Fernando Alonso took pole position at Silverstone – Ferrari's first since Singapore 2010 – in a qualifying session that lasted over two-and-a-half hours.
After a 93-minute rain delay during Q2, the Spaniard narrowly snuck through into Q3 before beating Mark Webber into pole after a tight dual.
Michael Schumacher, who had his fair share of off-track excursions throughout the long qualifying session, leads an all-German second row with Sebastian Vettel.
Lewis Hamilton had trouble finding grip during Q3, and could only manage eighth place. McLaren team-mate and fellow Brit Jenson Button had a much worse day though – he failed to make it out of Q1.
Paul di Resta, who is also celebrating his home race this weekend, narrowly missed out on Q3, and qualified eleventh.
Umbrellas were going up all around the grandstands as qualifying began, as steady rain began to fall over Silverstone. Intermediate tyres were needed on the cars as they headed out of their garages to queue at the end of the pit lane, waiting for the start of the session.
There were predictions of worse weather on the way, and drivers needed to get a good lap in early if they were going to progress any further into the session.
All 24 drivers went out on track and remained there, doing multiple laps to ensure they were on the limit when track conditions were optimal. Timesheets were constantly changing, with no driver remaining top of the pile for any length of time.
The track continued to get faster, but drivers had to come back into the pits to take on some more fuel and head straight back outwards. The Sauber drivers attempted to go out on dry tyres with about five minutes of Q1 remaining, but then the rain got heavier and they had to come straight back in for intermediates.
In the final few minutes, it became clear that the Brits could be in trouble: Lewis Hamilton was fourteenth, Paul di Resta fifteenth, and Jenson Button was languishing in the drop zone.
For Button it boiled down to a final flying lap, and it was looking good through the first two sectors – a second-and-a-half up on the time he needed to make it through. Unfortunately for the Brit, it was wetter in the final sector of the lap, and then Timo Glock spun coming out of the final corner to leave his Marussia stricken across the start/finish straight. The resulting yellow flags meant that Button did not improve on his time.
Despite the chaos of Q1,the drivers qualifying behind Button were the usual suspects of Vitaly Petrov, Heikki Kovalainen, Timo Glock, Pedro de la Rosa, Narain Karthikeyan and Charles Pic. Pic's time was outside the 107% time, so the French rookie will need special dispensation from the stewards to race. He also has a 5-place grid penalty for a gearbox change, but clearly this will not affect Pic's starting position.
There was another queue at the end of the pit lane for the start of Q2. The rain was heavier, and most of the cars were out on the full-wet tyres.
The Ferrari and Williams duos were out on the intermediate tyres at the beginning of Q2, but it soon became clear that they were fighting a losing against the elements, and the four drivers were quickly back into the pits for the full wets.
Even on those heavily treaded tyres conditions were difficult. Michael Schumacher had a several off-track adventures, and had to reverse his way back onto the track after one. Fernando Alonso played dare with a wall as he slid across the grass, and a few others began to slide around uncontrollably.
Six minutes and nineteen seconds from the end of Q2, the red flag came out. Conditions had got too wet to continue. Sergio Perez was sitting top of the timesheets, with Hamilton second – the only two drivers to set laps below two minutes at this stage of Q2.
When the session restarted, over an hour-and-a-half after it was stopped, the sun was shining, and the track was drying. Some conjectured that it was dry enough for intermediate tyres, and the two Sauber drivers took that risk, but full-wets were the most popular choice as Q2 resumed.
Drivers were keen to get out on track as soon as the session restarted, so much so that Pastor Maldonado queued at the end of the pit lane for over three minutes waiting for a green light.
Kamui Kobayashi came back in to the pits very soon after heading out, clearly deciding that there was far too much standing water on track for their intermediate tyres. Team-mate Sergio Perez stayed out though, but finished the session bottom of the timesheets.
Romain Grosjean showed that the track was now faster than it had been in the early stages of by jumping to the top of the timesheets, and Fernando Alonso jumped up into second place. It was still treacherous out there though -Nico Rosberg found that out after he bounced across a gravel trap.
As Q2 came to an end, the times began to tumble, and the positions at the top of the timesheets continued to change hands.
Lewis Hamilton was at the sharp end of the timesheets when the clock stopped though, with Nico Hulkenberg second, Michael Schumacher third, and Mark Webber fourth. Romain Grosjean finished the session fifth, qualifying for Q3, but beached his car in the gravel in the closing stages of Q2.
Alonso and Sebastian Vettel just snuck through into Q2, finishing ninth and tenth. Paul di Resta, Kobayashi, Rosberg, Daniel Ricciardo, Bruno Senna, Jean-Eric Vergne and Perez were all out.
Kobayashi will drop five grid places from his twelfth place in qualifying thanks to a penalty hanging over him from Valencia. Vergne will drop ten places from P16 – he also has a penalty from the last race.
Maldonado was again first out for Q3. He and Williams had picked intermediate tyres for this final part of qualifying and the Venezuelan had enough fuel on-board to stay out until the chequered flag dropped.
Maldonado's tyre choice was not followed by everybody – Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen began Q3 on the full-wet tyres. Despite a 1:54.091 from Schumacher suggesting that the wet tyres were the correct choice, Alonso then beat that time with a 1:53.699 on the intermediates.
This prompted Schumacher to dive back into the pits for a set of the green-liveried intermediates, just as Alonso went faster – a 1:52.544 this time.
Felipe Massa was also quick, and it seemed that only the Red Bull drivers could get close to the two Ferrari drivers under the grey, threatening skies of Silverstone.
Mark Webber showed the true Red Bull pace by putting in a lap of 1:51.793 to take provisional pole, before Alonso bettered that with a 1:51.746.
Nico Hulkenberg finished the session ninth, but will drop five place after a gearbox change this morning.