TOWCESTER, England – Lewis Hamilton had pole position for his home race in the bag as he backed off and headed into the pits right at the end of Q3, but by the time he arrived there he had been bumped down to sixth in a topsy-turvy qualifying session held in changeable conditions at Silverstone on Saturday.
And just to compound the local hero’s agony, pole finally went to his Mercedes teammate, Nico Rosberg.
Defending World Champion Sebastian Vettel qualified his Red Bull second, with British driver Jenson Button qualifying third in a McLaren.
Red Bull only just made it out of Q1. As Rosberg went fastest at 1:40.380, Daniel Ricciardo’s best was 1:44.710, Vettel’s 1:45.086, both from their intermediate runs, leaving them 15th and 16th.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was the first to be ruled out of contention after getting into a big slide at Brooklands. The Spaniard recorded 1:45.935 on intermediates for 19th, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen at 1:46.684 in 20th.
Everyone began Q3 on slicks, and after the first runs Hamilton’s 1:39.232 left him fastest ahead of Rosberg and Sergio Perez. Then it began to rain again, and as Hamilton dawdled round for what looked like being an abortive second run, Rosberg exhorted his team to tell him to speed up.
Like everyone else, Hamilton could feel how slippery it was and was told by his team either to get going or back off and let Rosberg by. He chose the latter after they had both just beaten the checkered flag, and elected to head for the pits. By the time he got there, Nico Hulkenberg had sprung to the top of the timesheets with 1:38.32 for Force India before instantly being bundled off by Vettel’s revived Red Bull at 1:37.386.
Then Hamilton dropped another place as Button snatched third with 1:38.200 before suddenly Rosberg was right there with a dramatic 1m 35.766s. Conditions had suddenly improved so much in Sector three that quicker times were, after all, possible.
By the time McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen had done 1:8.417 for fifth, a deeply disgruntled Hamilton was down to sixth and seething with himself.
Behind the top six, Perez didn’t make it across the line in time for a final run, but his 1:40.457 was good enough for seventh. Behind the Mexican were Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo at 1:40.457 and the Toro Rossos of Daniil Kvyat and Jean-Eric Vergne with 1:40.707 and 1:40.855. All three drivers elected not to complete a second run in Q3.