Dramatic finish to rain-hit qualifying sees Vettel on front row, with Button third as Hamilton finishes six
Nico Rosberg took his fourth pole position of the season in dramatic style at Silverstone , the German snatching top spot in the session in the final corners of his final lap in a rain-hit session that saw championship rival Lewis Hamilton finish sixth after abandoninghis final run.
Behind Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel claimed his first front row start since the Malaysian Grand Prix and Jenson Button grabbed a surprise third spot for McLaren at his and his team’s home race.
The session opened in relatively dry conditions and after banker laps on intermediate tyres, which left Hamilton in charge, ahead of Ricciardo. Throughout the opening laps, however, drivers were reporting that the track was dry enough for slick tyres.
Kobayashi was the first take on mediums but was soon back in the pits with a technical problem. The Japanese driver finished outside the 107 per cent cut-off, as did team-mate Marcus Ericsson.
The switch to slick rubber sparked a chaotic final few minutes as the field desperately tried to exploit the improved conditions. In the scramble for lap tyime it was perhaps inevitable that some would be caught out, either by traffic or by the conditions, as rain began to fall again in the closing moments.
The surprise was that it was Ferrari and Williams in trouble. Fernando Alonso spun on his final flyer and missed the cut, finish in 19th place, one ahead of Raikkonen, who had to abandon his run due to yellow flags brought out by spins elsewhere. Williams’ Valtteri Bottas was 17th, ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa, both drivers having wild slides during their final laps.
Elsewhere FP3’s quickest man, Sebastian Vettel scraped through in 16th, behind team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. Jenson Button was fortunate, too, making it through to Q2 in 14th place despite having his best lap deleted for exceeding track limits.
Q2 offered more uncertainty. The start of the segment was run on intermediate tyres following the shower at the end of Q1 but halfway through the track dried sufficiently for slicks to be used and again there was a scramble to put in a good lap. This time though, no front-runners were caught out and eliminated were Romain Grosjean, Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton (who delivered an excellent performance for Marussia), Esteban Gutierrez, Pastor Maldonado and Adrian Sutil. It was a rough session for Sauber. Sutil did not take part in Q2 having spun out in Q1 and late in Q2 Gutierrez also spun off, the rear of his Sauber hitting the barriers hard.
Top spot in Q2 was occupied by Hamilton, the Briton recording a lap of 1:34.870, three tenths clear of team-mate Rosberg but a huge 1.4s ahead of third-placed Vettel.
The final session was as thrilling and surprising as the first. The timesheet after the first runs had a predictable look to it, with Hamilton on top ahead of Rosberg. But with five minutes to go the track conditions again became marginal. Button was told to pit and adopt a wait and see attitude.
When the time came to gamble or stay put however, some were once again caught out. Lewis Hamilton was one of them. The Briton went out but seemed to decide there was no time to be gained so abandoned his lap. Rosberg, by contrast, along with several others, felt differently.
Sebastian Vettel claimed provisional pole but Rosberg had yet to cross the line. When he did so the gap was huge, with the German having almost 1.4s over Vettel. Button was a surprise third for McLaren, with Nico Hulkenberg fourth for Force India. Kevin Magnussen completed a good day for McLaren by taking fifth place and Hamilton qualified sixth. Seventh place went to Sergio Perez in the second Force India, ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in the second Red Bull. The final top 10 positions were filled by the Toro Rossos of Daniil Kvyat and Jean-Eric Vergne respectively.
1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 3. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 4. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 5. Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 6. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 7. Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 8. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault9. Daniil Kvyat STR-Renault 10 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Renault 11 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 12 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 14 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 15 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 16 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 17 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 18 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 19 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 120 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 21 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 22 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari
Gutierrez qualified 14th, dropped 10 places for unsafe release at previous round; Chilton qualified 13th, dropped 5 for unscheduled gearbox change. Ericsson, Kobayashi fail to meet Q1 107% requirement - race at stewards' discretion.