Silverstone, England (SportsNetwork.com) - Mercedes driver and Formula One world championship leader Nico Rosberg will start on the pole for Sunday's British Grand Prix after posting the fastest lap during the final seconds of qualifying.
With intermittent rain during Saturday's qualifying at Silverstone Circuit, Rosberg's teammate, Lewis Hamilton, held the provisional pole with a lap in 1 minute, 39.232 seconds in the first few minutes of the final round (Q3). Hamilton made his lap when the track was soaked by rain.
But conditions dramatically improved in the closing minutes of Q3, allowing Rosberg to set a time of 1:35.766 on his final lap around this 3.667-mile (5.891-kilometer), 18-turn course. The German capitalized on the drying conditions to claim his fourth pole of the season and the eighth of his F1 career.
"Wow, what a qualifying," Rosberg said. "It was so tricky out there with the rain and the conditions changing so quickly. It's very satisfying to get everything right in these conditions and be able to come out on top. Thanks to the team today for guiding me through the hour so well.
"My last flying lap was difficult because we were very tight for time and I was stuck right up behind Lewis. Luckily, he didn't finish his lap, but I remembered that we were losing three or four seconds in the last corners when it was very wet. So there was an opportunity to make a real improvement and that I should keep going."
Rosberg is the defending winner of the British GP. He also won the most recent grand prix on June 22 in Austria.
"It's a great opportunity to start the race from pole, and I'll give it everything to take the win tomorrow," he added.
Hamilton made an attempt in the final minute of qualifying but surprisingly aborted his lap after complaining the track surface was too slippery. The Brit will start sixth in his home race. He currently trails Rosberg by 29 points in the championship standings.
"I made a mistake today and pulled out of the lap when I should have kept going," Hamilton said. "It was a tough qualifying with the changing conditions, and we got through most of it really well, until the most important part. It was my decision, a bad call, and that decided my qualifying."
Red Bull driver and four-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel qualified second with a lap in 1:37.386, which was 1.6 seconds behind Rosberg. Vettel abandoned his first lap in the opening minutes of Q3 and did not return to the track until the final minute.
"We went out for one flying lap at the end, and it was quite difficult to believe on the lap that it would be dry enough, but this is a funny place," Vettel said. "It was a very weird session, a lot of rain, no rain, drizzling."
Vettel had the fastest lap in the final practice session, held earlier in the day.
Jenson Button from McLaren qualified a season-best third in front of his home crowd.
Nico Hulkenberg placed his Force India fourth on the grid, while Button's teammate, Kevin Magnussen, secured the fifth spot.
Finishing seventh through 10th in qualifying were: Sergio Perez from Force India and Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo followed by Toro Rosso teammates Daniil Kvyat and Jean-Eric Vergne.
Ferrari drivers Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen as well as the Williams duo of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa failed to advance into Q1 and will start far back in the field for this 52-lap race. Massa and Bottas finished 1-2, respectively, in qualifying for the Austrian GP.
"It was really a missed opportunity to get the car in a good position for tomorrow," Massa said. "We didn't expect the rain, and the track was drying, so we had to get the lap in. The moment it started raining again, that was it. It was over. We have a lot to do tomorrow, and it will not be easy, but the car is quicker than where we are."