Red Bull continued its domination of the British Grand Prix weekend as Sebastian Vettel led Mark Webber in a seemingly easy front row sweep.
While Red Bull proved unstoppable, its main title rival McLaren had a very tough session, with Lewis Hamilton fourth and reigning champion Jenson Button a disastrous 14th. The latter described his car as "undriveable" and was lost to explain why its grip had suddenly disappeared in Q2, leaving him on row seven.
Vettel and Webber had been first and second in Q1, swapped places in Q2, and then led their rivals by just over 0.7 second after their first Q3 runs put them comfortably first and second, Vettel just ahead. That was how they stayed, as Webber could not quite improve on his 1m29.758s at the end, whereas Vettel found a little more time and got his pole mark down to 1m29.615s.
Fernando Alonso was best of the rest in third for Ferrari, despite being frustrated to be caught behind Rubens Barrichello's Williams on his last Q3 run. Nevertheless, he was still able to hold off Hamilton.
Mercedes got both cars back in the top ten, Nico Rosberg taking fifth place – 0.8sec and five places ahead of teammate Michael Schumacher.
Renault's Robert Kubica will join Rosberg on row three, followed by Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari, Barrichello, and the impressive Pedro de la Rosa (Sauber), who produced the best qualifying form of his comeback so far.
Button aside, there were few surprises among the drivers failing to make the top ten, except perhaps Force India's second straight Q2 elimination. Adrian Sutil narrowly missed out in 11th, while Tonio Liuzzi was 15th – and may yet face questions over impeding 13th-place qualifier Nico Hulkenberg's Williams.
Liuzzi had earlier edged though to Q2 with his last lap having briefly looked set for a Q1 departure. His improvement pushed Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari outside the cut in 18th.
Lotus's Heikki Kovalainen and Virgin's Timo Glock had a close battle for the top spot among the new teams, eventually won by the Finn again - although the gap up to the established midfield was back up to 2sec.
Returnee Sakon Yamamoto will unsurprisingly start last for Hispania, though he was within a respectable 0.4sec of teammate Karun Chandhok.
Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:30.841 1:30.480 1:29.615
2. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:30.858 1:30.114 1:29.758
3. Alonso Ferrari 1:30.997 1:30.700 1:30.426
4. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:31.297 1:31.118 1:30.556
5. Rosberg Mercedes 1:31.626 1:31.085 1:30.625
6. Kubica Renault 1:31.680 1:31.344 1:31.040
7. Massa Ferrari 1:31.313 1:31.010 1:31.172
8. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:31.424 1:31.126 1:31.175
9. de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1:31.533 1:31.327 1:31.274
10. Schumacher Mercedes 1:32.058 1:31.022 1:31.430
11. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:31.109 1:31.399
12. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:31.851 1:31.421
13. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:32.144 1:31.635
14. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:31.435 1:31.699
15. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:32.226 1:31.708
16. Petrov Renault 1:31.638 1:31.796
17. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:31.901 1:32.012
18. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:32.430
19. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1:34.405
20. Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:34.775
21. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:34.864
22. di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:35.212
23. Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1:36.576
24. Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth 1:36.968
All Timing Unofficial