Lewis Hamilton provided a dramatic finish to qualifying for the 2013 Formula 1 German Grand Prix, with a last-gasp lap for pole position. The British driver will start from the front of the grid for the second straight race and Mercedes will want a second straight win as well, after Nico Rosberg benefitted from the retirement of Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull at Silverstone last weekend.
Red Bull may have lost pole at the Nürburgring but neither Vettel nor Mark Webber will be unduly worried. This is a high-speed track with quite a few overtaking opportunities and Sunday's 60 lap race will likely go down to the wire.
Ferrari and Lotus-Renault will be in the hunt for the win, or at least a podium finish, as well. The Scuderia have taken a tactical gamble by qualifying on the prime tyres (medium compound) and saving one set of options (soft compound) for the race, meaning they have, potentially, a window of speed and opportunity in hand over the Red Bull, Mercedes and Lotus.
Where to Watch 2013 Formula 1 German Grand Prix Live
Live coverage of the 2013 Formula 1 German Grand Prix starts at 11.30am BST on Sky Sports F1.
Radio commentary is on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and starts at 12.30pm BST.
Real time Internet updates are available from the Live Timing section of the sport's official website.
Hamilton's pole position time was a brilliant 1:29.398, which is a lap record; the previous fastest was M Schumacher's 1:29.468 for Ferrari in 2004. The fact the British driver produced it right at the end of the session was the icing on the cake because it left Vettel and Webber absolutely no chance to respond.
Vettel and Webber will be satisfied, if not happy, with second and third on the grid. The German admitted after the session the sheer pace of Hamilton's Mercedes was perhaps a touch more than he could match and also revealed he struggled with the car through the first sector. Webber made the same comment - about the first sector - and also said the track temperatures changed dramatically towards the end of the session, which could have affected his lap times.
In any case, the Red Bulls are very well placed for the race and if either Vettel or Webber can get a clean start and nose ahead of Hamilton into the first corner, then we could have a very exciting race.
Further down the grid, Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso will be dark horses for a race win. The Italians surprised the pit lane by running medium compound tyres for Q3 while everybody else ran the softer tyres. Both drivers admitted later that this was a calculated gamble but, if it pays off, the scarlet cars could move up into the top three very swiftly on Sunday, after the first round of pit stops.
The joker in the pack will be Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian produced a superb 1:30.528 to finish sixth on the grid for the second straight race and is targeting a points finish for the race.
The first eight to 10 laps will be crucial for the front runners. Hamilton and the Red Bull drivers will want a quick clean start for everybody, if they are to maximise the soft compounds. An early safety car incident, for example, could compromise strategy since it allows Ferrari to remain in close contact despite running tyres with significant time disadvantages; soft compounds are between 1.8s and 2s faster than mediums.
The front three will also be aware that if they do not build up a significant advantage in this window of opportunity, not only will they lose grip but it brings the race to Ferrari, whose medium compounds will allow them to stay out at least three or four (or five?) laps longer and, hopefully, with a clear track and the chance to put the hammer down.
Much could also depend on tyre choices and performance through the middle part of the race. Red Bull and Mercedes' long runs on the medium compounds yielded some good times during practice and they will need those to be replicated during the race to hold off Ferrari, who are likely to find extra speed late in the race because of the extra set of soft tyres. Indeed, those tyres could be key to the Italian team having a strong race.
Much will also depend on external factors like the safety car or the Pirelli rubber itself. So far this weekend the tyres have passed their tests with flying colours, after a disastrous outing at Silverstone. Of course, following those blowouts the company has issued strict guidelines about tyre pressure and set-up, which could explain the improvement.
We haven't spoken too much about Lotus so far; Raikkonen and Grosjean are unlikely to have pace enough to trouble Hamilton, Vettel and Webber at the start of the race and may opt to drive a steady opening section. They will be aware that, for the opening laps at least, Ferrari will not have the pace to challenge.
The last word - expect blistering pace from Hamilton, assuming he gets a clean start, with Vettel and Webber in hot pursuit. Ferrari must find the balance between speed and conserving their tyres because all the soft rubber in the world cannot help them if they allow the leaders too much of an advantage. The middle section of the race could determine who wins and who finishes on the podium, particularly if Mercedes and Red Bull switch to medium tyres and Ferrari strap on the soft compounds.
Forecasts call for a bright and sunshine-filled Sunday afternoon, with the temperature at 25C and humidity between 41% and 43%. Cloud cover will be absolutely minimal, if there is any at all, which should help keep track temperature perhaps a little more constant than it was in qualifying.