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LIVE COMMENTARY: 2008 GERMAN GRAND PRIX - FINAL PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING
   GO TO LIVE INDEX ALL TIMES GMT  
As it happened: Final Practice and Qualifying
By Geoff Creighton and Emlyn Hughes
The live commentary has ended. No further updates will be posted.
08:30 Hello everyone, and welcome to autosport.com Live, as we continue to bring you blow-by-blow coverage from the 2008 German Grand Prix.

Today we will bring you coverage from the third and final practice session and then the vital qualifying hour for tomorrow's race. The schedule looks like this:

08:30 - 09:00 The breakfast bar: Ease your way into Saturday with a look back over Friday's action in Hockenheim.
09:00 - 10:00 Live commentary and updates from the final practice session.
10:00 - 12:00 Continuing track updates, as well as weather status, and any breaking news from the circuit.
12:00 - 13:00 Live commentary and updates from the qualifying session.
13:00 - 13:30 End of day reaction and round-up, where we go from here, and what we can look forward to tomorrow.
13:30 Autosport.com Live commentary ends for today.

08:32 You can join in the fun by chatting live with other autosport.com forum members.

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.

08:35 The general view of the paddock for some time has been that rain would arrive today and that qualifying would likely be wet.

Yesterday on the weather reporting page we spoke about where this rain is coming from, how it is in the form of showers, but also that it was too close to call and the possibility that it could slide north east to the north of Hockenheim.

So far this morning that has proved to be the case. Two large heavy showers have come through the western side of Germany, and skirted north of the circuit by only a few miles. It remains dry as we start proceedings today, but overcast, with the threat of showers increasing a little as we go through today.

The maximum temperature later will reach a warmer than anticipated 23 degrees Celsius.

The rainfall radar will be the key to the qualifying session later and any showers will come from the west.

Heikki Kovalainen
08:40 Friday saw two 90-minute sessions of practice for the teams and drivers to continue with the solid work that was laid down during a three-day test at this venue last week. The morning session became largely irrelevant due to some early morning rain, which meant proceedings started with a wet track. Conditions improved during the session and the drivers put the time to good use, working out when the best time would be to change from intermediate to dry tyres in the event of any further rain this weekend.

Lewis Hamilton wound up quickest in the morning, with dry times being set in the final 20 minutes.

Hamilton tops first practice - Germany

In the break between the two Formula One sessions, the track dried out completely, so predictably the afternoon was very busy on track.

Felipe Massa was the pacesetter for much of the session, but right at the end Lewis Hamilton bolted on a set of the soft Bridgestone dry tyres and blasted round the 2.842 mile circuit in a time of 1:15.025 to claim the top spot, with the Ferraris of Massa and World Champion Kimi Raikkonen over half a second behind him. Taking the late Hamilton lap out of the equation, the Ferraris and McLarens are close again this weekend, with a battle royal in prospect. The difference between Massa in second place, and Heikki Kovalainen in fourth is just 0.268 seconds.

Hamilton also dominates second practice

Away from the top four there are several stories that need bringing up to date.

Sebastian Vettel was a star of the Friday practice just as he was a fortnight ago at the British Grand Prix. The young German driver - who had his racing future for 2009 confirmed on Thursday with a move to Red Bull Racing, replacing the retiring David Coulthard - was fast throughout the day in both wet and dry conditions, completing a total of 66 laps with a best time of 1:16.422.

His Toro Rosso teammate Sebastien Bourdais was one of four drivers who had problems during the day. In the morning practice he pulled off the circuit approaching the hairpin at turn six after a problem with the flywheel sensor. That was fixed during the break but in the afternoon he suffered more problems in the form of gearbox trouble, limiting the Frenchman to just 14 laps. He did however finish the day just 0.5 seconds behind Vettel, so initial pace is there. If Bourdais manages to get a trouble-free final practice session this morning, then he stands a chance of making it through the first stage of qualifying later today.

Robert Kubica was struggling with tyre pressures in the dry portion of the practice. During the early laps of a run he was experiencing lower than optimum pressures, making his BMW Sauber difficult to drive. Once the pressures came up, after a couple of laps he professed himself much happier with the car's performance, although a wild spin entering the stadium in the morning saw the Pole skating across the gravel and lightly into the tyre barriers, breaking the front left suspension. The car was fixed during the break and Robert finished the day marginally quicker than his teammate Nick Heidfeld.

"We tested the tyre compounds and did some basic set-up work. Unfortunately, this morning I touched the white line with the grooved tyres. There was some standing water. I lost control of the car and hit the barrier. However, we did not miss a lot of running time in the dry. This afternoon we were more or less able to complete the programme as planned. We now have to analyse the data and improve the balance of the car."

