Mark Webber was relegated from third spot to eighth on the grid for the German F1 Grand Prix after incurring a penalty for a gearbox change.
Red Bull star Webber, Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg and Lotus’ Romain Grosjean were all dropped five positions from their final qualifying results for making gearbox changes.
The winner of two races this season including the British Grand Prix last start, Webber was third fastest in qualifying for Sunday’s race, behind only championship leader and fastest qualifier Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) and Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel who is racing before home fans.
Alonso managed a time of one minute and 40.621 seconds for the 4.574km Hockenheim course, to beat defending champion Vettel by 0.405 seconds.
Vettel, who managed to beat a teammate for the first time in qualifying on the track, said that he lost a lap as he ran into Webber towards the end.
“I think we had the pace to put the car on pole, but the conditions were very tricky. In many ways, driving in conditions like that make it like a lottery,” he said.
The second row on the grid belongs to Germans Michael Schumacher in a Mercedes and Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg.
Pouring rain made the three sessions very difficult and most drivers only managed to post their fastest time towards the end of the 10-minute final session once they adjusted to conditions.
Seven-time world champion Schumacher said early on that it was very tough to drive in the rain. “It will be a very difficult thing to stay on the track,” he said over the team-radio.
Alonso went even one step further, calling on race organisers to stop the session. He said afterwards that conditions had been very close to the limit.
“Even though all drivers have the same conditions, officials should look at the track and stop a session if it is necessary.
“It was not easy for anybody, but I am very pleased that everything went well for us.
“It has been a very strange weekend, with us using dry and wet tyres in the same sessions.”
The top 10 are completed by Williams’ Pastor Maldonado and Jenson Button in a McLaren, who are on the third row, while the other McLaren of Lewis Hamilton and Webber are on the fourth row.
Paul di Resta in the second Force India and Kimi Raikkonen in a Lotus are ninth and tenth on the grid.
Like Webber, Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg and Lotus’ Romain Grosjean will also start five places behind their final positions.
This is particularly disappointing for Rosberg, who was hoping for a good showing in his home grand prix, but managed only 17th-fastest time as his qualifying fell foul of the weather.
Ahead of the 10th of 20 season races, Alonso leads the standings with 129 points from Webber, who has 116.
Vettel, who is pursuing a hat-trick of titles, is third on 110, with Hamilton fourth on 92.