Lewis Hamilton has scored an exceptional pole position at his home grand prix, equalling the qualifying record for the British Grand Prix.
Hamilton took his fifth pole position in Great Britain — equal to Jim Clark’s record — with a half-second margin over his rivals and almost 0.8 seconds over his teammate in an imperious display of raw speed.
“I feel amazing, especially with a great crowd like this,” he said. “Always try to save the best til last.”
Conditions were cold and slippery throughout qualifying, with rain hitting the track moments before the start of Q1.
The circuit improved to pre-rain conditions only by Q3, but Hamilton said his momentum was unaffected.
“I felt very comfortable with it, and the team did a fantastic job. The tyres were working perfectly,” he said.
Kimi Räikkönen impressed to qualify second and ahead of Vettel after Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne called the Finn a ‘laggard’ for his string or underwhelming performances.
“It felt okay,” he said. “In the morning [in FP2] it felt a little bit more tricky.
“The car we had felt good. Obviously still not quite fast enough for the pole position.”
Vettel, beaten by his teammate on Saturday for only the second time this season, blamed his deficit on traffic encountered on his out-lap, which prevented him from warming his tyres.
Valtteri Bottas, fourth in the order, said the gap to Hamilton was down to his teammate’s tyre warm-up strategy — a cheeky reference to Hamilton briefly being investigated for blocking Romain Grosjean during qualifying.
The place is particularly painful for the Austrian Grand Prix winner because he carries a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change, which will put him ninth on the grid.
Max Verstappen was the sole Red Bull Racing driver in the top 10 — Daniel Ricciardo’s car failed during Q1, leaving him last — with the fifth-fastest time 1.5 seconds off pole and one second clear of the midfield.
Nico Hülkenberg, famously adept in slippery conditions, was impressive in sixth for Renault, mixing in with the front-runners when the track was damp despite his relatively uncompetitive car.
Sergio Perez pipped teammate Esteban Ocon for seventh despite the latter having the measure of the former for the entire weekend.
McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne outqualified teammate Fernando Alonso for the first time this season. Vandoorne sneaked into the top-10 shootout when Alonso failed to progress past Q2, and the Belgian set the ninth-quickest time.
Romain Grosjean was the slowest of the session in tenth, but he complained that Hamilton blocked him during his qualifying lap.
The stewards investigated the incident but concluded that “while Grosjean may potentially have been affected by the presence of Hamilton …he was not impeded,” and took no further action.
The second part of qualifying started on a dry and fast-improving track, putting at an advantage the last car over the line.
Valtteri Bottas signalled his strategic intentions for the race by using the soft tyre to set his time, requiring him to start the race on that same set of tyres as opposed to the more delicate supersoft compound.
Nico Hülkenberg ended the session an impressive P5 with a 0.9-seconds gap to his teammate Jolyon Palmer, who was knocked out in P11.
Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso qualified P12 and one ahead of Fernando Alonso, who will regardless start from the back of the grid with a litany of power unit-related penalties.
Carlos Sainz qualified P14 in the second Toro Rosso, one ahead of Williams’s Felipe Massa, who was slowest of the session.
A brief shower before the start of qualifying meant Q1 started wet.
Daniel Ricciardo, correctly using the intermediate weather tyre when others were unsuccessfully attempting to use slicks, set the fastest time seven minutes into the session, but his car then suffered a suspected turbo problem, forcing the Australian to stop on the grass and retire from qualifying.
A five-minute red flag period ensured, after which the threat of rain subsided and the track improved greatly. Ricciardo tumbled rapidly from first into the bottom five knockout zone, which had become something of a lottery based on each driver’s position on track at the fall of the flag.
Fernando Alonso was last of all when he opted to dive into the pits to switch off the intermediate and onto the supersoft tyre.
The Spaniard beat the chequered flag by just a fraction of a second to start his timed lap, and what followed was a sizzling time that took him to P1.
Knocked out by his last-gasp lap was Williams’s Lance Stroll, Haas’s Kevin Magnussen, Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson, and Ricciardo’s stricken Red Bull Racing RB13.
2017 BRITISH GRAND PRIX — QUALIFYING
|5||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:28.130|
|7||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:28.902|
|8||Esteban Ocon||Force India-Mercedes||1:29.074|
|Q3 cut-off time:||1:30.105|
|12||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso-Renault||1:30.355|
|14||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso-Renault||1:31.368|
|Q2 cut-off time:||1:41.114|
|20||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:42.966|