Fernando Alonso mastered a soaked Silverstone to claim his first pole position in 18 months

After one of the longest qualifying sessions in Formula 1 history, Fernando Alonso has claimed his and Ferrari’s first pole position since the 2010 Singapore Grand Prix.

The Spaniard emerged in top spot by just four-hundredths of a second ahead of last year’s Silverstone pole-winner Mark Webber in a rain-interrupted session to decide the grid for Sunday’s British Grand Prix.

Running was suspended for over ninety minutes when the heavens opened yet again and saturated the circuit with a little over six minutes to go in the second phase of qualifying.

With standing water all over the circuit, the drivers were quickly on the team radios urging for the session to be suspended. The FIA duly responded and brought proceedings to a stop until the downpour eventually abated.

Marshals sweep the standing water from the track surfaceThe opening phase of qualifying saw yet another home race disappointment for Jenson Button, who qualified a hapless 18th in his McLaren.

His final qualifying run was affected by more rain in the dying seconds of the session, along with yellow flags brought out in the final corner when Timo Glock had a clumsy spin into the pit wall in his Marussia.

The rain intensified as the second phase of qualifying got underway, which saw Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa both suffer frightening spins exiting Chapel before the red flags were unfurled to spare the field of further carnage.

Eventually the rain eased, and with six minutes to go the remaining runners poured onto the track to try and get a berth into Q3.

The jostling for track position in the chaotic final minutes meant that there were going to be a few upset results. None were more apparent than Nico Rosberg and Sergio Pérez, who both tumbled down the order in the final seconds as those behind them on the track managed to better their respective lap times. Pérez’s cause wasn’t helped by his gamble on using intermediate tyres – the rest of the field was shod with full wet tyres – which consigned him to the slowest Q2 time.

The final ten-minute phase saw the remaining runners switch to intermediate tyres, and it was Alonso who mastered the conditions to snatch pole position by 0.047 seconds from Webber, which Michael Schumacher hustled his very twitchy Mercedes to an impressive third.

Grosjean ended his qualifying session early, but still made the top-ten cutNot looking particularly quick, Sebastian Vettel took the fourth-fasted time, while Felipe Massa displayed plenty of composure to land fifth on the grid, one spot ahead of Kimi Räikkönen in the Lotus. The Finn’s team-mate Romain Grosjean made the Q3 cut, but took no part in the session when he spun out in the closing seconds of Q2.

Pastor Maldonado once again wiped the floor with Williams team-mate Bruno Senna to go seventh-fastest, while Lewis Hamilton was unable to extract enough pace from his McLaren and finished up eighth-fastest.

Nico Hülkenberg finished the session as the slowest timed runner of Q3, but he will take a five-place grid penalty for Sunday’s 52-lap race after his Force India mechanics were forced to perform an unscheduled gearbox change.

Marussia tail-ender Charles Pic will also incur the same penalty, although it makes no difference as he posted the slowest lap in Q1, missing out on the 107% cut-off by 0.4 seconds. The FIA Stewards will allow the Frenchman to take the grid.

2012 British Formula 1 Grand Prix – Qualifying Session Times:

Driver Team Time Gap
1. Fernando Alonso ESP Scuderia Ferrari F2012 1:51.746  
2. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing Renault RB8 1:51.793 + 0.047
3. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes AMG F1 W03 1:52.020 + 0.274
4. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Racing Renault RB8 1:52.199 + 0.453
5. Felipe Massa BRA Scuderia Ferrari F2012 1:53.065 + 1.319
6. Kimi Räikkönen FIN Lotus F1 Renault E20 1:53.290 + 1.544
7. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Renault FW34 1:53.539 + 1.793
8. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 1:53.543 + 1.797
9. Nico Hülkenberg* DEU Force India Mercedes VJM05 1:54.382 + 2.636
10. Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus F1 Renault E20 no time  
  Q2 Cut-Off – 1:56.931   Time Gap
11. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM05 1:57.009 + 0.078
12. Kamui Kobayashi** JPN Sauber Ferrari C31 1:57.071 + 0.140
13. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes AMG F1 W03 1:57.108 + 0.177
14. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7 1:57.132 + 0.201
15. Bruno Senna BRA Williams Renault FW34 1:57.426 + 0.495
16. Jean-Éric Vergne*** FRA Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7 1:57.719 + 0.788
17. Sergio Pérez MEX Sauber Ferrari C31 1:57.895 + 0.964
  Q1 Cut-Off – 1:47.724   Time Gap
18. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 1:48.044 + 0.320
19. Vitaly Petrov RUS Caterham Renault CT01 1:49.027 + 1.303
20. Heikki Kovalainen FIN Caterham Renault CT01 1:49.477 + 1.753
21. Timo Glock DEU Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01 1:51.618 + 3.894
22. Pedro de la Rosa ESP HRTF1 Cosworth F112 1:52.742 + 5.018
23. Narain Karthikeyan IND HRTF1 Cosworth F112 1:53.040 + 5.316
  107% Cut-Off – 1:53.718   Time Gap
DNQ. Charles Pic* FRA Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01 1:54.143 + 0.425

* Denotes 5-place grid penalty will be taken for a gearbox change
** Denotes 5-place grid penalty will be taken for causing an avoidable collision at the European GP
*** Denotes 10-place grid penalty will be taken for causing an avoidable collision at the European GP

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.