Alonso on pole for Brit F1 GP
FLYING THE FLAG: British stoicism at its best - brollies out at Silverstone as the rain poured down.
Silverstone, England - Spaniard Fernando Alonso slid and splashed through atrocious conditions to hand Ferrari its first Formula 1 pole since 2010 in a rain-delayed 2012British Grand Prix qualifying on Saturday.
The championship leader, last year's winner at Silverstone, was joined on the front row by Red Bull's Australian Mark Webber - also his closest rival in the standings after eight of 20 races.
The pole was Ferrari's first since Alonso started the Singapore GP from the top slot on the grid in September 2010, 31 races ago.
"It was tricky conditions for everyone. You have to be calm in some difficult moments," said the Spaniard, who leads Webber by 20 points overall, of his 21st career pole.
There was, however, a lingering question mark over whether the double champion had set his fastest lap in the second phase of qualifying under yellow warning flags after Frenchman Romain Grosjean slid his Lotus into the gravel.
"I backed off in the area where they were taking away the car," Alonso said of the incident.
Seven-times World champion Michael Schumacher qualified third-fastest for Mercedes with fellow German Sebastian Vettel, the reigning champion, alongside for Red Bull. The top four, covered by just four-tenths of a second, are all British GP winners.
Webber said: "In a session like this, it's a huge amount down to the driver to get comfortable in the car. It was nip-and-tuck with Fernando to get pole.”
Heavy rain had earlier forced qualifying to be halted for 90 minutes with cars slipping and sliding on pools of standing water. Alonso had been among those calling for race control to abandon the session.
McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, the most recent Briton to win his home race (in 2008) qualified eighth while team mate Jenson Button had a nightmare afternoon and should start 16th after grid penalties are applied to others.
"I could not get any heat on the front tyres,” Button told the BBC. “I felt it straight out of the pits. I couldn't get any heat on the fronts and that is why I could not get a lap time on those tyres.
"It’s the story of my year, not getting heat in the fronts, so I’m not too upset. I know I can drive a car in the wet.” He won in rain from last place after a restart in Canada in 2011.
Brazilian Felipe Massa put his Ferrari in fifth place on the grid, his best performance of the season, next to his former team mate and 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen in a Lotus.
'STAY AWAY' REQUEST
Rain also caused chaos on Friday, with teams getting limited practice laps in very slippery conditions while waterlogged camp sites caused huge traffic jams outside the circuit as race fans struggled to find parking.
Organisers had urged up to 30 000 ticket-holders with public parking passes to stay away on Saturday to ensure car parks held up for an expected 125 000-strong crowd on race day.
What will happen on race day is anybody’s guess...
Qualifying for the 2012 British Formula 1 GP at Silverstone
1-10 Third and final qualifying session
11-17 Second qualifying session
18-24 First qualifying session
1 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1min51.746
2 Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull 1min51.793
3 Michael Schumacher (Germany) Mercedes 1min52.020
4 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull 1min52.199
5 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1min53.065
6 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus 1min53.290
7 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams 1min53.539
8 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 1min53.543
9 Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Force India 1min54.382
10 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus (no time)
11 Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India 1min57.009
12 Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) Sauber 1min57.071
13 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min57.108
14 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso 1min57.132
15 Bruno Senna (Brazil) Williams - Renault 1min57.426
16 Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso 1min57.719
17 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Sauber 1min57.895
18 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min48.044
19 Vitaly Petrov (Russia) Caterham 1min49.027
20 Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) Caterham 1min49.477
21 Timo Glock (Germany) Marussia 1min51.618
22 Pedro de la Rosa (Spain) HRT 1min52.742
23 Narain Karthikeyan (India) HRT 1min53.040
nq Charles Pic (France) Marussia 1min54.143