Mark Webber grabbed pole position on Saturday for Sunday's Formula One British Grand Prix as Red Bull swept the front row again in changeable conditions during an unpredictable qualifying session.
The 34-year-old Australian, who won last year's race, demonstrated his liking for the Silverstone circuit with a fastest lap of one minute and 30.399 seconds as his team locked out the front row again.
It was Webber's second pole this season and the seventh of his career.
Spaniard Fernando Alonso was third fastest for Ferrari ahead of his teammate Brazilian Felipe Massa as rival McLaren struggled to mount a serious challenge.
Briton Jenson Button, in the leading McLaren, was fifth and his teammate and compatriot Lewis Hamilton was only able to qualify in 10th place.
Another Briton, Scot Paul di Resta, took sixth place on the grid for the Force India team ahead of Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado in a Williams with Japanese Kamui Kobayashi eighth for Sauber and German Nico Rosberg ninth for Mercedes.
On a cool, damp and drizzly afternoon at the revamped old circuit in central England, the entire field was swiftly out in pursuit of times early in Q1 — all going for banker times in case of subsequent heavy rain making the track more treacherous and slower.
Many of the teams had been involved in frantic activity before the session following a morning of technical meetings, rows and u-turns on the rules.
Massa was soon on the radio warning of “rain at Copse” before his teammate Alonso lost control at Brooklands and slid off into the gravel at Luffield.
He recovered, rejoined and was soon back among the pace-setters.
Vettel was soon setting the pace for Red Bull before he was out-paced by teammate Webber and then Maldonado and Massa, Webber's improved best lap remaining the fastest.
Heavy rain then curtailed the first mini-session leaving Webber on top and seven men eliminated, including debutant Australian Daniel Ricciardo.
“It was not easy in those conditions,” said Ricciardo.
“But it is a great feeling to race here in front of these crowds. I have to take it easy as it is my first time. For me, Silverstone is like a second home - I am just going to learn as I go.”
Qualifying for the Grand Prix was overshadowed by a row after Formula One's ruling body, the FIA, performed a u-turn on its technical rules on the eve of Sunday's race.
As defending champion Sebastian Vettel clocked the fastest time in the morning's final free practice all eyes were focused on the stewards' room where Red Bull team chief Christian Horner stormed in to protest.
“I am going down to speak to Charlie (Whiting, the FIA race director) about it,” said a testy Horner as he marched through the paddock. I am not saying anything else… ”
It was the same story as he left following an exchange of views. “No comment at this time,” he snapped.
This pantomime scene followed Friday' act of public bickering between Horner and his McLaren counterpart Martin Whitmarsh over the FIA's decision, taken during Friday's practice action, to allow Red Bull a special concession in the latest tightening up of the regulations. Team Lotus boss Tony Fernandes described the series of events as “a shambles”.
The row centred on the new rules that ban the deliberate use of engine exhaust gases to improve rear down-force, and therefore grip, notably when the driver is not pressing down on his car's throttle — a practice that, it was believed, contributed towards Red Bull's clear performance advantage this year.
The results: Top 10: 1. Mark Webber (Red Bull), 1m 30.399s; 2. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), 1:30.431; 3. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), 1:30.516; 4. Felipe Massa (Ferrari), 1:31.124; 5. Jenson Button (McLaren), 1:31.898; 6. Paul di Resta (Force India), 1:31.929; 7. Pastor Maldonado (Williams), 1:31.933; 8. Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber), 1:32.128; 9. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), 1:32.209; 10. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), 1:32.376. — Agencies