Fernando Alonso claimed third British Grand Prix pole position as he beat out Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber with a last-ditch flying lap in a rain-hit qualifying session at Silverstone.
After an hour-long delay in Q2 dure to heavy rain, race organisers grabbed a small window between the showers to complete the second session and then, as rain began to fall again at the end of the top-10 shoot out, Webber slotted into provisional pole position with a superb time of 1:51.793. Behind him, though, a stream of drivers, including Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher, recorded personal best and session best sector times. Ultimately, however, the two Germans fell short of the mark and the Mercedes man and the defending champion will line up third and fourth respectively tomorrow.
Alonso, though, wouldn’t be denied and with a final flying effort dragged his Ferrari F2012 in front of Webber’s RB8, to the tune of just five hundredths of a second. It represents the Spaniard’s and Ferrari’s first pole since Singapore 2010 and after the session, Alonso admitted it was unexpected.
“It’s always a surprise to be on pole position because you know that in these conditions it’s always difficult to beat some of the guys and we maybe feel more confident in dry conditions,” he said, “In wet conditions you never know. You need to be in the right place in the right moment, with the circuit in the best condition possible when you do the lap, and that lap has to be clean without huge mistakes.
“I’m very happy with this pole position after nearly two years – for Ferrari that’s a long time,” he added. “But tomorrow is the race and with these weather conditions this qualifying session becomes one of the less important ones of the year because everything will mix up after a few laps tomorrow maybe. However, for visibility and things like that it’s always better to start at the front, so I’m very happy.”
Webber, meanwhile was pleased with his efforts in securing a third front-row start at Silverstone in a row.
“It was a very tight session,” he said. “Ultimately, you don’t know how you’re going, you’re completely focused on yourself, putting a lap together. Obviously, in a session like this when you’ve got five or 10 seconds [difference in lap time] between one session and the there’s a huge amount down to the driver to get comfortable in the conditions, also with the car. It was nip and tuck with Fernando for the pole. I think ultimately we put a pretty good lap together.”
Schumacher admitted that his session almost ended in Q2 when a mistake saw him spin.
“It was a bit of an exciting session today, particularly Q2 where I had the wrong visor on, one that didn’t have anti-fog,” he said. “I didn't have much visibility and found myself sideways in Becketts. But we recovered well in the delay and got back in our rhythm. I think we look reasonably competitive in wet conditions – either on intermediate or heavy wet – so therefore rain is welcome tomorrow.”
For Sebastian Vettel, however, the final session was something of a missed opportunity. The defending champion notched the fastest mid-sector on his final lap but couldn’t do likewise in the final part of the lap and had to settle for fourth.
“A tough day,” he said afterwards. “It was difficult in the end with only one lap where the conditions were best. I think I should have been a bit quicker but that’s life. Probably it will be the same weather tomorrow, so we’ll see what happens. It’s going to be a long race and we are at the front, which is good.”