Down at Red Bull Mark Webber's superb fifth place on the timesheet masked the fact that he spent most of the afternoon session sitting on the sidelines, while the Red Bull mechanics fixed an electrical problem on his car. The Australian still managed to complete 25 laps in the dry session, ending the day nearly one second behind pacesetter Lewis Hamilton, but interestingly just a couple of tenths away from the Ferraris and Heikki Kovalainen.

"We didn't get all the running in that we expected to, as we had an electrical problem with the car this afternoon and were a little bit on the back foot. But, at least we did some testing here last week and we've got some good information to go through."

The final driver to have major mechanical woes was Kazuki Nakajima in the second of the Williams-Toyotas. The Japanese lost a good 45 minutes of track time in the afternoon, and he too ended up 0.5 seconds slower than his teammate Nico Rosberg, who enjoyed a productive day.

Later in the afternoon Williams' Technical Director Sam Michael explained why Kazuki was stranded in the garage.

"On Kazuki's car we had a misfire in the afternoon session. We changed quite a few parts and we believe we have got to the bottom of it, so it shouldn't happen again. Now it is just a matter of looking at the data tonight to get ready for qualifying tomorrow."

With repaired cars and a chance to play catch-up in the final practice session, monitoring the progress of Bourdais, Webber and Nakajima will be interesting as they aim to sort out their qualifying and race set-ups.

Felipe Massa
08:45 Felipe Massa spent much of Friday's afternoon session on top of the timesheets, with championship rivals Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen running at a very similar pace.

Massa spoke with reporters immediately after the session and was clearly unconvinced that Hamilton's late flyer, almost seven tenths of a second quicker than himself, was a genuine indicator of the weekend's form.

"It won't be an easy weekend but I think we need to look at the whole session in the afternoon, until five minutes to go," said Massa.

"I think that was more realistic for us because after Hamilton made a fantastic lap and his teammate is one second off - which he won't be - so that for sure is not just from the driver, it's something else in the car, maybe the fuel or something else. So we need to look at the whole session, but not the last five minutes, because we saw many times that Hamilton takes the fuel [out] in the end just to make the lap. That was not our case. I think it will be very competitive between both teams, and I'm looking forward to be there. I think we are there."

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali expects a close fight in Germany with the ever-improving McLaren.

"We know that the McLaren is very strong, no doubt, we saw from the result of the last test here last week, but I think that we did a quite good programme, we prepared a couple of different options - let's see, it will be tight, that's for sure," said Domenicali.

The Ferrari cheif also spoke of the need for consistency in the second half of a very close championship race.

"For sure, in the second part, it will be very important not to have any problems - reliability, organisation, drivers' mistakes, everything - because the situation as we said is very tight, so the difference will be done in this detail."

08:50 Ten minutes to go before the third and final practice session ahead of Sunday's German Grand Prix begins.

08:55 Overhead, conditions are brightening up as we approach the start of the practice session.

The darker clouds are slowly sliding away for the moment to the north-east of the track, allowing a brief hole in the weather and even some sunshine to appear for a short time.

08:56 The track temperature is 23c this morning, with a 21c ambient.

08:59 The drivers sit in their cars anticipating the green light at the start of the session.

0 min: The practice session is underway.

0 min: Giancarlo Fisichella leads the charge onto the circuit this morning.

2 min: The drivers are coming out en masse now for their installation and systems check laps.

Remember the long-life engine and gearbox components are now installed for the remainder of the weekend, so the teams will be anxious to check that everything on the cars works in the early stages.

To help your understanding on who is on what components this weekend, please check out the parts tab on the infobox.

4 min: 15 drivers have come out onto the track so far in the first few minutes. Adrian Sutil is the last of those 15 drivers, and he too comes back into the pits.

4 min: Michael Schumacher is once again present on the Ferrari pit wall and he gives a wave as he is spotted by the TV cameras.

6 min: No cars on track currently. At the moment they are all in the garages with the drivers remaining bolted into their machines, as the mechanics and engineers check over the cars and check over the data from that installation lap just incase there is a problem.

7 min: Jenson Button is the 16th driver to venture out onto the track. The Briton practices a start at the end of the pitlane, and is expected to return to the pits at the end of the lap.

7 min: Jarno Trulli has also gone out in the Toyota.

8 min: Timo Glock goes out onto the circuit for the second time. This is expected to be the start of a run of laps from the German.

9 min: Button decides not to bother with the installation lap, and instead crosses start-finish and is straight into a flying lap.

9 min: Robert Kubica is told by his engineer that the wind has picked up since yesterday and it is blowing as a side wind on the main straight.

9 min: Trulli also has come over start-finish and he too is on a hot lap, as Glock crosses the line to start his first attempt of the day.

10 min: Jenson Button sets the first laptime of the day with a 1:18.645, with Trulli following on behind with 1:18.674.

10 min: Rubens Barrichello heads out for an installation lap, leaving the Ferrari drivers as the only cars yet to emerge. The team often forgo the traditional installation lap and head out for a longer run a little later in the session.

