Lewis Hamilton declared before the British Grand Prix weekend that his head was in a better space, and duly proved it by storming to pole position for his home race at Silverstone, as Mercedes annexed the front row with Nico Rosberg second fastest.
In fact the smart money would have been on Rosberg doing the business in qualifying as he appeared to have the edge over Hamilton during the the free practice sessions. Hamilton even went as far as to admit that he was struggling to find the comfort zone in the cockpit.
But when it mattered Hamilton dug deep, perhaps inspired by the partisan crowd urging him on, to snatch pole with his final lap after Rosberg had knocked him off the top perch, albeit briefly.
The only other time Hamilton started from pole on home soil was in his rookie year, in 2007 when he started from top spot for McLaren At the time it was only his 3rd Formula 1 career pole, this time around it was his 28th top spot start.
Mercedes, with their W04, have the quickest car over a single lap or on short runs and this has been the case since for a number of races now. However their race pace and ability to nurture tyres has let them down. A sure sign of a step forward for the Silver Arrows will be their ability now to translate an all silver front row start to one-two on the podium.
Hamilton, who was the only driver to dip below the 90 second mark. soaked up the moment, “It’s an incredible feeling – it feels like [his previous Silverstone pole] 2007. The crowd have been great – such a great turnout – that was a lap for them. I hope we can do something special in the race. It’s phenomenal because I haven’t been feeling 100% comfortable in the car.”
“The support has been incredible. Big thank you – it means the world to me to be able to put it on the front row for them. This is the first year I had a car to put it where I wanted to put it.”
“I think it’ll be tough tomorrow – we have not made huge strides in race pace, but our long-run pace has not been so far off. In Montreal we were half a second off the Red Bull and Ferrari, but here it was not as big a deficit. I’m just going to gun it tomorrow and hope for the best.”
Credit to Rosberg for pushing hard all the way, pole was his momentarily until his teammate snatched it by a big chunk of time.
“It’s definitely a great feeling to have the fastest car and the Mercedes team did a great job. We are confident we have improved and some of the other cars may be better than us but finishing top two can only be good for us,” said Rosberg.
He added, “I’ve got mixed emotions as I would love to have finished ahead of my team-mate. But it’s a great feeling to go into the race with such a good car. Handling hasn’t been the best but the car has been very quick. As a team we are doing a great job.”
“We are making progress with our tyre management but know that some other teams are maybe better. I hope that eventually we can do races as quickly as we have been doing qualifying.”
Best of the rest were the Red Bull pair with Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber ending the session third and fourth respectively, ensuring an all Red Bull second row. With a strong race pace and proven winning track record this season, they must fancy their chances of overturning the Mercedes advantage in race trim.
Vettel said afterwards, “We will see what happens tomorrow. It is a long race. I’m honestly very happy today. I don’t know if Lewis [Hamilton] found a short cut or he just found something special here – it was a phenomenal lap. It is always nice to position well in qualifying here. I am looking forward to the race tomorrow and we will see how we are with looking after tyres.”
Paul di Resta, another driver inspired to be on home turf, will start from fifth as Force Ibndia showed strong pace throughout the weekend which also translated into a solid qualifying performance across the road from their factory. Adrian Sutil was seventh fastest.
“I think I will sleep quite well tonight,” said Di Resta. “A lot of work to be done but a great result for the boys on home soil. The stands were full, the sun finally came out to play and hopefully we can score some good points tomorrow.”
Splitting the Force India pair, was Daniel Ricciardo who will start sixth in the Toro Rosso. The young Australian, by design or coincidence, timing his good form perfectly as he is very much in the spotlight in the wake of Webber’s decision to quit F1 at the end of 2013 and in so doing making available one of the most coveted race seats in motorsport.
Ricciardo’s heroics on the day will not have gone unnoticed. His teammate Jean Eric Vergne, also a candidate for promotion to partner Vettel, failed to make it beyond Q2 and will start 13th.
“It has been looking pretty good. The first two days have gone well. It is nice to confirm the speed we have,” said Ricciardo afterwards.
Romain Grosjean was the quicker of the Lotus duo, setting the eighth best time with Kimi Raikkonen ninth fastest – the difference between the boys in black and gold a mere 0.007 seconds!
Rounding out the top ten was Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari. Clearly the Maranello squad have not progressed with their latest development of the F138. Both drivers struggled, Felipe Massa more so than Alonso.
“We were not competitive all weekend and it’s not normal to see Ferrari out of Q3. We need to recover now and it was a bad Saturday. We didn’t improve the car enough in the last four to five races and we ordered some new parts but they didn’t do what we expected. We need to keep on working,” reflected Alonso.
It was also a forgettable day for two legendary British teams, as both Williams and Mclaren were woefully off the pace and never really in Q3 contention.
Williams are celebrating their 600th race weekend, and simply do not have the car for their drivers to make the most of a momentous occasion. Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas toiled hard for the meagre reward of 16th and 17th on the grid.
For McLaren the situation was almost as dire, as both drivers headed off for an early shower having failed to make it into Q3 for the second time in a two races. Jenson Button will start from 11th and Sergio Perez from 14th.
Button tried to see the bright side of a bleak scenario, “It is quite surprising with the way the car felt. It was very difficult getting the tyres working correctly. It is not great but it is a little less bad, is probably the right way to say it. If we had qualified into Q3 we would probably have been P10 so it is not so bad.” (GP247)
British Grand Prix, Qualifying – Saturday, 29 June 2013
|3||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:31.559||1:30.990||1:30.211||14|
|4||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:31.605||1:31.002||1:30.220||15|
|5||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:32.062||1:31.291||1:30.736||19|
|7||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:32.002||1:31.097||1:30.908||17|
|21||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:35.481||3|
|Q1 107% Time||1:37.364|