Confusion reigns as Webber takes pole
Red Bull has continued its qualifying dominance despite a row over off-throttle engine mapping to propel Mark Webber to his second pole, and the team’s ninth, of the season.
The Australian will start from first on the grid for his second ‘home race’ tomorrow, ahead of teammate Vettel by three-hundredths of a second.
‘It’s a good result for the team after all the talk going into qualifying. It shows we are still on top of our game,’ said championship leader Vettel.
Fernando Alonso will start third for the quietly confident Ferrari, with Massa lining up alongside him in fourth. It was a positive showing for the Scuderia, who looked closest to challenging runaway leaders Red Bull all weekend.
‘I’m very happy. It is the best qualifying in terms of gap to pole position this year,’ said an upbeat Alonso. ‘Being here in Silvestone which is not a track that should suit us with all the fast corners, it is a good result for us.’
Jenson Button will start from fifth as the highest-placed Briton of the field. Despite this giving little for the home crowd to cheer for, the presence of rookie Paul di Resta’s Force India in sixth will surely temper their moods come race day.
The surprise inclusion to the top 10 was Pastor Maldonado, who looked at home in the wet-then-dry-then-wet-again conditions. He was the sole Williams representative in Q3 and brought back a starting position of P7 for the ailing team, keeping Kobayashi’s Sauber at bay in eighth.
Rosberg was the highest placed Mercedes, again outqualifying teammate Schumacher, in ninth. It may have been closer to fifth, however, were it not for the re-emergence of rain towards the end of Q3, forcing him to abandon his late charge.
It may well be Lewis Hamilton, though, who will be most disappointed. The home crowd favourite and 2008 event winner will start from a lowly P10 on Sunday, He opted to run in Q3 with a used set of soft tyres, with his timed lap coinciding with the arrival of more rain, spoiling his chances to move higher up the order.
Poor showing from McLaren
Predictions that the FIA’s ruling to ban off-throttle engine mapping would shake up the order proved false for the most part, with Red Bull proving their car to be fundamentally stronger than the rest. Ferrari, who had been most silent on the issue, seemed to move closer to the frontrunners, whilst McLaren seemed to disprove their theory that their poor showing in Valencia was merely a blip in their championship.
Nothing is ever straightforward in Formula One, however, as it emerged on Friday that the FIA gave both Renault and Mercedes engine customers dispensation to allow up to 50% off-throttle limit – more than the prescribed 10% – as both engine suppliers argued that it was necessary on reliability grounds.
Controversy ensued, however, as Charlie Whiting performed an Ecclestone-esque u-turn on the matter before FP3, declaring that while teams running Mercedes engines would be entitled to these concessions, those running Renault engines – including Red Bull – would not.
Christian Horner and Adrian Newey made no hesitation in making their views clear to the race director, though it would be in vain as the decision would stand. And extraordinary meeting of the Formula One Technical Working Group was convened shortly before qualifying, with the conclusion being that a conclusion would be concluded upon early tomorrow morning, UK time.
While these arguments dominated the build up to qualifying at Silverstone, with weather throughout the session proving equally as temperamental. Rain affected each of the three segments, though only Toro Rosso misinterpreted the forecast to end up stuck in Q3.
Both Alguesuari and Buemi left their fast laps too late and were caught out by the wet weather, forcing them to join Glock, Trulli, d’Ambrosio, Liuzzi and newcomer Daniel Ricciardo as the slowest seven.
The Perth-born Australian, who had outpaced teammate Liuzzi in two of the three practice sessions, was on a fast lap when the wet weather arrived. He’ll start from last for his first Grand Prix.
The rain began to dry for the beginning of Q2, though the persisting damp conditions allowed for strategy to play a part in the results. A flurry of cars late in the session rapidly rearranged the expected order, with names such as Schumacher, Petrov, Barrichello and Heidfeld all missing the cut. Sutil and Perez would be those closest to sneaking through, though they were displaced di Resta and Maldonado without time to respond.
Although rain has influenced running on both Friday and Saturday, the race on Sunday is expected to be held in dry conditions – meaning the top ten will each be starting with the soft tyres used during the final qualfiying session.
The British Grand Prix will kick off tomorrow at 10PM AEST.