11 min: Timo Glock's first effort is just shy of his teammate, while Button goes quicker on his second flyer - 1:17.995.

11 min: Jarno Trulli goes quicker than Button on his second flying lap - 1:17.784.

13 min: Jenson Button continues to improve in the Honda on his third timed lap - 1:17.342 which retakes P1 briefly, before Sebastien Bourdais crosses the line in 1:17.242 to go fastest.

13 min: Nico Rosberg is told on the radio that there is a possibility of rain with 20 minutes to go in the session so he heads out to get some running under his belt.

A number of showers have been skirting to the north of the circuit this morning and there remains a chance of some reaching the track throughout the day.

14 min: Timo Glock has moved into third with a time of 1:17.515, as Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone takes his customary morning stroll along the pitlane.

15 min: Rubens Barrichello ran wide at the hairpin at turn six, onto the extra tarmac area He lost ten seconds in the second sector on that lap.

15 min: Rosberg goes to the top of the order with that run, clocking a 1:17.176.

16 min: Lewis Hamilton is now on his first flying lap of the day.

16 min: Sebastian Vettel tops Rosberg's time with a 1:16.579 to go fastest so far.

18 min: Hamilton's first effort, on the harder tyre, is a 1:16.484, which was momentarily quickest before Vettel clocked a 1:16.432.

18 min: With 18 minutes gone Sebastian Vettel is fastest so far with a time of 1:16.432, followed by Hamilton second, Massa moving into third with a 1:16.665, Rosberg fourth, Bourdais fifth and Jenson Button in sixth place.

19 min: Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen have joined the fray and Raikkonen is currently on his first flying lap.

20 min: On the team radio, Sebastien Bourdais is asking his Toro Rosso team to check the brake temperatures on his car as he is struggling to get the car slowed down, with the rears locking up on him frequently.

20 min: Heikki Kovalainen is the next man to hold the benchmark time with a 1:16.219 as Raikkonen sets a 1:16.890 for fifth.

22 min: At Red Bull Racing, David Coulthard and Mark Webber have spent a good proportion of the time so far in the garage. However, both are now on track and they should be posting some laptimes soon.

24 min: Coulthard's first effort is a 1:16.847, which places him sixth.
Mark Weber completes his first timed lap and is only 18th on a 1:17.625.

25 min: David Coulthard improves on his second lap with a time of 1:16.648 which moves him up one spot to fifth.

25 min: The pair of Ferraris are running a series of laps to test their race pace, setting times consistently around 1:16.8.

This session typically produces a jumbled order as each team tests for different aspects of their race weekend. Those attempting to get out of the early stages of qualifying will run with lighter fuel in the latter part of this session.

26 min: Nelson Piquet in the Renault pops up to third quickest with a 1:16.474.

26 min: Mark Webber is slowly improving his time, a 1:17.260 the last time round, which has moved the Australian up the order to 12th.

28 min: Felipe Massa resumes his programme in the Ferrari and is up to second quickest on a 1:16.096.

28 min: Piquet's quick lap which has now dropped him to fourth after Felipe Massa's recent improvement, was set using the harder of the Bridgestone tyres, lending more weight to fuel being taken out of the Renault.

29 min: Heikki Kovalainen remains quickest so far in the session as we approach the half-way mark. His time of 1:16.032 is less than a tenth of a second faster than Felipe Massa in second, with Vettel third and back out on the track, Piquet fourth, Hamilton fifth and David Coulthard in sixth after that strong first run in the Red Bull.

31 min: Sebastien Bourdais is on track for his second run of the morning. On the harder tyre he improves with a 1:16.939, as Adrian Sutil moves up to 12th place with a 1:17.214 - also set using the hard tyres.

32 min: Rubens Barrichello moves up from 19th to 16th place with a lap of 1:17.452 set using the harder tyre.

32 min: Lewis Hamilton is back on track and starts a flying lap after almost 10 minutes in the pits to tweak the McLaren.

33 min: Hamilton's first effort of this stint moves him up to second, just eight thousandths off his teammate's benchmark.

35 min: Sebastian Vettel is on his second run of the day and lighting up the timing monitor as he posts the fastest time of all in the first sector of the lap. On hard tyres the German comes through and sets a personal best second sector time. The youngster is on for a cracking time here ... and he posts a 1:16.209 which places him fourth.

That lap could have moved him to the very top of the list, had he not caught Nico Rosberg at an awkward moment in the Opel Kurves in the final sector.

36 min: Vettel returns to the pitlane after a couple of timed laps.

37 min: Heikki Kovalainen resumes his running and improves his lead at the top of the timesheet with a new benchmark of 1:15.858 set on the harder tyre option.

38 min: Jenson Button has come out onto the track again in the Honda.. At the same time Mark Webber also rejoins the track.

