Hamilton pole revives magic memories of 2007
Lewis Hamilton revives memories of his stunning Formula One debut season with his first British Grand Prix pole position since 2007.
The 2008 champion said his flying qualifying lap, almost half a second quicker than second placed Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg, gave him an incredible feeling and had been "as close to perfect as I could do".
"It definitely does feel like it's up there with the best," he added on a sunlit afternoon at the old airfield circuit.
"It feels just like it did in 2007. Just to see the crowd here today is fantastic - such a great turnout from everyone. So that was a lap for them."
Hamilton had started the season with many expecting him to regret the move from McLaren but that is now just so much ancient history.
McLaren are in the doldrums are Mercedes are the rising challengers to champions Red Bull with five pole positions in eight races.
Hamilton has had two of them but is still waiting for the first win with his new employers - something he was unwilling to contemplate overnight (NZ time) given the uncertainty over his car's ability to make the tyres work.
"Sometimes it is like a wild bull, you're trying to tame it which is very very difficult to do," he said of the Mercedes, a car he is still adjusting to and does not feel entirely comfortable in.
"But when you do, and you pull out a lap like that, it really felt like 2007. I couldn't hear anyone still, because the car's too loud, hopefully I got a good roar today," he added of the crowd support.
The crowd, with their banners of support and Hamilton flags, had made a huge difference, he suggested.
Hamilton went out to wave to the grandstand from the pit wall before the session and the fans acclaimed him afterwards as one of their own.
He said it was not about psyching himself up for the qualifying session ahead but reacting to their enthusiasm and giving something back.
"The fans sit there for a long long time during the day and don't really get to see our faces so it's the one opportunity that I do get to see them and try to extract what I can from them, because the support means a lot," he said.
"Of course this weekend I come here with an extra boost of energy and just want to pay them back.
"This is the first time since 2008 that I've had a car that I've really been able to compete with so I'm really, really proud of what the team have done and I hope the fans can have a good evening and bring us some good luck tomorrow."
Red Bull's triple world champion Sebastian Vettel qualified third and will share the second row with team mate Mark Webber, in what will be the Australian's last British race before quitting Formula One at the end of the year.
"They are bloody quick in qualifying...they seem to be in a different world on Saturday afternoons," said Vettel. "But points are scored on Sunday and the last few races have been pretty good for us."
Britain's Paul Di Resta for Force India and young Australian Daniel Ricciardo, the Toro Rosso driver bidding for Webber's drive next year, will line up together on the third row.
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, 36 points behind Vettel in the championship, qualified 10th in a disappointing performance from the Italian team, who had Brazilian Felipe Massa in 12th place.
"We were not competitive all weekend and it's not normal to see Ferrari out of Q3 (the third phase of qualifying)," said the Spaniard.
"We need to recover now and it was a bad Saturday. We didn't improve the car enough in the last four to five races and we ordered some new parts but they didn't do what we expected. We need to keep on working."
McLaren had another miserable qualifying, with 2009 world champion Jenson Button 11th on the grid and Mexican team mate Sergio Perez 14th.
Former champions Williams, who have made their home race a celebration of their 600 grands prix in the sport, fared even more dismally.
Finland's Valtteri Bottas failed to make it through the first phase and qualified 17th behind Venezuelan team mate Pastor Maldonado in 16th.