The preliminaries were dealt with in short order. The four main protagonists sailed through the first two segments without trouble. Using medium tyres the Mercedes duo took the top slots in Q1 with Vettel and Webber easing into Q2 in fifth and sixth places respectively, both using hard tyres.
The quartet was similarly untroubled in the second 15-minutes session, though this time it was the Red Bull pairing that took the top spots, with Vettel in P1.
Behind them the casualties were mounting. In Q1 the usual suspects dropped out but in Q2 it was another difficult session for McLaren and for the second race in a row the team saw neither of its drivers make it through to the top-10 shootout. Sergio Perez qualified in 14th position and Jenson Button in 11th place. It was a poor session for Ferrari as well. Felipe Massa, who crashed in FP2 yesterday, couldn’t find the pace required and he’ll start the British Grand Prix from 12th on the grid.
It was a different story for Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian put together a superb final flying lap in the segment to slot into fifth spot, only the third time in his career that he’s made it into Q3.
He couldn’t quite match the position in the final session but will line up an impressive sixth on the grid tomorrow, his best starting position since the Bahrain GP of last year, where he also qualified sixth.
With Toro Rosso looking competitive he should have been joined in the final shoot-out by team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne but the Frenchman made a mistake in the second sector during his second run when he overran a kerb and clattered across the dirt. Vergne had time for a second shot at the top 10 but in the end the pace eluded him and he will start 13th tomorrow.
The final session then shaped up as another battle between the Silvers Arrows and the Red Bulls. Hamilton struck the first blow, ending his opening run with a P1 time of 1:30.096 with Rosberg right behind, marginally in front of the twin Red Bulls.
With the clock edging into the final two minutes, the cars swept out on track for their final runs and for a moment it looked like Rosberg would claim the top spot, his lap of 1:30.059 being good enough to push Webber, who had secured provisional pole moments earlier, out to P2. But seconds later Hamilton swept across the line, eclipsing his team-mate by a whopping four tenths of a second.
Vettel followed and succeeded in dropping his team-mate down to fourth.
After Massa’s travails in Q2, in Q3 it was Fernando Alonso’s turn to suffer a slump and the Spaniard limped to 10th place, his worst qualifying position of the year and his worst Silverstone starting slot since 2009, his final year with Renault.
It wasn’t a good day for Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen either. The Finn, who will start ninth, was outqualified for the first time this year by team-mate Romain Grosjean, who will line up at the back of row four behind Force India’s Adrian Sutil. Paul Di Resta, meanwhile, had another positive Saturday, and the Scot will start from fifth on the grid.