Lewis Hamilton held his nerve to grab pole position ahead of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg for Sunday’s British Grand Prix with a spectacular lap in the final seconds of an intense qualifying session.
The defending three-time world champion, who had his first flying run in Q3 deleted because he ran off the track, outpaced the championship leader and his rival Rosberg with a lap in one minute and 29.287 seconds on Saturday.
This lifted him clear of the German by three-tenths of a second and ensured they start together on the front row again, a week after their last-lap crash in Austria, where Hamilton seized a controversial victory.
It was in-form Hamilton’s fourth pole at the British Grand Prix, his sixth this season and the 55th of his career.
“Honestly, it energises me, and I don’t know why,” said Hamilton, when asked about the pressure.
“Those moments are when I am most excited.
“Being under pressure is something not to shy away from, something to attack full on and that is generally what I try to do.
“Every single lap I go out, and every single corner I see the crowd, they wave. There is nowhere in the world I can ever experience that — and I wish people could feel what I feel.
“When I look and see the flags waving, it is very reminiscent of when I was growing up – I appreciate it more than anything, and that is why I did the lap.”
“I had touched the kerb and the car bottomed and that pulled me wide,” Hamilton, who is closing on the 11-point gap to Rosberg, explained of his disqualified lap.
Dutch teenager Max Verstappen was third fastest ahead of his Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo of Australia, Finn Kimi Raikkonen and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, both of Ferrari, with Finn Valtteri Bottas of Williams seventh.
Vettel, however, will start 11th after taking a five-place penalty for a gearbox change.
German Nico Hulkenberg was eighth for Force India ahead of the two Spaniards Carlos Sainz of Toro Rosso and two-time champion Fernando Alonso in the resurgent McLaren.
Like Hamilton, Alonso had his best lap deleted for “exceeding the track limits”, an action that dropped him from eighth to 10th.
Qualifying, which was run in cool, windy and cloudy conditions, saw an early elimination for luckless home hero Jenson Button of McLaren.
And Swede Marcus Ericsson in the second Sauber did not take part following his massive crash in final practice earlier on Saturday. He was sent to hospital as a precautionary measure but did not appear badly hurt.
Button, the 2009 world champion, had been unable to make a second run due to technical problems and was given a standing ovation by the crowd. In 16 seasons, he has never finished on the podium.
In Q2, the Silver Arrows of Mercedes led the way again and, after Rosberg clocked 1:29.970, Hamilton immediately smashed the circuit lap record with a lap in 1:29.243.
On their first runs in Q3, Hamilton was fastest again by three-tenths ahead of Rosberg, to the delight of his home support, whose applause was abruptly halted when the champion’s lap was deleted because he had run off track at Copse Corner.
This relegated Hamilton to a lowly 10th, but he was soon out again with less than three minutes remaining –- and responded under pressure with a searing lap to grab pole.
Hamilton said he did not expect Mercedes’ new ‘rules of engagement’ to change the way he started Sunday’s race or competed with Rosberg.
“Tomorrow we are going to race, race like we always do,” he said.
“Of course, what we have been told this weekend, we are aware of so it will be at the back of our minds, but doesn’t mean we will not continue to drive hard as we always have.
“Tomorrow the start is the same ” – Agence France-Presse