Lewis Hamilton will have the chance to further close the 11-point gap to Mercedes teammate and world championship leader Nico Rosberg after overcoming late qualifying controversy to seal pole position for Sunday's (10 July) British Grand Prix. The 31-year-old, a four-time winner on home soil who was fastest in all three practice sessions, set a record Q2 pace in familiar surroundings at Silverstone before provisionally securing top spot in a slightly slower time of 1:29.339.
However, he then ran afoul of the FIA's zero tolerance approach to cars running wide at the exit of Copse, Stowe and Club and saw that lap time deleted after appearing to take all four wheels off the track at turn nine. Hamilton returned for a final run and clocked a dramatic 1:29.287 that neither second-place Rosberg or either Red Bull were able to match. Max Verstappen produced his best performance to date and out qualified Daniel Ricciardo for the first time since his promotion from sister team Toro Rosso to replace Daniil Kvyat in May.
"It was not the cleanest qualifying session," Hamilton was quoted as saying by BBC Sport. "We had really good pace in Q1, ran wide in Q3 then had good pace on the penultimate lap, but I touched the kerb and it pulled me further, the car bottomed and just bounced outside.
"I was sitting in the garage and knew I couldn't let the guys down and I'm grateful I got the final lap in. Thank you to my team to have the performance we have had – it has been outstanding."
While Hamilton and Rosberg will once again duel for supremacy in Northamptonshire, they will have to take much greater care to ensure that their heated rivalry does not lead to any more unnecessary contact. The pair face final warnings after colliding for the third time in five races during the final lap of last weekend's Austrian GP.
On that occasion, Rosberg damaged his front wing while turning late to fend off an attempted pass from eventual winner Hamilton, who was forced off the track. The German was deemed responsible for the incident and kept hold of fourth place despite a 10-second time penalty. Irate Mercedes boss Toto Wolff initially hinted at the possibility of team orders before an official statement released on Thursday confirmed that both drivers were still free to race, but are now subject to more stringent rules of engagement.
Elsewhere, Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel qualified in sixth but will start the race in 11th after receiving a five-place grid penalty for a late gearbox change. It is his third such punishment of the 2016 season so far and his second in as many races. Kimi Raikkonen, who had his contract renewed in midweek, will begin in fifth. McLaren-Honda's Jenson Button, sixth-place finisher last weekend, was eventually eliminated from Q1 after a farcical delay that centred around confusion regarding a deleted lap from Kevin Magnussen.
Felipe Nasr was the only Sauber running in Q1 after Marcus Ericsson missed out as a result of a heavy crash in practice three that saw him run wide before smashing into the barriers. Thankfully he walked away from his mangled car seemingly unscathed before being taken to hospital for routine medical checks. The Swiss team are yet to provide any further update on his condition.