SILVERSTONE, United Kingdom: Lewis Hamilton moved to third place on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) in the list of all-time Formula One pole sitters when he secured his eighth pole spot in nine races for Sunday’s British Grand Prix.
Responding to a below-par run in practice on Friday, the series leader and defending two-time world champion made the most of overnight improvements to his car — and passionate support from his home fans — to beat his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg by a tenth of a second in a tense qualifying session at Silverstone.
The 30-year-old Briton clocked a best time of one minute and 32.248 seconds on his first run to beat the German by one-tenth of a second. Neither man improved on their final runs in the final seconds.
Hamilton’s success gave him his second successive pole for his home race.
It is also the 46th pole position of his career, a total that took him one ahead of four-time champion German Sebastian Vettel, who has taken 45, and leaves only seven-time champion German Michael Schumacher, with 68, and three-time champion Brazilian Ayrton Senna, on 65, ahead.
His success also gives him a good chance to increase his 10-points lead ahead of Rosberg in the championship, if he can win Sunday’s 52-laps race.
“It’s a very special day, for me to take pole here,” said Hamilton. “The fans give me such motivation and I thank them all for their support.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling.
“Generally, it hasn’t been the smoothest weekend. I made a change in the car before qualifying, which hopefully will be good for the race.”
Rosberg had looked likely to be quickest, but said he had problems with ‘the left front’ of his car.
“My first lap was really good, but Lewis was one-tenth quicker—which is annoying, but that’s the way it is. There was something wrong and we need to look at it.”
Like Hamilton, he praised the crowd.
“It’s awesome to see how many people and here and great to see how enthusiastic everyone is about our sport.”
Massa was the only leading driver to improve on his final run.
He said: “It is a fantastic day for us. It is amazing to see how many people are here, it is the home grand prix for the team (Williams) and it is great to see. I hope we can have a strong race and fight with Ferrari.”
The Mercedes team’s success gave them a seventh front row lockout this season, a statistic that confirms the supremacy of the Silver Arrows cars.
In a surprising last push, the two Williams cars of Brazilian Felipe Massa and Finn Valtteri Bottas took third and fourth ahead of an all-Ferrari row three to be filled by Finn Kimi Raikkonen and four-time champion German Sebastian Vettel.
Russian Daniil Kvyat was seventh for Red Bull ahead of Spaniard Carlos Sainz of Toro Rosso, German Nico Hulkenberg of Force India and Australian Daniel Ricciardo in the second Red Bull.
Ricciardo was one of several drivers who suffered for having a lap deleted for running off circuit at Copse to gain an advantage.
Raikkonen also got penalised after posting a fast lap. This left the indignant Finn, who believed he was permitted two wheels on the kerb, facing an exit before the top-ten shootout. He squeezed through in ninth with another lap.
The travails of the hapless McLaren team continued apace with both their former world champions Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button failing to qualify even for the second session and will start on the ninth row of the grid.
It was the first time since the Chinese Grand Prix in April that both McLarens were eliminated in Q1.