Silverstone: Nico Rosberg dealt teammate Lewis Hamilton a crucial blow in the title fight by seizing a dominant pole position on the Briton's home turf in the dying seconds of a tricky qualifying session for the British Grand Prix on Saturday.
Rosberg celebrates his pole position on Saturday. Pic/AFP.
Rosberg lapped the 5.8-kilometer long Silverstone circuit in one minute 35.766 seconds to take his third pole in four races, even as title-rival Hamilton could only manage the sixth fastest time.
“Yeah, I mean, a quite crazy qualifying, just changing all the time and that makes it very, very difficult,” Rosberg said after the session. “It’s fantastic to have such a qualifying, where everything goes well in the end and a comfortable pole in the end. “It’s awesome.”
Hamilton, who trails Rosberg by 29 points in the standings, had been on provisional pole as the hour-long session approached its climax. But the 2008 world champion decided to abort his final attempt after a mistake in the damp and greasy conditions, leaving the way clear for Rosberg to take advantage of what turned out to be a rapidly improving track and storm to a dominant pole.
Hamilton hasn’t won a race since the Spanish Grand Prix in May. The 29-year-old has been outscored by Rosberg in the last three races and had been desperately hoping to turn the tide in the title fight back in his favour starting this weekend.
Instead, his qualifying error means he heads into Sunday’s race on the back foot and boosts Rosberg’s chances of further stretching his legs at the top of the standings.
“Yeah, of course with regards to the championship, it’s good for me that Lewis is down in sixth,” Rosberg said. “It will take him some time to fight through, though I expect him to come through quite quickly,” he added.
Vettel in front row
Hamilton’s decision to abort his final lap also allowed reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel to match his best qualifying result of the season.
The German will start on the front row after setting the second-fastest time, albeit a mammoth 1.6 seconds slower than Rosberg’s benchmark.
“It was a very weird session. A lot of rain, no rain, drizzling, very fine rain, nearly like spray: I think England is the only country where you can get this sort of rain and conditions and changing so quickly,” Vettel said. “So obviously very happy that it turned out. Yeah, very positive and starting from the front row tomorrow.”
McLaren’s Jenson Button gave the disappointed British fans something to cheer about by going third quickest. The 34-year-old, is paying tribute to his late father John this weekend, will be hoping he can carry the result through to Sunday and end his podium duck at home on what is an emotional weekend for him.
“For me it was obviously quite an emotional slowing down lap,” said Button, sporting a pink helmet this weekend in memory of his father who passed away in January and traditionally wore a lucky pink shirt at the races.
“When you do a lap that you’re happy with, and it’s in front of your home crowd and I knew the Old Boy would have been very happy, it would have meant a lot. “Yeah, a good day today and he’s definitely smiling down today,” the 2009 world champion said.
After a bright and sunny opening day of practice that saw the two Mercedes dominate, the fickle British summer weather played its hand on Saturday.
The drizzle that continued to fall intermittently through the qualifying hour shuffled the pack and turned the fight for pole position into a lottery with some big names falling by the wayside. Williams, who had locked out the front row only two weeks ago in Austria, were caught out by the tricky conditions and failed to progress beyond the opening 18-minute session of qualifying.
Valtteri Bottas set the seventeeth fastest time while Austria pole-sitter Felipe Massa will start eighteenth. The two Ferraris suffered a similar fate, with Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen joining the two Williams cars and perennial backmarkers Caterham in the bottom seven.
“When it rains in qualifying, it’s always a lottery, it can go well or it can go badly,” Alonso said. “One thing for sure, is that starting further back, we will see a lot of action.”