12.30pm Hello and welcome to forumula1.com’s live coverage of the British Grand Prix qualifying session at Silverstone.
The big story of the morning is that McLaren’s updates have not been kept on the car, meaning they obviously weren’t working. They consisted of a blown diffuser and a new front wing, amongst other minor changes, of which it seems that only the new front wing will remain. In morning practice, Lewis Hamilton could only manage seventh. As the BBC’s Ted Kravitz has pointed out, they are effectively a day behind everyone else in the acclimatisation stakes.
12.34pm “We’ve had to fine people coming into the pits so far, so we’ve made some money for the FIA,” lets slip Nigel Mansell, who of course is here on stewarding duty this weekend.
12.40pm “You were my age in 1948?” said Lewis Hamilton, incredulously, to Murray Walker.
12.45pm Although Bruno Senna has been replaced by Sakon Yamamoto for this grand prix, the word is that he will be back in the HRT in Germany. And rumours are flying that it was not, contrary to popular belief, connected to sponsors’ money.
12.50pm “The drivers are happy with the car,” says Christian Horner. It’s typical understatement from the Englishman – he’s got to be confident. Unlike Martin Whitmarsh: “We’re on the back foot. This afternoon belatedly we’re going to try to make some progress.” McLaren apparently flew Gary Paffett back to Woking for him to work all night in the simulator.
12.54pm Drivers are talking about a bump on the edge of Abbey, which is now a fast right rather than a left chicane. It destabilises the car just as they turn in, apparently. Watch that space.
12.56pm “A lot,” says Martin Brundle, dryly. He is referring to the amount of time and performance McLaren have given away through having gone slower with the new bits on. It will be a real surprise if the Woking team can please the crowds today.
1.00pm We are starting Q1 now. There’s a Virgin going out, after a little bit of a delay, plus a Lotus and Michael Schumacher.
1.03pm The drivers are being warned about some crosswinds, which may well dog them down Hangar Straight, amongst other places. There are quite a few out now. Glock has duly set the first time, which is 1m35.951. Kovalainen looks immediately a bit quicker than that. His Lotus team have reportedly stopped developing their machine now, to concentrate on next year.
1.06pm Jenson Button sets a 1m32.668, which is not as good as Vitaly Petrov’s time. Button was baulked by Liuzzi in the complex, which may have consequences.
1.08pm Nico Rosberg is now top of the timesheets with a 1m31.684. Most people have set some sort of time now. Lewis Hamilton has a slight off-road excursion at the new bit, after looking half-quick in the first sector.
1.10pm Webber has set the first really good time, a 1m30.998. Vettel cannot respond, but it is early days at the moment. Hamilton is still fighting that McLaren, and it looks ok – yes, he goes second fastest.
1.12pm Vettel does go quicker than Webber, after another attempt. He tops the list as a lull arrives; Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa do not look in the least shabby. Massa was blocked shamefully by Yamamoto, who may be somebody to be wary of tomorrow.
1.16pm With just under three minutes to go, the order is Vettel, Webber, Alonso, Sutil, Hamilton, Barrichello, Rosberg, Petrov, Massa and Kubica. The drop zone contains the two Lotuses, the HRTs, the Virgins and Vitantonio Liuzzi.
1.18pm Jaime Alguersuari has pitted, losing his chance of defending what wasn’t a very good time. Liuzzi, despite not being very quick himself, will get into the second session.
1.20pm Alguersuari, Kovalainen, Glock, Trulli, di Grassi, Chandhok and Yamamoto will play no further part. They will line up on the grid in that order tomorrow. Yamamoto looks as though he should not be in that car. His head is lolling after only a few laps, and he is well outside the 107 percent time that next year would define whether he can race or not.
1.22pm “We’re a little further away than we were in Valencia, but we expected that,” says Mike Gascoyne of Lotus. Silverstone is a track that rewards aerodynamic grip and downforce, something Lotus do not have as much of as the older teams. Kovalainen is still the king of the new cars, though.
1.25pm Q2 is under way. Alonso is on track, hoping not to repeat the little kicking up of dust he did in his first run. I bet that raised a cheer in the Woodcote grandstands.
1.26pm An aerial shot of Copse corner just gives the impression of how much a severe right-hander it really is. Looking at it on the racetrack, you don’t really get the best perspective of it.
1.30pm McLaren are out on softs, and setting quick times as a result. Hamilton sets a 1m31.286, which is slightly faster than Button’s time. It won’t set the world on fire, being on the different tyres, but it might get them further up the grid than they should be.
1.32pm Webber sets 1m30.434 on the hards. He doesn’t even break sweat. Button, meanwhile: “I’ve got no rear grip, from the word go.”
