SILVERSTONE, England (Reuters) - An emotional Lewis Hamilton put Mercedes on pole position for his home British Grand Prix on Saturday after giving his all to stay ahead of Ferrari’s Formula One championship leader Sebastian Vettel in a knife-edge qualifying.
The difference between the four times world champions came down to just 0.044 seconds at the end, with Vettel 0.057 faster after their first flying laps around a sizzling Silverstone circuit.
Hamilton, who will be chasing his fifth successive home win on Sunday to retake the lead from his German rival, was shaking as he parked up, leapt out and punched the air.
His lap of one minute 25.892 seconds was a track record.
“I gave it everything I could, but it was so close with these Ferraris,” he said, addressing the crowd with their Hamilton banners and flags. “I was just praying I could do it for you guys.
“For me it feels like one of the best laps that I have been able to produce,” the 33-year-old told reporters later. “It felt like the most pressurised lap I have ever had.
“I was shaking through the emotion and the adrenalin rush which was way above the limit of what I had experienced before,” he added.
“It’s my 76th but it’s so special.”
Vettel, had suffered a cricked neck in final practice that left him unsure whether he would be able to take part in the session, said he had lost pace on the straight but was happy with his afternoon.
Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen will line up third with Hamilton’s Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas completing the second row of the grid.
Hamilton, a point behind fellow-four times champion Vettel after nine races, has now had six poles at Silverstone and Saturday was his fourth in a row at the circuit he has come to dominate since his debut in 2007.
The Red Bull pairing of Dutch 20-year-old Max Verstappen, winner in Austria last weekend, and Australian Daniel Ricciardo qualified fifth and sixth.
“We lose more than a second on the straights so this track is getting less and less favourable for us,” commented Verstappen.
“But the car is strong...it’s going to be a struggle with the guys ahead. Last time we said it was going to be a boring race, and it was a very entertaining race, so let’s see.”
Haas drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean will line up seventh and eighth with Monaco’s Charles Leclerc ninth for Sauber and Force India’s Esteban Ocon 10th.
Toro Rosso’s New Zealander Brendon Hartley did not take part in qualifying, with the team rebuilding his car after a big crash in final practice.
He will start from the back of the grid.
The nightmare continued for former champions Williams at their home race, with Lance Stroll bringing out red flags when he crashed at the start of the first phase of qualifying.
Team mate Sergey Sirotkin then drew anguished looks from his pit wall after also going off, avoiding the barriers but ending up with the slowest time.
William said an aerodynamics issue had caused both cars to spin, and the drivers were not to blame.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Alison Williams and Clare Lovell