39 min: Kovalainen continues with a 1:15.877 as both McLarens lap very close to their best time on this round of runs.

40 min: Nelson Piquet locks up his front tyres and slides sraight on, into the extra tarmac area in his Renault. The Brazilian recovers the situation without problem. He is fifth in the standings at the moment.

40 min: The pair of Ferraris now emerge, also on the harder tyre at this stage.

41 min: Kimi Raikkonen posts an improved time of 1:16.380, good enough for fifth in the order.

41 min: Mark Webber is on an improving lap this time on his first flyer after coming out of the pits. His time is 1:16.558 which moves him up to seventh position. He was running on the harder tyre.

43 min: Felipe Massa appeared to have very fresh tyres as he emerged from the garage on this current run. It shows on the clock as he goes quickest in 1:15.693.

43 min: Webber goes on for a second timed lap, and again is setting personal best sector times in the first and second sectors of the lap. Ultimately he can't find the speed in the final portion of the lap and there is no improvement.

44 min: Webber's third flyer on this run is an improvement in time to 1:16.481, which consolidates his current seventh position.

44 min: Massa pits after setting that single quick lap on a set of hard tyres.

46 min: The order at the top with just under 15 minutes to go in this third and final practice session is Massa leading the way with 1:15.693, followed by Kovalainen, Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen and Piquet.

47 min: Robert Kubica in the BMW is touring slowly on the circuit.

48 min: Giancarlo Fisichella blinks early and bolts on the softer Bridgestone tyres to his Force India machine.

He has set two flying laps on this run and has improved to a 1:17.520 which could have been slightly faster had he not had a wild moment exiting the final corner of the lap.

The Italian remains in 20th and last position, but is much closer to the rest of the field now.

48 min: Kubica crawls back to the pits with cars screaming by him at high speed. He tells the team on the radio: "If I go power, the car is pulling to one side."

50 min: Almost all cars are now in the pits, preparing for a run on the softer tyre in the final ten minutes.

51 min: Jarno Trulli is on the harder tyre, but pushing hard he runs wide at turn nine and just onto the extra tarmac area, ruining that particular lap. He stays out there and is on another quick lap now.

52 min: Lewis Hamilton starts a flying lap with soft tyres on the McLaren.

As ever, the pace in this final scramble depends of whether the driver is running a race fuel load to practice for Q3 or if he is gunning for the best possible time on low fuel.

52 min: Jenson Button has moved up from from the lower end of the field up to P6, with a lap of 1:16.447 set on hard tyres.

With the load lightened in terms of fuel, Button is looking at how his car is likely to perform in qualifying later this afternoon.

53 min: Hamilton's soft tyre effort nets the second quickest time of 1:15.839, down on Massa's earlier run on hard rubber.

55 min: Hamilton continues for another lap but he gets out of shape in turn 16 at the end of the lap and, despite his best efforts, can't hold the car from a quick trip over the run-off.

55 min: Felipe Massa is next to gun for a time on soft rubber.

57 min: Timo Glock has been out on track using the soft tyre, but the German is having problems in the Toyota downshifting to first gear.Glock is in 15th place so far with a time of 1:17.160, which he then improves on during his next lap to a 1:16.636 which moves him up to 12th.

57 min: Heikki Kovalainen continues his strong form this morning with a new quickest lap of 1:15.621 on soft tyres.

59 min: Felipe Massa had two goes at his soft tyre run but didn't do particularly well in the middle sector.

Kimi Raikkonen is only just on his flyer but appears to have backed off after encountering the spun Force India of Sutil in the first corner.

59 min: Mark Webber moves up to fifth on soft tyres with a time of 1:16.196, but is instantly demoted down to sixth by Nelson Piquet who sets a faster time with 1:16.161.

60 min: The session has ended. Cars that have already started a lap may complete it.

10:00 Fernando Alonso jumps up to fourth quickest in the late scramble with a 1:15.943 on the soft tyre.

10:01 Adrian Sutil has lost control of his Force India machine, pushing hard in the final stages in qualifying trim. He skated wide onto the extra tarmac aea, then briefly into the gravel. He lost over 20 seconds in that move and has pitted at the end of that lap.

He ends the session in 17th position.

10:02 Raikkonen continued on his soft tyre run, having lost the first attempt to Sutil's yellow flags. He had a big slide entering the stadium and only clocked a 1:17.803, ending his session in ninth.

10:02 Jarno Trulli improved his time in the final stages of the session, moving up into sixth place with a lap of 1:16.133. The Italian had spent much of the session down in the midfield, likely running in race-spec, only trying a single qualifying simulation run in the dying minutes.

10:03 The drivers are once again being allowed to practice their starts from the grid.

10:04 Robert Kubica was the only driver not to manage a run late in the session when the qualifying practice runs got going in earnest, due to a mechanical problem with his BMW Sauber.

