Lewis Hamilton put in a sensational late lap under intense pressure to seize pole position for his home British Formula One Grand Prix from Mercedes team mate and title rival Nico Rosberg on Saturday.
The triple world champion had just one chance to secure the top slot after an initial effort in the final top 10 shootout was deleted because he exceeded the track limits at Copse corner.
With championship leader Rosberg on provisional pole, and Hamilton 10th as the clock ticked away and fans held their breath, the home hero pulled out all the stops to secure his 56th career pole and fourth at Silverstone.
“I was sitting in the garage and knew I couldn’t let the guys down and I’m grateful I got the final lap in,” said the Briton after setting a time of one minute 29.287 seconds.
Huge cheers went up around the circuit as Hamilton lit up the screens, with a 140,000 crowd expecting to witness his third successive British Grand Prix win on Sunday and fourth in total.
“Lewis in Silverstone with the crowd behind him, it gives him an extra one tenth,” said the team’s non-executive chairman Niki Lauda.
Rosberg, who has an 11 point advantage over Hamilton after nine of 11 races, was due to line up in second place but was summoned to see stewards for an alleged rules breach at the start of qualifying.
If the front row is confirmed, Mercedes team bosses are sure to be watching nervously on Sunday after collisions between their drivers in three of the last five races.
Hamilton and Rosberg have been told they are on a final warning, with new rules of engagement and the threat of tough sanctions if they make contact again to the detriment of the dominant team.
Dutch teenager Max Verstappen out qualified his Red Bull team mate Daniel Ricciardo for the first time since his promotion to the senior team from Toro Rosso, with the pair filling the second row with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen fifth.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel qualified sixth but will have a five place grid penalty for the second race in a row due to a gearbox change.
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso will start ninth but his 2009 world champion team mate Jenson Button failed to get through the first phase and starts 17th for what could be his final home appearance.
There was confusion after the first phase with Button hurriedly returning to the garage to get back in his car when it seemed like Renault’s Kevin Magnussen was going to have his time deleted for exceeding track limits.
Sauber’s Swedish driver Marcus Ericsson did not take part in qualifying after being taken to hospital for checks following a big crash in final practice.