Silverstone, England – Fernando Alonso from Ferrari won the pole position for the British Grand Prix in Saturday's chaotic qualifying session, which was halted for an hour and a half at the midway point due to heavy rain.
Alonso, the current points leader and only repeat race winner in Formula One so far this year, crashed and damaged his front wing during Friday's second practice session, also plagued by rain. In qualifying, the Spaniard barely made it out of the first stint (Q1) before topping Red Bull's Mark Webber for the pole in the closing seconds of Q3.
With a set of intermediate tires, Alonso posted a lap time around the 3.667- mile, 18-turn Silverstone Circuit in 1 minute, 51.746 seconds for his 21st career F1 pole, including his third in the British GP. He was quickest in the final practice session earlier in the day.
"It was tricky conditions for everyone, and you have to be calm in some difficult moments," Alonso said. "In Q2, we were on the red flag in positions 15 and 16, (teammate) Felipe (Massa) and me, so it was not easy. Then in Q3, we chose the intermediate (tires), and when we saw everyone running on those tires, we calmed down a little bit, and then we put a lap together, which is not easy.
"You make a little mistake here and there, and to complete a lap with no huge mistakes is not easy in these conditions."
Alonso and Ferrari claimed their first pole since September 2010 in the Singapore Grand Prix, a race that Alonso won.
"I'm happy with the (pole) position after nearly two years, and for Ferrari, it's a long time," he noted.
Alonso is the defending winner of the British GP. Two weeks ago, he picked up his second victory of the season in the European Grand Prix in Valencia, Spain. The 2012 F1 season began with seven different winners in as many grand prix before Alonso snapped the record streak.
With 6:19 remaining in Q2, wet conditions were so bad that FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting made the decision to red flag the session. Prior to the delay, many drivers had expressed their concerns about the slippery track surface, particularly Alonso, who miraculously saved his car from slamming into the barrier.
Webber's final lap at 1:51.793 was just 0.05 seconds behind Alonso.
"It was a very tight session," Webber said. "Ultimately, you really don't know how it's going. You just completely focus on yourself. Putting a lap together is very tricky in sections around the lap. In a session like this, when you've got sometimes five to ten seconds difference from one session to another, it's a huge amount down to the driver to get comfortable in the conditions and with the car."
German Michael Schumacher from Mercedes qualified third, followed by his fellow compatriot and Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel, the two-time defending F1 world champion.
"I think we looked reasonably competitive in wet conditions, either on intermediate or heavy wet (tires), so therefore, rain is welcomed tomorrow," Schumacher said.
Massa will start fifth on the grid, followed by Kimi Raikkonen from Lotus and Williams' Pastor Maldonado.
McLaren's Lewis Hamilton had a disappointing qualifying session in front of his home crowd with an eighth-place result. Hamilton's teammate and fellow countryman, Jenson Button, had a much worse performance. Button failed to make it out of Q1 and ended up qualifying 18th.
"I couldn't get any heat on the fronts, and that is why I could not get a lap time on those tires," Button said.
Force India's Nico Hulkenberg and Lotus' Romain Grosjean completed the top-10.
Sunday's British GP is scheduled to start at 8 a.m. (ET).