Adrian Sutil likewise didn't have the opportunity to practice a start on the grid having pitted after spinning wildly at the first corner on his last lap.

10:04 The rest of the drivers are now coming into the pitlane after practicing their starts on the grid.

10:05 The track temperature climbed to 31c late in that session as sunshine continues to displace the clouds.

10:05 All drivers now in the pits - Timo Glock was the last of them to return to the lane.

10:06 So Heikki Kovalainen finishes the final practice session at Hockenheim at the top of the list with a time of 1:15.621, only marginally ahead of Felipe Massa in the Ferrari. Lewis Hamilton was third, with Alonso fourth, Vettel quick in fifth place and Jarno Trulli in sixth.

10:13 Overhead conditions remain cloudy with the odd brief spell of sunshine now and again.

The rainfall radar shows that there is unlikely to be any rain for the next hour at the very least, with no showers showing to the west or south-west.

10:13 Matt Beer has the round up of the morning's action in Germany:

Kovalainen tops final practice in Germany

10:30 On the track, the Porsche Supercup cars are out for their 45-minute qualifying session.

10:47 Whilst dry and reasonably bright conditions remain at the circuit, the rainfall radar is showing signs of movement in the last few minutes.

To the south-west of the Baden-Wettemburg region, some small showers are beginning to show up. These showers are further south in terms of placement than those which skirted past Hockenheim to the north early this morning.

There is still a risk of showers affecting the qualifying session - albeit a low risk right now.

These showers are in basic terms developing in the area - it is not a distinct band of showers that has travelled across France. They are forming close to the German border and then moving across into Germany.

We will continue to monitor the radar to see if these showers fizzle out, or develop further.

11:32 Weatherwise conditions are now overcast above the circuit. The clouds are darkening, but there is no immediate threat of rain according to the radar.

To the south-west small showers are continuing to move in the general direction of Hockenheim, but they are still some miles away yet.

Having said that, there is still the potential for showers to develop in the area, and they would develop and become rainfall before the radar would pick them up.

An uncertain qualifying session looms.

11:40 A tight qualifying session is in store with the late scramble in Q3 set to be hard-fought between the championship contenders. Practice so far has hinted at very similar speed from both the Ferrari and McLaren cars, so the precise order will depend on the fuel loads chosen to start the race and the performance of each driver during that vital flying lap.

The McLaren's well-known characteristic of quickly warming the tyres on a single flying lap may be particularly useful on a relatively cool weekend in Germany. Silverstone polesitter Heikki Kovalainen is also a man to watch after a strong performance in practice this morning.

The BMW team have continued their strategy of conservative running in practice. Robert Kubica has lost practice time this weekend with a spin on Friday morning and a driveshaft problem today, but both the Pole, and home driver Nick Heidfeld, are likely to feature at the close of the final shootout.

11:50 Ten minutes remain before qualifying gets underway in Germany.

11:53 A stiff breeze is blowing at the circuit, which is always a concern for the stability of the cars on a qualifying lap.

11:57 The showers on the radar are fizzling out as they get close to the circuit.

The current conditions of overcast with a stiff breeze look set for the qualifying hour, which begins shortly.

11:58 Threatening clouds continue to surround the circuit, interspersed with some brighter spells.

The overcast conditions have the track temperature pegged back at a cool 27c and the strong breeze is clocked at over seven metres per second.

0 min: The qualifying period has started.

0 min: The teams would appear to be confident of the current conditions holding as there is no immediate rush to join the racetrack.

1 min: In the pits we can hear an engine and it is Nico Rosberg who has come out onto the circuit.

1 min: Bourdais, Sutil and Fisichella join Rosberg on the track.

2 min: Nico Rosberg crosses start-finish to begin the first lap of today's qualifying session.

2 min: Rosberg is advised on the radio about the windy conditions on track. He is told that the direction is similar to practice this morning, but it is blowing a bit stronger.

3 min: Eight drivers are now out on track as Rosberg continues through his lap. He is running on the harder Bridgestone tyre and completes that first effort with a time of 1:17.522.

4 min: Adrian Sutil is the next man across the line and he posts a 1:21.405.
Giancarlo Fisichella comes through in 1:20.626 in a lap that included a run wide at the exit of turn one.

4 min: Kimi Raikkonen is the first of the big guns to take to the track.

The lack of a scramble at the start of this session suggests the teams are confident that the showers will continue to avoid the track and they are instead allowing the early runners to clean the surface after Porsche Supercup running in the interval.

5 min: Sebastian Vettel goes fastest on a 1:17.030 but the time could have been quicker, had he not run very wide exiting the final corner of the lap.

6 min: Kimi Raikkonen is now quickest on a 1:16.352 from Mark Webber in the Red Bull and Nico Rosberg in the Williams.

