Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton has successfully claimed pole position for his home event, the British Grand Prix at Silverstone with an impressive new track qualifying record time of 1:26.600s.
However Hamilton faces an investigation by race stewards into an incident near the end of Q3 between himself and Romain Grosjean. The Haas driver was fuming at allegedly being impeded through the final corner, which could land Hamilton a three-place penalty if upheld.
Assuming he keeps the pole, Hamilton will be joined on the front row of the grid by Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn's team mate Sebastian Vettel will start from third on the grid alongside Red Bull's Max Verstappen.
Hamilton's team mate Valtteri Bottas had been fourth fastest in qualifying. However he will start Sunday's race from ninth place as a result of his five place grid penalty for a gearbox change during the week.
That promotes Renault's Nico Hulkenberg to fifth place, Force India's Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon to sixth and seventh, and McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne to eighth. Rounding out the top ten on the grid was Grosjean in tenth.
The light rain that had bedevilled final practice returned in time for the start of qualifying. There was a split opinion on tyre choice between intermediate and slicks, but a single reconnaissance lap persuaded those on the latter compounds to promptly change to inters as the rain picked up in intensity. Even then, several drivers including Hamilton, Raikkonen and Sainz had scary moments to demonstrate how tricky the conditions were.
Daniel Ricciardo had set the early pace with a lap of 1:42.966s. However he was forced to pull over at Luffield with a turbo issue, which forced a red flag while the Red Bull was recovered with ten minutes remaining on the clock.
Once the session resumed the times started to tumble rapidly as conditions began to improve. By the end of Q1 two drivers - Alonso and Ocon - even gambled on a switch to supersofts. Alonso was handsomely rewarded for his gamble as he topped the timesheets with 1.37.598s, over a second faster than Verstappen and Hamilton. Eliminated at the end of the first round were Lance Stroll (Williams), Kevin Magnussen (Haas) and the two Saubers of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson. They joined Daniel Ricciardo on the sidelines, the Australian's five place grid penalty for a gearbox change now entirely academic.
The rain had stopped by the time the remaining 15 cars came out for the start of Q2. Bottas came out on soft tyres while everyone else was straight on to supersofts. Even so, conditions still caught out the unwary - as Verstappen found with an early trip into the Copse run-off. Gradually the track began to dry out and each passing lap saw new fastest times being posted.
Hamilton ended up with by far the best time of the round with 1:27.893s on his final run. It was more than eight tenths faster than his team mate, and over a second clear of both Vettel and Raikkonen. Missing out on progressing to the final round by just 0.088s was Renault's Jolyon Palmer. Also eliminated at the end of Q2 were Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso), Alonso, Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso) and Felipe Massa (Williams).
Bottas laid down the gauntlet at the start of Q3 with a time of 1:27.580s, but Hamilton immediately responded with a lap 0.349s faster. Vettel inserted himself into provisional second place, albeit still two tenths off Hamilton's benchmark. Hamilton pulled away even further with his final run to seal the top spot and equal Jim Clark's record of five British Grand Prix pole positions.
Bottas aborted his own final run after an early mistake at turn 3. His compatriot Raikkonen pulled out something special on his last run to take second ahead of Vettel, who was frustrated by his own final push.
British Grand Prix - Qualifying results
|5||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1:38.912s||1:29.431s||1:28.130s|
|7||Sergio Pérez||Force India||1:42.009s||1:29.824s||1:28.902s|
|8||Esteban Ocon||Force India||1:39.738s||1:29.701s||1:29.074s|
|12||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||1:41.726s||1:30.355s|
|14||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||1:41.114s||1:31.368s|
|20||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1:42.966s|