Sebastian Vettel looked set to start the British Grand Prix from the front after the first runs. But Lewis Hamilton was not in the mood to let an expectant home crowd down, delivering what he described as his “most pressurised lap” to take a sensational pole…
Hamilton loves driving around Silverstone. He’s won the last four Grands Prix at the venue and should he convert pole on Sunday, it will be a record sixth triumph, surpassing the current record jointly held by Jim Clark and Alain Prost.
The Mercedes driver was clearly overcome with emotion as he stepped out of the W09 and took in the plaudits from a delighted crowd after securing a record sixth British Grand Prix pole.
“For me, with the whole build-up and intensity, it feels like one of the best laps I’ve been able to produce,” said Hamilton. “It felt the most pressurised lap I’ve had.
“Afterwards, I can’t tell you… I was shaking through the moment, the adrenaline rush was way above the limits that I’ve experienced before. Strange to say because it’s my 76th pole. The team have done a great job and I'm really happy I’ve been able to deliver for them.”
Qualifying was super close - just 0.098s split the top three - and Hamilton was delighted to come out on top, particularly given the pressure he was under.
“This is such a technical circuit," he said. "It’s really about car placement. You’ve got to have the package. Our downforce level has been good. You can see how close it is between us. This has been a strong circuit for me for some years. I’d like to think my job is to make the difference.
“I didn’t leave anything on the table. The lap was intense. The first lap was OK. Then I saw I dropped to second. Obviously that naturally adds a bit more pressure. I knew he [Vettel] was going to improve again. So I needed to improve the same and a bit more.
“To push over the limits a bit more without losing it is one of the toughest positions to put the car. I got to near the end of the lap and I think I was up slightly and then I came round the last corner and it started to diminish a bit.
“I was praying it was enough. You’re gaining and losing throughout the lap. I can’t tell you how happy I am. I’m happy for the fans and hopefully I can deliver for them tomorrow.”
Hamilton said before qualifying that he anticipated this would be one of the most physical races on the calendar, given the new track surface had inspired higher speeds this year.
"The speed that we went through the corners, it is up," he said. "The G-force we’re pulling, the car is faster than last year. I definitely think it’s going to be physically tougher. It’s not a case of either of us pulling a good gap. It will be close - one of the toughest."
Hamilton is looking to reclaim the lead in the drivers' standings, having seen a 14-point lead turn into a one-point deficit to F1 rival Sebastian Vettel following the last race in Austria.