7 min: Glock is fourth in the Toyota, with Coulthard fifth, Button sixth and early pacesetter Vettel now 7th.

7 min: Raikkonen continues for a third lap, ever warming the harder tyre, and re-takes the top slot with a 1:15.627. Teammate Massa is up to second, dropping Webber to third.

8 min: The BMW and Renault teams have yet to send their drivers on to the circuit - electing to do just one run in this first part of qualifying.

8 min: Both Renaults now join the racetrack.

9 min: Felipe Massa continues to lap in the Ferrari, improving the benchmark to a 1:15.255.

Heikki Kovalainen slots in second on a 1:15.476, despite a sizable lock-up.

10 min: Lewis Hamilton arrives on the timesheet at the very top with a 1:15.218, flying in the twisty final sector to make up for a major error as he ran wide at the hairpin.

10 min: The BMW Saubers have now joined the racetrack, as Renault drivers Alonso and Piquet start their quick laps.

11 min: Alonso goes sixth with a time of 1:16.219 with Piquet slotting into tenth with a 1:17.044.

12 min: Robert Kubica, recovering from that driveshaft failure in practice, clocks a 1:16.007 for fifth.

13 min: Sebastian Vettel moves up on his second run to fifth place with a stunning 1:15.921 which should enable him to make it through to the next period of qualifying.

14 min: Nick Heidfeld continues to lap and improves his time with a 1:15.746, taking over fifth from Vettel.

15 min: All drivers have now set a laptime in this first part of qualifying for tomorrow's German Grand Prix.

Adrian Sutil has done well in his first run and is 16th. Trulli, Coulthard, Fisichella and Nelson Piquet are also in the dropzone.

These drivers must improve their time in the remaining few minutes or face elimination at the first hurdle.

16 min: Felipe Massa is out again to further hone his understanding of the track conditions and his Ferrari's setup.

17 min: Sebastien Bourdais is on the bubble in 15th place. Jarno Trulli and David Coulthard are expected to move up the order on their final runs, putting the Frenchman in danger, as is Rubens Barrichello in 14th place.

17 min: Nelson Piquet and Giancarlo Fisichella are the first two drivers of that bottom group to rejoin the track.

18 min: Massa is on full attack for this second run and he grabs the quickest time by almost three tenths on a 1:14.921.

18 min: The final attempts to make it into the second phase of qualifying are underway now.

19 min: Kimi Raikkonen is also back out to further test the Ferrari.

He displaces Hamilton for second by a fraction but remains a quarter of a second slower than Massa.

19 min: Nelson Piquet sets a 16.6 second first sector. His pace so far isn't stunning. A much better second sector puts him in with a good chance to make it through, and he completes the lap and moves into 11th place.

20 min: The chequred flag is out on the first period of qualifying.

12:20 Fisichella does not improve on his final attempt and is out of the session.

12:20 Jarno Trulli improves and moves out of the dropzone on his final attempt and goes fifth.

12:21 Fernando Alonso has been put into the dropzone, but moves out and to safety with a 1:15.917.

12:21 Eliminated drivers after the first period of qualifying:

16) Nakajima
17) Piquet
18) Barrichello
19) Sutil
20) Fisichella.

12:23 Nelson Piquet is 17th and out of the session but suggests on the team radio that Sebastian Vettel may have delayed his final lap by emerging from the pits in front of the Brazilian.

12:23 Robert Kubica barely made it through to the second stage of qualifying, scraping through in 14th place.

Starting his final attempt he came across Giancarlo Fisichella on soft tyres, who was definitely on his final attempt which was a 1:16.963. Fisichella was right to stay on the line and go for his final laptime.

12:25 It is a tale of two drivers at Honda, with Jenson Button making it through to the second phase, in 15th place, but unfortunately Rubens Barrichello has been eliminated, failing to make it by just over 0.2 seconds.

0 min: The qualifying period has started.

0 min: The 16 drivers who have made it through to the next stage get ready to do battle again in the next 15 minute segment. They are shooting at a place in the top ten.

0 min: No rush to get out on track as yet, with no cars on the circuit in the first minute.

2 min: Nico Rosberg waves to the fans worldwide as he and the rest of the drivers continue to wait for everyone else to go out first.

2 min: The track temperature has crept up slightly to 30c as the brinkmanship continues at the start of this second period.

3 min: Three minutes gone in this second period of qualifying and no-one has taken to the track. The remaining minutes will become extremely busy on the track with traffic a major factor in the outcome.

4 min: The first driver to blink ... is none other than World Champion Kimi Raikkonen.

Raikkonen and teammate Felipe Massa join the racetrack.

4 min: Both Ferraris have the softer tyre on their cars for the start of this segment.

5 min: Lewis Hamilton also joins the circuit with soft tyres on his McLaren.

