After two Friday practice sessions that were almost a complete wash-out, the crowd at the historic Silverstone circuit were keeping everything crossed for an hour of qualifying that would deliver plenty of action. And it certainly didn’t disappoint.
Saturday’s final practice session had left both Mercedes looking bang on the pace, with the two Red Bulls of Vettel and the departing Webber not far behind.
As Q1 got underway, the Sauber of Hulkenberg was first out on track to set the pace. But Lewis Hamilton was so relaxed about his chances in quali that he was too busy out in the pit lane waving at his adoring fans to be worried about rushing out onto the track to set a time.
Catherham’s Giedo van der Garde carried a five place gird penalty into the race from Canada, so opted to stay in the garage as long as possible and save tyres for tomorrow.
The Mercedes of Rosberg and Hamilton quickly went fastest when they came out half way through the session, albeit on the softer of the two compound tyres –with the Merc strangely favouring the hard tyres over the mediums.
The Mercedes finished Q1 top of the timsesheetes, with Maldonado just hauling himself out of the drop zone at the last minute – sadly at the expense of his teammate. Bottas dopped out in 17th, joined by Gutierrez, Pic, Bianchi, Van der Garde (who’ll start last with his penalty) and Brit Max Chilton bringing up the rear.
Webber was the first out on track for Q2, setting a 1.31.341. The Mercedes of Hamilton and Rosberg soon went quickest again, while the McLarens of Button and Perez proved to be just as slow as they have been the rest of the season, struggling to make it into the top ten.
With two minutes to go, Vettel usurped the Mercs from the top of the timesheet ¬– and stayed there until the chequered flag dropped for the end of the session. Further back there was a bigger battle going on about who would end up languishing in the drop zone, with Button, Raikkonen and Vergne all squabbling over the final place in the top ten.
It was a battle Raikkonen ended up winning, with Button, Massa, Vergne, Perez, Hulkenberg and Maldonado all dropping out before the final part of qualifying.
Frustratingly for Vergne, his teammate Ricciardo was comfortably in the top ten – at a time when both Toro Rossos need desperately to impress if they’re to stand any chance of winning the much coveted seat at Red Bull once Webber departs at the end of the season.
The final session kicked off with both Red Bulls and Mercedes heading straight out onto track, ready for an epic battle for pole position. The Mercs quickly set the pace from the Red Bulls, with Hamilton and Webber getting the better of their teammates for track position.
With under three minutes to go, all cars went out onto track for the final race to the chequered flag. Webber’s best efforts couldn’t topple the Mercs, but Rosberg provisionally went faster than his teammate. With the roar of his home crowd driving him on though, Hamilton snatched pole from Rosberg at the last minute – and with Vettel’s best efforts leaving him down in third, the Brits went wild as Hamilton was confirmed as the pole sitter for the British Grand Prix.
Just behind them, fellow Brit Di Resta was delighted to line up fifth on the grid, while Ricciardo was grinning ear-to-ear with his sixth place start. By Sarah Ellis