SILVERSTONE, England (AP) — Defending four time champion Sebastian Vettel was one of three Germans who profited from anticipating drying track conditions in Saturday’s dramatic qualifying for the British Grand Prix, in stark contrast to local Lewis Hamilton.
Vettel claimed second place on the grid in his Red Bull car and will start Sunday’s race alongside compatriot and series leader Nico Rosberg of Mercedes with another German Nico Hulkenberg back in fourth for Force India.
All three jumped ahead of Mercedes’ Hamilton in the final seconds after the British driver decided the track was too damp, or wet, for him to improve his best lap time.
Hamilton, whose family home is near Silverstone, was wrong and fell from provisional pole to sixth on the grid. His former team-mate at McLaren, fellow Briton Jenson Button, also took advantage of the swiftly changing conditions to qualify third.
Vettel said: “I think England is the only country where you get these sort of conditions, but it worked out and it’s very positive for us to start from the front row tomorrow.”
He added: “We sat in the garage waiting and eventually went out on dry tires. We went out for one flying lap at the end, it was difficult to believe it was possible to find dry areas.”
Hulkenberg said it was an unusual session.
“I have never felt a circuit dry up that quickly. At first, I felt it was undriveable, and the next minute I felt it was completely dry. It was hard to judge what was going on out there,” Hulkenberg said. “On the out lap, I thought `Oh gosh this is not going to work, let’s not crash the car’. I was the first car to set a lap time in the final part, so I was still suffering from a few damp patches, but it’s a good result and I hope tomorrow is a good day.”
Hamilton, desperate to win his home race to boost his challenge to team-mate Rosberg who leads him by 29 points in the championship, admitted his fault.
“I made a mistake today and pulled out of the lap when I should have kept going,” Hamilton conceded. “It was my decision, a bad call, and that decided my qualifying.”