A dramatic rain-hit qualifying session for this weekend’s British Grand Prix ended with Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel securing an all-German front row, and with Jenson Button as the top British driver in 3rd after a terrible error by Lewis Hamilton saw his provisional pole seized by his rivals.
Hamilton entered Q3 as the favourite following Mercedes dominance of the first two sessions, and delivered the fastest time on the driver’s first runs when a rain shower swept across Stowe and Club corners, hindering many running behind Hamilton, Rosberg and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo who was 3rd quickest initially.
Optimistically, most of the drivers – with the exception of Ricciardo, Sergio Perez and the Toro Rosso duo of Jean Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat – elected to try one last attempt on the dry Pirelli tyres in the dying minutes of the session. There were no improvements throuhg sector one and two from Rosberg or Vettel, and the apparent lack of grip persuaded Hamilton to abort his lap and head for the pitlane after backing off in order to impede Rosberg who was following closely behind.
As Hamilton entered the pitlane, Nico Hulkenberg stunned the crowd who were confident Hamilton had done enough on his first run, by taking pole position; but the new time stood for ony a second or two as Vettel, Button and finally Rosberg flooded across the line to take the top three positions, while Kevin Magnussen managed to slot his own McLaren into 5th to compound Hamilton’s misery. His mistake led to more theatricals from the Briton in the press pen afterwards as he bluntly batted away questions from the world’s journalists.
The decision not to run cost Ricciardo, Perez and the Toro Rosso’s dear as they slumped to the back end of the top ten, but the real surprise was that all this took place without Ferrari and Williams, with both teams crashing out of qualifying in Q1 when rain took them by surprise. Joining them was Caterham, while Marussia again proved superior to their rivals and progressed to Q2 to line up 12th (Bianchi) and 13th (Chilton) – though the Briton will take a five place grid penalty after a gearbox change in FP3.
CLASSIFICATION – Qualifying – British Grand Prix – 5th July 2014
*Five place grid penalty to be applied.