Lewis Hamilton spread delight across the Northamptonshire countryside today as he took a dominant pole position at his home Grand Prix, heading a Mercedes front-row lock out with Sebastian Vettel completing the top three.
But there was dismay for Paul di Resta, who qualified in fifth place only for his Force India car to be found 1.5kg underweight. He was moved to the back of the grid.
Following their strong one lap pace in Free Practice, qualifying looked set to be a battle between the Mercedes pair and the Red Bulls as they swapped fastest time throughout the hour.
And on the second set of runs in the top ten shoot-out Nico Rosberg took thousandths off of his British team mate’s time to hold provisional pole, before Hamilton eclipsed the field with a sensational lap to take his 28th career pole and his second at Silverstone.
The British Grand Prix has not been won from pole since 2009, but that unpromising statistic does not dampen Hamilton’s mood this afternoon after an excellent lap.
“It feels incredible to be on pole, just like it did back in 2007,” he said. “We have the greatest Formula One fans in the world here in Britain and there was a great turnout today, which makes the atmosphere so special.
Red Bull had threatened session long with Vettel shadowing the pace of the Mercedes in the first two sessions. But he and team mate Mark Webber were unable to compete with the 1.6 seconds time gain that Hamilton found between Q2 and Q3.
However Vettel and Webber were both satisfied with the result in the knowledge that their race pace is superior to the qualifying specialists at Mercedes. Interestingly they prioritised saving medium tyres for the race, while Mercedes went with medium tyres in Q1, clearly wanting to save hard tyres for the race.
Behind the top four Paul Di Resta added to the smiles on the home fans faces as he took fifth position in a very good session for the Scot. He illustrated last time out in Canada that Force India have very good race pace and with team mate Adrian Sutil beginning the race in seventh place the Silverstone based team are in a strong position to put more distance between themselves and McLaren in the Constructors’ championship.
Daniel Ricciardo in six place, equalling his career best, fills the space between the Force India duo with an equally impressive session. The Australian was on the pace all afternoon and after taking fifth place in Q2 he looked set for a high starting position as he looks to impress the bosses at Red Bull who have said that Webber’s seat for 2014 will be filled by either a Toro Rosso driver or Kimi Raikkonen.
The Finn had another low-key qualifying session for Lotus, ending the day in ninth place sandwiched between his team mate, Romain Grosjean, and Fernando Alonso in a lacklustre Ferrari, who was 1.3 seconds off the pace.
Ferrari had been struggling to get the tyres warmed up throughout Free Practice 3 and Alonso couldn’t compete with his title rivals today. He admitted that he is worried about the decline in Ferrari’s performance lately and called it the “worst Saturday” of the season so far, “We seem to perform worse and worse, ” he said. “If you remember at the beginning of the year both Ferraris were competitive. We were on the first two rows in the first three or four races. Even in Malaysia Felipe started on the front row of the grid – we were second and third – and here we start getting in positions that are familiar unfortunately, which is fighting for Q3 as we were last year.”
The same was true for McLaren; with little expectations heading in to his home race, Jenson Button was relatively pleased to end up in eleventh place today and give himself a good chance of points as the first runner with a free tyre choice.
The fourth and final Brit on this year’s British Grand Prix grid is Max Chilton in the Marussia team. He had a tricky session and completed the grid with a time almost two seconds slower than his team mate.
BRITISH GRAND PRIX, Silverstone, Qualifying
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m29.607s
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m30.059s
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m30.211s
4. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m30.220s
5. Paul di Resta Force India 1m30.736s
6. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m30.757s
7. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m30.908s
8. Romain Grosjean Lotu 1m30.955s
9. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m30.962s
10. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m30.979s
11. Jenson Button McLaren 1m31.649s + 0.659s
12. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m31.779s + 0.789s
13. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m31.785s + 0.795s
14. Sergio Perez McLaren 1m32.082s + 1.092s
15. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1m32.211s + 1.221s
16. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m32.359s + 1.369s
17. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1m32.664s + 1.669s
18. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1m32.666s + 1.671s
19. Charles Pic Caterham 1m33.866s + 2.871s
20. Jules Bianchi Marussia 1m34.108s + 3.113s
21. Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1m35.481s + 4.486s
22. Max Chilton Marussia 1m35.858s + 4.863s