SILVERSTONE, England (AP) — Championship leader Lewis Hamilton produced another formidable performance in qualifying at the British Grand Prix on Saturday to clinch pole position for the eighth time in nine races this season.
With a 46th career pole, the reigning world champion moved to third place on Formula One’s all-time leaderboard, with only Michael Schumacher (68) and Ayrton Senna (65) ahead of him.
Hamilton, who clocked 1 minute, 32.248 seconds in qualifying, will share the front row of the grid on Sunday with Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg for the seventh time this year.
Rosberg appeared relieved after qualifying, given that only four of the last 20 Silverstone races have been won from pole.
“That’s incredible and why I was quite happy not to be on pole today,” Rosberg said. “I know those statistics and the chances are much bigger to win the race from second.”
Hamilton has won at Silverstone in both of his championship-winning seasons but never from pole in front of his home fans.
“It’s special when you get pole position here on your home turf and when you see all the fans out there,” the Englishman said.
In windy conditions in central England, there was only a 10th of a second between Hamilton and Rosberg, who are separated by 10 points at the top of the drivers’ standings.
Qualifying was a reversal from Friday’s practice sessions when Rosberg outpaced his fellow 30-year-old.
“There was something wrong on my left front,” Rosberg said. “We need to look at what it was.”
Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff said the engineers resolved a “setup mishap” overnight for Hamilton.
“Generally it’s not been the smoothest of weekends, it’s been a bit up and down in terms of setup, balance and getting laps,” Hamilton said.
“I made a change in the car going into qualifying which was perhaps not spectacular for a qualifying lap but hopefully we will be good for the race.”
Behind the Mercedes duo, Williams locked out the second row and Ferrari took the next two places.
It is the first time Williams has had both drivers in the top four of the grid at Silverstone in 13 years, with Felipe Massa ahead of Valtteri Bottas.
For only the second time this season, Kimi Raikkonen beat four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel in qualifying in the Ferrari duel amid speculation over the 2007 world champion’s future with the Italian team.
“With the strong wind the handling was not ideal and it was very tricky for everybody, because the conditions kept changing from run to run and from corner to corner,” Raikkonen said.
There was more misery for McLaren, which has collected only four points in 2015 compared to Mercedes’ 328. Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion still searching for a triumph at his home race, was eliminated in the first round of qualifying along with Fernando Alonso, only one place higher in 17th.
“I’ve been struggling with the balance a little bit — hopefully we’ll learn a lot tomorrow, that’s all we can do,” Button said. “Unfortunately, this is our situation right now and it’s not easy for a team of this stature and experience.”
Even for an eight-time constructors’ champion, McLaren knows it cannot rely on its history to attract sponsors if the winless streak — already at 46 races — goes on much longer.
“It’s going to hurt us with our revenue,” McLaren team principal Eric Boullier said. “The damage is easy to understand. You establish your brand by your success and repeated success.
“Commercially it does hurt because companies are interested in joining us but some people in their organization may question the lack of results.”
Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris
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