a first run, with a super-soft effort likely later on.

2 min: Schumacher, Rosberg and Hulkenberg are all out on the track as the early runners come through to complete the first timed lap.

3 min: Hamilton splits the Red Bulls with his first time of 1m15.438s.

3 min: Webber is immediately quickest with a lap of 1m15.323s.

3 min: Times are likely to improve on a second tour as these hard tyres build up to temperature.

3 min: Barrichello shoots into third place with 1m15.478s to drop Vettel down the list further. Vettel is now sixth on a 1m16.121s.

4 min: Alonso does find a quicker second tour and is now on top of the order with a quick 1m14.664s.

4 min: Vettel is flying on his next lap and he goes second to Alonso with 1m14.807s.

4 min: Kubica springs up to third quickest with a 1m15.294s.

5 min: Massa has opted for the soft rubber and is fast through the middle sector.

5 min: Webber is down to fourth spot at this stage but is set to improve.

5 min: Massa pips his team-mate to take the time to beat to a 1m14.607s.

5 min: Rosberg goes only 12th on his first timed lap but Webber comes through with a slight improvement in time, but no improvement in position - he remains fourth.

5 min: Hamilton is fighting the McLaren and comes over the line fifth quickest.

6 min: Schumacher posts 1m15.580s and that is only good enough for 12th position, with under nine minutes remaining.

6 min: Massa was on for further improvement but runs wide at the Sachskurve and his lap is ruined.

7 min: Hulkenberg is up to seventh in the Williams and if the youngster can maintain this form the Mercedes drivers could be in trouble.

7 min: The Ferrari is looking extremely strong here and is reportedly now using the off-throttle exhaust technique thought to give Red Bull some of its qualifying pace.

8 min: Massa gets a lap together after a long run on his super-softs. A 1m14.478s is now the time to beat.

8 min: All 17 drivers have set a time in the second phase, with Rosberg, Schumacher, de la Rosa, Sutil, Petrov, Alguersuari and Buemi all in the dropzone.

9 min: The order is Massa from Alonso, Webber, Vettel, Hamilton and Kubica after the first runs. Button is a worrying ninth in his McLaren.

9 min: Rosberg and Schumacher are in big trouble and need to find time to make the top 10. Buemi and Alguersuari are out early for their final run.

9 min: Alonso now has soft tyres on his Ferrari and we will see how he compares to the times his team-mate has set on that rubber.

10 min: The other dropzone drivers are in the pits making final changes as the Toro Rosso duo look to move up from 16th and 17th places.

10 min: Vettel is also out on brand new soft rubber.

10 min: Barrichello is 10th and he leaves the pits in an effort to stay there and make the shootout.

10 min: Grip levels are of course improving so nobody feels safe with the current times.

10 min: Alonso is rapid through the first sector.

11 min: Button needs a quick lap to haul himself out of a very dangerous ninth place.

11 min: Alguersuari comes through the second checkpoint and he is two-tenths down on the target time for 10th place. He improves to 15th.

11 min: Alonso clocks his best second sector to top the order by some margin - a 1m14.081s.

12 min: Schumacher will be the last of the dropzone drivers to exit the pits. The list of eliminations will only be decided when he crosses the line.

12 min: Rosberg's first sector in 11th is slow and he won't get the job done on this lap.

13 min: Barrichello moves up to sixth place. Time will tell if 1m14.889s is safe enough to progress.

13 min: Hamilton grabs fourth, demoting Webber to fifth.

13 min: Button does find a time and is now sixth in the McLaren.

13 min: The pressure is now on Hulkenberg versus the Mercedes drivers. It's an all-German fight for the final spots in Q3.

14 min: Kobayashi is slipping back towards the danger zone and is now 10th.

14 min: Rosberg is right on the edge of making it, as Schumacher moves up to ninth with a 1m15.026s.

14 min: Rosberg goes ninth and demotes team-mate Schumacher to 10th place!

15 min: Chequered flag - who is taking an early bath?

12:50 Hulkenberg posts a quicker first section time than both Mercedes drivers. Hulkenberg is down in 12th now and is on his final effort.

12:50 Vettel clocks a quick 1m14.249s but it's not as quick as Alonso.

12:50 Schumacher does not improve and remains 10th. It's all on Hulkenberg ...

12:51 Hulkenberg puts in 1m14.943s to go ninth and drop Schumacher out of the top 10 with his final lap!

12:52 A brilliant fight between the three Germans at the end of the segment and the result is Schumacher not going through to the shootout.

12:52 Up front, Alonso was fastest from Vettel, Webber, Massa, Hamilton, Barrichello, Button and Kubica in the top eight.

12:54 The second period of qualifying has been completed. The following seven drivers have been eliminated:

11) Schumacher
12) Kobayashi
13) Petrov
14) Sutil
15) de la Rosa
16) Alguersuari
17) Buemi.

12:55 Who would have thought Michael Schumacher would come off worse in a three-way scrap between himself, Rosberg and Williams driver Hulkenberg.

12:56 Teams are carefully watching the radar as a developing shower is passing near the circuit but the chances are the final segment will be dry.