"I think I didn;t manage to get everything out of the car in sector three, and that cost me. The car is getting better and better, but it is so tight."
Kazuki Nakajima, 16th on British broadcaster ITV

6 min: Kimi is the first man to post a time and it is a 1:14.949. Both Massa and Hamilton are on flying laps at the moment.

7 min: Only the BMWs have yet to emerge onto the racetrack as Timo Glock goes third to the Ferraris with a 1:15.508 which is bettered instantly by his teammate Jarno Trulli.

7 min: Massa jumps his teammate for the quickest time with a 1:14.747 before Hamilton comes along in the McLaren with an even better 1:14.603.

8 min: Sebastian Vettel goes 10th after his first of two attempts with the BMWs still to post a time. Vettel ran on the soft tyre and is likely to be bumped into the dropzone when Heidfeld and Kubica complete their attempts.

10 min: The Ferraris head in to the pits.

Heikki Kovalainen has slotted in fourth with a 1:15.025, with Jarno Trulli's Toyota fifth and Alonso's Renault sixth after the early laps

10 min: The pair of BMWs are currently on their first flying laps in the session.

11 min: All 16 drivers in this second part of qualifying have now completed a lap and set a time.

Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel, Sebastien Bourdais, Nico Rosberg and David Coulthard are all in the dropzone and need to improve on their final attempts in order to make it through to the top ten shootout.

12 min: Kubica's first effort is a 1:15.382 for seventh but he may need to be a little quicker than that to be safe.

Heidfeld has set the tenth quickest time and on the bubble for demotion out of the final session.

13 min: The Toro Rosso duo, Vettel and Bourdais join the racetrack and they will be the first among those in the dropzone to set their final laps.

13 min: Heikki Kovalainen ran again in the McLaren and clocked a 1:14.855 despite running very wide onto the grass in the final corner.

13 min: Both BMWs pit for fresh tyres and return for another attempt.

14 min: The Toro Rossos start their final attempt. Bourdais runs very wide onto the extra tarmac at turn six and his attempt is ruined - he is eliminated.

15 min: The qualifying period has ended. Cars that have already started a lap may complete it.

12:42 Vettel completes his lap and comes across with 1:15.420 and moves up to eighth - not safe yet but he has a small chance to make it.

12:42 Robert Kubica's second run puts him up to sixth on a 1:15.109.

Heidfeld is out at present and must perform on this lap ...

12:43 Rosberg completes his last lap and is eliminated.

12:43 Nick Heidfeld pits the BMW after running wide at the hairpin and he is eliminated.

12:43 Vettel makes it through in ninth position after being bumped one place by David Coulthard who went eighth.

12:44 Eliminated drivers after the second period of qualifying:

11) Glock
12) Heidfeld
13) Rosberg
14) Button
15) Bourdais.

12:45 The final run from Fernando Alonso was a quick one in the Renault. He vaulted himself well clear of the drop zone with a 1:14.943, putting him fourth, ahead of Raikkonen's Ferrari.

12:48 Both Red Bull machines make it into the final part of qualifying, as does Vettel who has had another stunning weekend so far in the Toro Rosso.

Disappointing result for Nick Heidfeld who was eliminated and will start tomorrow's German Grand Prix from 12th position.

After Silverstone the German proclaimed that he was getting on top of his qualifying problems. It would seem that this is not the case - although he was only 0.4 seconds behind his teammate Kubica, who made it through comfortably.

12:49 The top ten drivers now get ready for the two-run battle ahead, in which they have only ten minutes to get themselves as high up the grid for tomorrow's race as possible.

0 min: The decisive Q3 shootout is underway.

0 min: No takers in the first minute of the ten that are available.

1 min: Jarno Trulli is the first driver to come out onto the racetrack.

2 min: Trulli has the track all to himself for the moment, but with the others due to come out imminently his first run could suffer.

3 min: Trulli gets lucky as he starts his first attempt, with only Webber and Vettel on the track - both are a way ahead of the Italian on the road.

3 min: Kimi Raikkonen joins the circuit on soft tyres.

3 min: Nine of the ten drivers are now on the racetrack, with only Fernando Alonso yet to join them.

Alonso comes out now as Trulli posts a 1:17.126.

4 min: Raikkonen is on to his flying lap and he runs wide in the first corner, losing time.

4 min: Vettel goes second to Trulli with a 1:17.716.

5 min: Mark Webber moves into second place behind Trulli with a 1:17.627.

6 min: Kimi comes across the line in a Ferrari that appears to be difficult to drive with his race fuel onboard. It is a 1:17.101, which Massa smashes with a 1:16.323 for the quickest time.

6 min: Robert Kubica goes third in the BMW Sauber - 1:16.965.

7 min: The McLaren of Hamilton slots in second quickest with a 1:16.732 but Heikki Kovalainen is tenth in the order after running off the road entering the stadium.

