British GP - Saturday - Qualifying Session Report
Webber takes Silverstone pole
Red Bull Racing once again claimed the front row of the grid for the British Grand Prix, but only by a small margin over Fernando Alonso's Ferrari.
For only the second time this year, Mark Webber (1:30.399) got the better of Sebastian Vettel (1:30.431) to claim an eighth career F1 pole. Extra pressure was applied by tricky conditions with rain in Q1 and at the end of Q3, which meant that only one run was available for those who made the top 10 shoot-out.
"I've always enjoyed driving here but you've got to put it all together," Webber said. "It was a mixed conditions session for all of us and it's easy to slip up logistically or in the cockpit in those circumstances."
"It's a shame that we didn't get the second run because I would have liked to challenge Mark," Vettel smiled, "but anything can happen tomorrow and this is quite a tough place on tyres."
Over the past few seasons, Red Bull has enjoyed a significant margin of superiority around the high-speed Silverstone and while they have once again eclipsed the opposition and there is a sizeable gap to all bar Ferrari, Alonso's was just 0.12s shy of Webber's pole.
Whether that is a function of the exhaust blown diffuser and engine mapping 'clarifications' or down to improvements made to the Ferrari chassis, will only become clear in time. We may not even get an answer in the race because at Barcelona the Ferrari drivers had problems generating heat in the hard compound Pirelli tyre, which is also a selection for this race.
"It's hard to know what to expect," Alonso admitted. "We didn't get the usual track time on the dry tyre on Friday and so I only have about five or six laps of data. But I'm very happy in terms of the gap to pole. It's our closest qualifying in terms of time because we've been around seven tenths to a second behind in qualifying at other races. This third place on the grid feels better than the second place in Canada."
Alonso (1:30.516) survived losing the Ferrari on the exit of Turn 6 and a trip through the gravel and will share the second row of the grid with Ferrari team mate Felipe Massa (1:31.124).
There will be an all-British third row of the grid but perhaps not the one expected. Jenson Button's McLaren (1:31.898) starts fifth, just three hundredths ahead of a superb effort from Force India's Paul di Resta (1:31.929) who, actually, does not have a great deal of experience of Silverstone.
Pastor Maldonado (1:31.933) was another man in blistering form. His second quickest time in Q1 came via use of the option tyre while most of the quick men were on the prime, but he showed that he and Williams were competitive propositions with a Q3 time (1:31.933) that was good enough for seventh fastest.
Kamui Kobayashi (1:32.128) will start eighth with the first Sauber-Ferrari, with Nico Rosberg (1:32.209) ninth in the first Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton (1:32.376) a disappointing tenth at his home race in the second McLaren. Michael Schumacher lines up 13th with the second Mercedes, 0.36s adrift of Rosberg in Q2.
"For Q3 we fitted a used set of option tyres for our first run when the others ran new tyres and that hurt our performance," Hamilton explained. "Then when we fitted new tyres for the final run, it started raining so I couldn't improve."
Webber denied that Silverstone qualifying was a Red Bull reply to the rules controversy that has so far clouded the Silverstone weekend as much as the rain.
"We're not looking to reply," he said. "It's hard to judge what is down to what when you go from circuit to circuit, but the car was never going to do a 180 degree about turn. Last year it was front wings and whatever, but for the last three years we've turned up very early and left very late and what is happening in the last few months is the result of years of hard work to put ourselves in that situation technically. I think we're still very, very good. The red cars are quicker here and there might be a bit of form starting to build, but we need to see a few more races."