Lewis Hamilton scored a record-equalling fifth pole position at Silverstone – his fourth in a row – sweeping aside both Ferraris and his team-mate Valtteri Bottas by a considerable margin.
The Mercedes had shown the strongest pace of all during free practice, and the Brit converted this promising speed into a dominant qualifying performance, improving by over half a second during his final Q3 run.
Nearly six tenths down was the lead Ferrari of Kimi Räikkönen, who was in turn a quarter of a second up on current championship leader Sebastian Vettel in the sister car. Vettel was angry at his own team immediately after the chequered flag dropped, complaining on the radio of their management of his position when exiting the pits for his outlap, ahead of a final attempt at pole.
Bottas was fourth fastest, having made multiple mistakes during his last run during Q3, which left him to rely on his first time set earlier in the session. This means he will start all the way down in ninth place, having incurred a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change.
Max Verstappen will line up in fifth, the only Red Bull to feature in Q3. Daniel Ricciardo in the second car knew going into qualifying he would be handed a five place penalty for a gearbox change, but his Saturday turned even more miserable as a turbo failure put him out of qualifying altogether, ending with the slowest time of all as conditions improved towards the end of Q1.
Nico Hulkenberg enjoyed his best qualifying performance of the season, taking advantage of new upgrades to his Renault for Silverstone to take sixth place in the timesheets, which becomes a top five grid position after Bottas’ grid drop.
The Force India pair of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon were ever present in Q3, with Ocon’s bravery as one of the first drivers onto supersofts in both Q1 and Q2 ultimately not paying any extra dividends beyond safe passage into the final qualifying session.
McLaren had one of their strongest days of the season, as Stoffel Vandoorne out-qualified his world champion team-mate for only the second time this season in ninth. Fernando Alonso had an enjoyable Q1, using the changeable conditions to set the fastest time of all in the first round of eliminations. The Spaniard took advantage of a late switch to supersoft tyres whilst the majority of the field were still on intermediates to go 1.3 seconds faster than Verstappen, but with no such joker to play in Q2, could only manage 13th fastest overall. He will start from the rear regardless thanks to 30 places worth of grid penalties to serve for various component changes to his Honda power unit before qualifying.
Romain Grosjean was left to carry the flag for Haas, scraping into Q3 but unable to elevate himself from the bottom of the standings in the last session and settling for tenth. This was in stark contrast still to Kevin Magnussen in the other Haas, eliminated in Q1 by managing only the 17th fastest time.
Jolyon Palmer was the fastest driver not to make the cut in Q2, left at a disadvantage compared to his team-mate thanks to Renault only having a floor upgrade available for Hulkenberg’s car. Behind him, Alonso had split the Toro Rossos, and Williams were left similarly devoid of pace as in Austria, the high speed corners unsettling the cars of both Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll.
The inclement weather during Q1 gave Sauber the consolation of closing up the vast chasm between themselves and the midfield seen in practice down to only a couple of tenths. Pascal Wehrlein recovered from engine issues on Friday to pip team-mate Marcus Ericsson for what will become 17th place after Alonso’s penalty is enacted.
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* Five place grid penalty due to gearbox change
** Thirty place grid penalty due to engine component & battery changes