7 min: Fernando Alonso has put in a blinding lap which puts him second behind Massa after that first run. 1:16.673 for the Spaniard puts him on the provisional front row with one run left.

7 min: Order after the first run is Massa, Alonso, Hamilton, Kubica, Raikkonen, Trulli, Webber.

8 min: The big guns pit for fresh tyres to prepare for the final attempts.

8 min: The cars pit to change tyres and bolt on more of the soft compound, and rejoin the track quickly to start their final attempts in qualifying - this run will now decide the grid for tomorrow.

9 min: All ten drivers are on the circuit with Raikkonen one of the first to start his last lap.

10 min: The flag is out but the action continues as each driver is on their final runs.

13:00 Jarno Trulli is on a cracking lap and has done a 16.6 second first sector of the lap. His second sector is also extremely quick as Fernando Alonso comes through and moves into fourth position.

13:01 Felipe Massa sets a fantastic lap of 1:15.859 but Hamilton is coming ... and it is a sensational final sector for the Brit and he snatches pole for the German Grand Prix!

13:01 Trulli completes the lap with a good final sector and takes that fourth place from Fernando Alonso.

13:02 Hamilton's 1:15.666 gives him the pole by almost two tenths of a second from Felipe Massa in the Ferrari.

Heikki Kovalainen took third, despite once again being off road in the final corner.

13:02 Lewis Hamilton takes pole position for tomorrow's German Grand Prix at Hockenheim with a time of 1:15.666. Felipe Massa will start alongside the Briton on the front row, with Kovalainen third and Trulli fourth.

13:03 Kimi Raikkonen is a disappointing sixth in the Ferrari, despite improving on his final run.

13:03 Fernando Alonso claims a very good fifth place on the grid with Kimi Raikkonen down in a terrible-looking sixth position, with a Toyota and a Renault in front of him on the grid. Robert Kubica will start seventh, with Webber eighth, Vettel ninth, outpacing David Coulthard who was tenth.

13:07 The winners and losers from the final shootout:

Undoubtedly the focus is on the championship battle, and Kimi Raikkonen starting sixth will go to sleep tonight praying that he can clear Alonso and Trulli on the first lap.

On the flip side Jarno Trulli put in an incredible performance to secure a spot on the second row of the grid, and when Fernando Alonso starts this high up you just know that he will be on the attack in the early stages.

The front of the grid is nicely poised with plenty to look forward to at the start tomorrow afternoon.

13:07 The session report and classification is now available:

Hamilton beats Massa to German GP pole

"He [Kimi] was not very happy about the car, and of course we have seen that the lap was not really good, but anyway it's important that we stay concentrated, the race is very long, I'm very happy for Felipe because he did a great, great qualifying.

I'm expecting that it will be very tough. I mean we will see the fuel load of Hamilton, he did a great lap, so let's wait and see."
Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari, on German broadcaster Premiere

13:25 The rain held off at Hockenheim on Saturday and the track action was plentiful, on an overcast and windy day.

This morning, the Ferrari versus McLaren took place at the front as expected, with Heikki Kovalainen coming out on top for McLaren.

This afternoon that battle continued, but there were some stories to be told along the way. Nelson Piquet found himself eliminated in the first section of the qualifying session. In part two Nick Heidfeld was the surprise as he was knocked out, finishing at the wrong end of the tight midfield battle. He will start from 12th place tomorrow.

The final shootout between the fastest ten drivers also gave some surprises. Kimi Raikkonen couldn't get it together and finished up sixth. Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso enjoyed a great qualifying session, finishing up fourth and fifth respectively. Sebastian Vettel is another who is enjoying a very positive weekend, ending up ninth on the grid.

Up front however it was Red against Silver once more, with Lewis Hamilton taking pole position by over two tenths of a second from Felipe Massa. Heikki Kovalainen starts third, nearly half a second behind his teammate.

Tomorrow we are set for a 67 lap German Grand Prix, but before then autosport.com Live will look at the weather prospects later this afternoon. Then, in the morning, we will begin commentary four hours before the main event, with a look at some of the contenders, continuing track and weather updates, and of course the race itself. Join us from 08:00 GMT tomorrow.

  OVERVIEW QUALIFYING  
Session length: 60 minutes
 View official live timing
  CURRENT WEATHER
Overcast High Temp: 23°C / 73°F
Track: Dry
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Monday 14 Jul Start GMT
 Weather Forecasts and Reports 15:00
Friday 18 Jul
 Friday Practice 07:30
Saturday 19 Jul
 Final Practice and Qualifying 08:30
Sunday 20 Jul
 Raceday at Hockenheim 08:00
  ABOUT
Emlyn Hughes and Geoff Creighton are autosport.com's live commentary team. The dynamic duo have developed an inimitable style and a reputation for fast, accurate and insightful commentary. With unrivaled access to events unfolding at the circuit, they bring you the very latest, as it happens.

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