Renault's Fernando Alonso put in a near perfect flying lap at just the right moment to claim pole position for the British Grand Prix, setting a best time of 1:20.253. Alonso edged out Ferrari's Michael Schumacher for the front of the grid and the German fell one place further to third when Kimi Raikkonen hurled his McLaren round to take second alongside Alonso.
The good weather continued at Silverstone, the track temperature into the low forties at the start of the first 15 minute session. MF1's Christijan Albers and Tiago Monteiro led out, followed by the Super Aguris of Franck Montagny and Takuma Sato, BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld, Alonso and the Toyotas of Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli.
Red Bull's David Coulthard and Christian Klien were next to join, along with Toro Rosso's Scott Speed and Tonio Liuzzi. Albers clocked a 1:24.372 to start with but Alonso took over almost immediately and Coulthard went second. Trulli's Toyota was belching smoke as he pulled into the pit lane and it was his session over before it had hardly begun.
Speed took the top spot and Klien slotted into third behind Alonso. Coulthard was fourth then came Monteiro, Liuzzi, Albers, Heidfeld, Sato and Montagny. Raikkonen was the first McLaren out and posted fourth, then had a brief wander off track, while Honda's Jenson Button clocked third.
Rubens Barrichello's Honda was next to take the top of the times but was quickly demoted by Ferrari's Felipe Massa. Michael put his Ferrari just behind Massa and was followed by Juan Pablo Montoya's McLaren. Alonso demoted Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella slotted his Renault into fifth, then Jacques Villeneuve's BMW Sauber took second.
With time ticking away Heidfeld got himself back up the times to fifth after being dropped down the list. Ralf and Coulthard did likewise to 11th and ninth respectively, then Klien moved up to 12th. However, Button didn't have any luck; he was called into the weigh bridge before he could set another flyer and got knocked out.
A huge disappointment for Button and the English fans. Another big name to fall was Webber, who ended 17th. Albers was also out, along with Sato and Montagny. Trulli's problem happened before he set a time and resulted in an engine change, so he will start from the back. Alonso was fastest, 1:21.018, followed by Villeneuve and Massa.
Monteiro took MF1 through to the second session for the first time. Sato will probably drop from 20th to the back as he had a crash in the morning practice and had to swap to the spare car for qualifying. There was not enough time to swap his race engine to the spare so he will likely suffer the grid demotion penalty for an engine change.
The times were cleared for the next 15 minutes and Villenevue was first up with a 1:20.672. Heidfeld, Ralf and Rosberg slotted in behind then Coulthard took third and Alonso went to the top with Fisichella tagging along for second. Raikkonen took the second place off the Italian and Barrichello posted fifth, while Rosberg and Klien edged into the top ten.
Montoya moved into fifth and Michael went one better for fourth, then Massa clocked seventh. Speed and Monteiro left it to the final minutes before they headed out to set a time and a few others also went for a late run. Heidfeld went up to fourth and Ralf was the last man to edge into the top ten towards the end.
That dropped Coulthard out, along with Rosberg, Liuzzi, Klien, Speed and Monteiro. Disappointing but not particularly surprising for the Red Bulls and Rosberg. Alonso was fastest again, 1:20.271, ahead of Raikkonen and Fisichella. The times of the remaining 10 were reset and the tedious task of burning off fuel in the last 20 minute shoot out began.
The Renaults were early leaders, along with the McLarens and Ferraris. Alonso clocked 1:23.941 initially then Michael moved ahead but it would be maybe another eight or 10 minutes before anyone went for a serious flyer. Villeneuve was the first to go in for fresh tyres, then Michael and the others in quick succession.
Villeneuve clocked 1:22.353 then Michael took over with a 1:20.815, Alonso just four hundredths behind the Ferrari. Fisichella took third and Massa fourth, then came Barrichello and Montoya. Raikkonen posted third and there was still enough time for everyone to get out for another hot lap at the end.
Villeneuve moved up to fifth after being dropped down and Michael was fast but Alonso was on his heels. The Ferrari clocked 1:20.574 but the reigning champion was better, 1:20.253 and that was the pole lap. A great job by Alonso for his fourth consecutive pole position, while teammate Fisichella lost out a little and finished fifth.
"I made a little mistake on my first flying lap in the super-pole and I knew it was close with Michael. So we fitted another set of tyres, and I managed to do a better lap," said Alonso. "Tomorrow's race is going to be interesting because nobody has really done any long runs, so I think there may be some surprises with the tyres. So far, though, the Michelin tyres have been excellent and I am confident."
Raikkonen put in a scorching last second flyer to take second -- it would be nice to see a good battle between the Finn and Alonso in the race. It would be nice to see a good battle between anyone! Montoya, who is under investigation for allegedly blocking Coulthard in the second session, was a rather lacklustre eighth.
"I'm really pleased being on the first row particularly at Silverstone where a lot of the guys from Woking and Brixworth are able to come and support us," Raikkonen commented. "We made a lot of progress from yesterday, and I was really able to push. Now I look forward to the race tomorrow where we will do everything to do well."
The two Ferraris, Michael leading Massa, will take row two in third and fourth. "Of course you always hope to be on pole and so it's normal to be disappointed with third place, even if, at this track, it's better to start from third than second," said Michael. "I did not expect such a gap to the pole time, but now we have to see what these tenths really mean, given that we don't know what fuel load our rivals have on board."
Barrichello will start from sixth, which was a fairly reasonable effort, but Button will have a hard job from towards the back. "Rubens did a very good job and we're quite happy with how his qualifying went," said Honda sporting director Gil de Ferran. "It was very unfortunate (for Button) and we have mixed feelings coming out of this session."
Ralf was seventh and the two BMWs rounded off the top ten, Heidfeld ahead of Villeneuve. BMW might have hoped for more but it was a hard job to compete with the front runners -- however, it's the first time that both drivers will start in the top ten. They made the top ten in Melbourne but Villeneuve dropped to the back due to an engine change.
Alonso on pole appears favourite to win on Sunday but, as always, it's never a given. Raikkonen is set to challenge and the Ferraris are on the pace, so it shoud be an exciting race. Final top ten classification: Alonso, Raikkonen, M. Schumacher, Massa, Fisichella, Barrichello, R. Schumacher, Montoya, Heidfeld, Villeneuve.