Nico Rosberg snatched pole position at the death and will lead the way in the British Grand Prix after an enthralling qualifying session at Silverstone. The Mercedes driver will be joined on the front row by Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, while McLaren’s Jenson Button showcased his acumen in tricky conditions by snaffling third position.
Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg will start in fourth position, while Button's teammate Kevin Magnussen will be right behind him in fifth. Mercedes man Lewis Hamilton will be disappointed with his performance; he'll start in sixth place.
Trailing the Brit was Force India's Sergio Perez, while Daniel Ricciardo could only manage eighth in his Red Bull. The Toro Rosso pairing of Daniil Kvyat and Jean-Eric Vergne will start in ninth and 10th, respectively.
Typically the first qualifying phase is a battle between the usual suspects at the back of the grid, but we were in for a surprise. The rain we’d seen earlier in the day prompted most of the drivers to start on tyres tailored to wet conditions, but the track was getting drier and drier throughout the session.
It gave the lesser teams a chance to take a risk, gambling on slick tyres and posting fast times with the clock ticking down. But such were the time limitations, a host of teams didn’t react quickly enough and were stranded.
So by the end of Q1, Caterham drivers Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson both found themselves in the bottom six, but remarkably, they were joined by the Ferrari duo of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, and the Williams pair of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas.
Alonso put the qualifying performance down to a combination of bad luck and poor decision making, per BBC Sport:
It happens sometimes in this weather, 30 second before or later, you put the right tyre on and you are the hero or you have made a mistake.
We are here in the TV compound, two Ferrari drivers and two Williams drivers, it's something we did wrong compared to other teams. We need to study what happened.
The track continued to improve throughout Q2 and the drivers quickly switched to slicks. It meant that times atop of the leader board were posted and quickly chalked off as the top drivers started to discover more grip around the Silverstone circuit.
Despite having two drivers in Q2, Marussia were to be denied their first ever appearance in the final qualifying session, as Max Chilton—who will be subject to a five-place grid penalty—and Jules Bianchi finished in 13th and 12th position, respectively.
Joining them in the drop zone was the Sauber duo of Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez—who finished in 16th and 14th, respectively—and the Lotus pair of Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean, who ended up in 15th and 11th, respectively.
That paved the way for an engrossing final qualifying session. As soon as the drivers went out, rain began to fall, meaning that with the possibility of deteriorating conditions, the first hot lap was crucial. Nine drivers went out, and Hamilton just edged out Rosberg for first place as the drivers struggled to cope with a slippery track on the wrong tyre compound.
Vettel was the only driver not to set a time in the first round of laps and with the rain getting heavier, there looked to be little he could do to haul himself up the leaderboard. With the conditions worsening, there were also concerns about whether or not the drivers would come out for a second lap.
Button emerged, though, and seven other drivers followed suit. But the track looked to be extremely imbalanced in the opening stages and there seemed to be little chance of pole position being challenged.
But there was to be a major sting in the tail. In the final sector—where the rain hit in the first round of laps—the drivers found massive amounts of time where the track had dried.
Hulkenberg initially seized pole, Button was just behind and Vettel trumped them both. Mercedes were not to be denied, however, and Rosberg stormed through to take pole position in the most dramatic of circumstances; the German only just made it over the start/finish line to begin his hot lap.
After starting another lap Hamilton backed out and he could only watch on as driver after driver bettered his time. When pressed on what had happened, the Brit seemed dismayed by the incident, per BBC Sport, stating that "I don't know, I don't have much of an answer. I just decided not to do the lap".
His teammate Rosberg was in much better spirits, as you might expect, per BBC Sport:
It was definitely quite crazy - certainly in first qualifying it was and last qualifying also.
The tyres were still drying out so we lost time on the out lap. We sat in the garage and eventually came to the conclusion that we might as well go out out and have a look.
Then it seemed like it was worth it because the last part of the lap was very dry. It was a great team effort.
To top off the wildness, Pastor Maldonado was moved to the back of the pack for failing to provide a sufficient fuel sample, according to Sky Sports:
Pastor Maldonado has been sent to the back of the grid for Sunday’s British Grand Prix after his Lotus was found not to have enough fuel to provide a sample following qualifying.
The Venezuelan had qualified in 15th place, but failed to make it back to the pits following Q2 after the Enstone team ordered him to switch the car off due to a fuel pressure problem.
Maldonado will be allowed to start ahead of the Caterham’s of Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson, however, as they failed to set a time within 107% of the quickest Q1 time.
After a crazy qualifying stint, we’re set for a stormer of a race tomorrow. With the four cars in the bottom six certain to move through the field at a brisk pace, that will ensure a host of frenetic overtaking throughout the afternoon, as a host of lesser cars do their best to hold off the challenge from some of the best drivers in the business.
At very front, Rosberg looks likely to extend his 22-point lead at the top of the World Championship standings. Hamilton will be left to rue his decision not to complete the final lap and he’ll be hoping for comparably changeable conditions similar to the ones that bewitched him in the final stages of qualifying if he's to have any chance in Sunday's race.
Full qualifying results courtesy of Formula1.com
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Note—Gutierrez drops 10 places for unsafe release at previous round; Chilton drops fives for unscheduled gearbox change.