Silverstone, United Kingdom, July 7, 2012 (AFP) - Fernando Alonso claimed his and Ferrari's first pole since 2010 and 21st of his career after topping the times during Saturday's rain-drenched qualifying session for Sunday's British Grand Prix.
The Spaniard, who won last year's Silverstone race and is leading this season's drivers standings, clocked a fastest lap of the very wet Silverstone circuit in one minute 51.746 seconds.
That scintillating effort edged out Mark Webber of Red Bull by less than five hundredths of a second.
Despite almost missing out on Q3, Alonso, fastest in the morning, rose to the occasion and set his fastest time on his final lap which was enough to see off Webber and claim Ferrari's first pole in Britain since 2003.
The double champion said he was delighted to have put an end to Ferrari's run without poles but played down the significance of his grid position, suggesting the weather would have the biggest role to play.
He said: "I'm happy to be on pole after nearly two years, but in these conditions the qualifying is probably the least important of the year but obviously for visibility it is always better to be on pole."
"It was tricky conditions for everyone. You have to be calm in some difficult moments - in Q3 we had the difficult choice between inter and full wet (tyres), but when we saw everyone on the inter, we relax a little and put a lap together."
Second-placed Webber said: "It was a very tight session. You don't know how it's going, you just focus on yourself. In a session like this, it's a huge amount down to the driver to get comfortable in the car. It was nip and tuck with Fernando to get pole."
Seven-time champion Michael Schumacher of Mercedes was third fastest ahead of defending champion Sebastian Vettel in the second Red Bull.
Felipe Massa was fifth-fastest in the second Ferrari followed by Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus and Spanish Grand Prix winner Pastor Maldonado of Williams.
Home-hero Lewis Hamilton on McLaren was eighth-fastest for McLaren ahead of German Nico Hulkenberg in the second Mercedes.
Frenchman Romain Grosjean was not able to run after he spun at the end of Q2 and was unable make it back to the pits - he will start tenth.
Despite a relatively dry run during Saturday morning's final practice, the rain began to fall moments before qualifying started.
That meant all 24 drivers were forced out on track in a desperate attempt to secure a decent lap time before the rain took full effect.
Vettel went fastest, but out went McLaren driver Jenson Button, who, despite having a reputation for his wet weather driving and performing in front of his English home crowd, could not put an end to his dismal qualifying run which has plagued him since the Spanish Grand Prix in May.
The 2009 champion wound up almost a send off the pace required to escape the cut and wound up 18th fastest, his worst qualifying performance of the season.
He joined Caterham drivers Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov, and Marussia driver Timo Glock, Hispania driver Pedro De La Rosa and Charles Pic in the second Marussia who opted not to run after also receiving a five-place grid penalty for changing his gearbox before qualifying.
Drivers continued to struggle as conditions worsened in Q2 and after an array of 'almost' crashes and spins which included wet weather wizard Schumacher, the session was red-flagged with just over six minutes remaining.
After more than an hour's wait, the session resumed and local hero Hamilton topped the times.
Paul Di Resta wound up 11th in the second Force India after being edged out in the final seconds by double champion Alonso who clocked a faster times despite there being yellow flags in section 14.
Japanese Kamui Kobayashi was 12th for Sauber ahead of Nico Rosberg of Mercedes who received a five-place grid penalty for changing his gearbox after practice on Friday and will start in 18th place.
That meant Daniel Ricciardo of Toro Rosso, Bruno Senna of Williams, Jean Eric Vergne also of Toro Rosso, Sergio Perez of Sauber and Button all gained a place on the grid for Sunday's race.
2012 British Grand Prix Qualification Results
|2||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing||1:47.276||1:55.898||1:51.793||23|
|4||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing||1:46.279||1:56.931||1:52.199||23|
|9||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1:46.334||1:55.556||1:54.382||22|
|10||10||Romain Grosjean||Lotus||1:47.043||1:56.388||No time||20|
|11||11||Paul di Resta||Force India||1:47.582||1:57.009||19|
|22||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT||1:52.742||11|
|Q1 107% Time||1:53.718|