12:56 Schumacher posted a 1m15.026s on his first lap of the final run but critically made a slight error on his final lap, meaning he was a target for Hulkenberg to produce that late effort.

12:58 So these are the 10 drivers who have progressed through to the final shootout:

Jenson Button
Lewis Hamilton
Nico Rosberg
Sebastian Vettel
Mark Webber
Felipe Massa
Fernando Alonso
Rubens Barrichello
Nico Hulkenberg
Robert Kubica.

0 min: Ferrari look strong as the pole battle gets underway in Germany.

0 min: Webber is straight out onto the circuit at the turn of the green light.

0 min: Button, Hamilton and Massa are straight out to bank a time.

1 min: Rosberg and Barrichello answer the shootout's call and head onto the circuit.

1 min: Red Bull always seems to find dominant pace in Q3, but can the Ferrari drivers upset the formbook this afternoon?

2 min: Vettel is choosing to wait a little. Two minutes in and the German leaves the pits.

2 min: Webber is on the front-running pace straight away with his first effort. He posts 1m14.347s to set the benchmark.

2 min: Massa comes over the line second quickest to Webber's Red Bull.

3 min: Hamilton slots in between Webber and Massa but behind Alonso is setting the pace.

3 min: Rosberg goes fourth behind Webber, Hamilton and Massa with 1m15.756s.

3 min: Alonso clocks an extremely rapid 1m13.927s!

3 min: That is a storming effort from the Spaniard, can Red Bull respond?

3 min: Vettel posts a solid 16.1s first sector and will be close here with Alonso.

4 min: But the German has lost some time in the middle sector and is more than two-tenths down on the Spaniard ...

4 min: Vettel clocks 1m13.961s to go second to Alonso, with Webber third.

5 min: Massa has slipped to fifth but continues on a second flying lap.

5 min: Hulkenberg leaves the pits to begin his one and only run in this final part of qualifying.

5 min: Massa pits and it is time for a change of rubber ahead of the second runs.

6 min: The rest head into the pits for a final set of tyres. Alonso leads with Vettel second, Webber third, Hamilton fourth and Massa fifth.

6 min: Round one to Ferrari in Alonso's hands, but the Red Bull duo will mount a strong attack on this final run.

7 min: Hulkenberg makes a mistake in the Sachs curve on his first timed lap and posts 1m15.765s to go ahead of Barrichello and into ninth.

7 min: Hamilton and Button roll out on fresh, super-soft tyres.

7 min: Vettel rolls out of the Red Bull garage with his main competitors all leaving after him.

8 min: The Ferrari pair head out. Can Alonso hold on to a remarkable pole?

8 min: Hulkenberg improves another spot to eighth, dropping Rosberg to ninth. Rosberg is out on super-soft tyres for his final run.

9 min: The McLarens get flying laps underway.

9 min: Rosberg's first sector time is slower than Hulkenberg and he may not improve on this lap.

9 min: Rosberg does not improve and stays in ninth spot. He has just one lap left.

9 min: Alonso is on his second attempt and is slightly off his earlier best first sector.

10 min: Vettel is on Alonso's pace after two sectors and he's looking to try and beat the Ferrari as he drives for the line ...

13:08 Button is the fastest man through the middle sector, while most drivers haven't improved in the first portion.

13:08 Vettel goes to the top with 1m13.791s and demotes Alonso to second place.

13:08 Button grabs a great fourth, Hamilton can't improve and is behind in fifth.

13:09 Massa grabs third on a great day for Ferrari.

13:09 Webber is slow on this lap and will not improve. He is fourth, but it's Vettel's day and the German takes pole for the German Grand Prix!

13:10 Webber's final effort was ruined by a mistake and he backed off, giving best to his team-mate today.

13:11 The home crowd is delighted as Vettel steps out of the car in parc ferme as the polesitter on home turf.

13:11 So it's Vettel on pole at home, with Alonso starting alongside him. Massa is a strong third with Webber fourth.

13:12 Button and Hamilton recovered well to take fifth and sixth on the grid.

13:12 Kubica finished up seventh with Barrichello improving to eighth at the end, Rosberg a poor ninth and Hulkenberg rounding out the top 10.

13:15 Here's our report on a thrilling qualifying session:

Vettel pips Alonso to German GP pole

13:17 Ferrari mounted a spectacular challenge to the all-conquering Red Bull team, but it's Vettel who scrapes pole by just 0.002 seconds. A fired up Alonso will be keen to put the pressure on the German on the opening lap tomorrow.

McLaren once again made the best of a difficult job to secure row three on the grid and Williams can target points with both cars after another good run for Barrichello and Hulkenberg.

Will Vettel take the win at home or will the pressure be too much? Join us for all the build-up and full commentary of the race tomorrow from 10:30 GMT.

Session length: 60 minutes
Overcast High Temp: 22°C / 72°F
Track: Dry
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Monday 19 Jul Start GMT
 German Grand Prix Weather 15:00
Friday 23 Jul
 Friday Morning Practice 07:45
 Friday Afternoon Practice 11:45
Saturday 24 Jul
 Saturday Morning Practice 08:45
 Qualifying 11:45
Sunday 25 Jul
 Race day at Hockenheim 10:30