1.35pm Vettel was on a half-decent effort, but thought better of it. Maybe saving himself for the Q1 shootout. The Red Bulls are so far ahead here, they may as well be in the next county. Unless “they stand on their own tails, they are going to walk this race,” opines Brundle.
1.37pm With four minutes to go in the session, Vettel is out again. Fine-tuning, perhaps? The order is Webber, Vettel, Alonso, Massa, Schumacher, Barrichello, Hamilton, de la Rosa, Sutil and Rosberg. The Renaults are down the order, what has happened to them? They don’t have long to rescue themselves.
1.40pm Liuzzi just swept across straight in front of Nico Hulkenberg, which will probably be deemed dangerous.
1.41pm Jenson Button needs a good lap here, he is in danger. He’s 14th with the flag down, but on a lap…He can’t improve! He will be 14th for the race. What a disaster for Button. Sutil, Kobayashi, Hulkenberg, (Button) Liuzzi, Buemi, and Petrov are also out, in that order.
1.45pm McLaren’s devils have come home to roost, if you can say that. Jenson Button, who has never been the world’s best qualifier anyway, has been really hampered by a lack of grip and downforce and will start a way down the grid. Hamilton cannot hope for pole really.
1.49pm Jenson Button is talking to the press. “I took so much front end off the car, five or six turns, to try and find a balance. I don’t know, but it’s pretty undriveable. It hasn’t got the blown diffuser, but that wasn’t normal, this morning it felt reasonably good. It was moving on nicely, so I don’t know what happened there [in qualifying].”
1.50pm Q3 is starting. Ferrari are fighting with each other over track position as the session begins. Massa looks relatively quick to start with, and as it’s quite a long lap, they all have to get a chuff on here if they want a couple of good runs.
1.52pm Mercedes, or specifically Michael Schumacher, is going to do just the one run, as are I think a few others.
1.54pm Webber does a 1m29.758, but Vettel beats it by six-hundredths. As ever, a cigarette paper between the two on one-lap pace. Who will win the next round? It’s those two, Alonso, Hamilton, Rosberg, Barrichello and Massa so far.
1.56pm A one-lap effort, with these crosswinds, may not have been the wisest choice. With just over two minutes to go, Barrichello is out, and he loves this track. Robert Kubica does not look as though he will be better than tenth.
1.57pm Alonso has traffic! He waves his hand angrily.
1.59pm Webber does not improve on his next effort…and here comes Vettel! It’s a 1m29.616. Vettel takes pole from Webber, Alonso (who was not too obstructed), Hamilton, Rosberg, Kubica (who must have dug very deep to find pace in that Renault), Massa, Barrichello, de la Rosa, and Michael Schumacher.
2.00pm There we have it. Metronomic, clinical and devastating pace from the Red Bulls, with Vettel taking the prime slot for the race tomorrow. For the Brits, Lewis Hamilton has to be very happy with fourth on the grid.
Vettel is speaking to the TV unilaterals.
“It’s unbelievable, the corner combinations…it’s so much fun here. Our car works so well here. The new section is also great, I really like this track. It was tight, in Q2 I wasn’t perfectly happy, I think I tried too hard. So for Q3 I went more conservative and got the pole which is key for tomorrow…[As regards the front wing issue from practice], it wasn’t ideal but we could continue with the same kind of wing. I’m very pleased, I hope we can repeat last year’s story. It’s not my home grand prix but I feel at home,” says the polesitter.
Webber was curt in his response to the first question and did not elucidate.
”Coming back here after what happened in Valencia, it’s not ideal, but yeah…”
Fernando Alonso was optimistic and there was no sign of the anger he showed in the car only a few minutes ago.
“We continue to develop the car to perform better and better, we had some downs but now we are performing better. In Canada and Valencia we didn’t score the points we wanted but here again we are strong and hopefully tomorrow we continue the job and score some good points.”
Christian Horner is chuffed.
“Both drivers were so evenly matched, nothing really between the two of them. Even better than we managed last year, so a great job,” says the Englishman.
He then has to fend off a tricky question from Eddie Jordan about why, after Vettel’s new front wing failed this morning, it was Vettel who got the spare new one on his car and not Webber.
“We only had one front wing so on the basis of P3 and championship position we gave it to the left hand side of the garage [Vettel],” says Horner. It will be seen as favouritism in some quarters, even if it isn’t.
Meanwhile Hamilton is circumspect about the possibilities for tomorrow.
“We’re going to get a rope, tag along.” To the Red Bulls, he means. He’s going to need it.