Lewis Hamilton survived a stewards’ investigation to retain a quite brilliant pole position after he delivered a crushing performance in qualifying for Sunday’s British Grand Prix.
Hamilton, who is 20 points behind Sebastian Vettel in the race for this year’s championship, blew away the field to finish more than half-a-second clear of his nearest challenger.
Hamilton’s moment of magic was left hanging in the balance after he was alleged to have blocked Romain Grosjean at Turn 15.
But the stewards took no further action to leave Hamilton just one pole shy of Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 68. The Briton will have Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen for company on the front row, with Vettel only third.
Hamilton’s preparations for the 10th round of his stuttering championship charge have been dampened by the criticism he courted for failing to attend a promotional event in London earlier this week.
But, in Hamilton’s mind at least, he will now feel his two-day holiday to the Greek island of Mykonos has been vindicated after he completed one half of his mission to claim a fourth consecutive win at Silverstone.
The Mercedes driver finished well clear of Raikkonen and was an eye-watering three-quarters of a second faster than his chief championship rival Vettel.
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas qualified fourth, but will start ninth after serving a five-place grid drop for a gearbox change.
“I grew up watching TV and I remember seeing Nigel Mansell with the support and thinking, “Wow, I wonder what that feels like having all that focus and attention and support pointing into me’,” said Hamilton, who has been on somewhat of a charm offensive with the home fans after he swerved the London parade on Wednesday.
“I’ve been really privileged over the past 10 years to come here and receive that love. It really is so energising. Nigel mentioned it years ago. He said it gives you a second, maybe it’s half a second, but it definitely feels like it gives you something.
“You carry that energy and I think that applies to life in general. If you are feeling positive on a day, your day just goes a lot better.”
Hamilton’s rival Vettel was on his best behaviour at the last round in Austria, well aware that any petulance would see him slapped with three points on his superlicence, and a subsequent Silverstone ban.
But there was a glimpse of the old, fiery German here after he complained he had been blocked by the Force India of Sergio Perez.
‘’What the hell is Perez doing?’’ Vettel shouted.
He then expressed his anger over the team radio after he felt traffic had scuppered his final run.
“What was that on the out lap?,” he raged. “That was a s*** spot to be in, absolutely s*** spot.”
Elsewhere, Fernando Alonso topped the order in Q1 - the opening phase of qualifying - after bolting on a set of dry tyres and blitzing this 3.6-mile circuit as the track began to dry out following an earlier sprinkling of rain.
Alonso’s lap brought a huge cheer from his fans and those of British team McLaren following what has been another lacklustre campaign. Indeed, it was the first time a McLaren car had been quickest in any phase of qualifying since the 2013 Indian Grand Prix.
But the Spaniard’s efforts were meaningless, knowing he already faced a mammoth 30-place grid penalty following further changes to his Honda engine.
The 35-year-old will be thrown to the back of the grid.
Britain’s Jolyon Palmer, in search of his first points of the season, has finished 11th at three of the last four grands prix.
And that is where the 26-year-old from Horsham will start his home race, where rain could play its part again.