Lewis Hamilton pulled out a sensational last-gasp lap to steal pole position for the British Grand Prix from under the noses of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso at a sunny Silverstone.

Giving the home crowd exactly wanted to see - but with a touch of extra Mansell-esque drama thrown in for good measure - Hamilton 'out-iced' F1 regular 'ice-man' to leap from fourth in the provisional order to top of the pile as he crossed the line behind his main rivals.

Knowing that he had had a scrappy first lap in the do-or-die session, Hamilton bolted on a new set of the softer Bridgestones and set about putting the record straight. Ahead of him, however, Alonso and the two Ferraris were already attempting to improve their own marks.

The Spaniard was first across the line, shaving nearly three-tenths from the provisional pole. He was followed by Massa, who slotted into second spot, unable to better the McLaren this time, despite having been up on Alonso through the first two sectors. Raikkonen, meanwhile, was shadowing them both and, despite running wide at the final turn, crossed the line 0.048secs quicker than Alonso had managed, temporarily silencing the McLaren fans - and casting doubt into the minds of the Hamilton hordes, who now wondered whether their man could drum up the extra tenths.

They needn't have worried. The Briton was on it from the start, his MP4-22 dancing as if on top-toe as he wrestled it around the dauntingly quick corners that make up the first half of the Silverstone lap. Up at the splits, the pressure was still on with such small margins to play with, but there was no repeat of the wheel in the dirt he showed in Q1, the silver dart taking the flag in 1min 19.997secs. It may have been nearly a second and more from Alonso's absolute best from Q2 but few in the stands cared. The boy wonder was fastest when it mattered- the first British polewinner at Silverstone for eleven years.

The antics of the top four overshadowed all else that went on in the final session although, in truth, there was less shuffling among the lower order. Robert Kubica eventually won the battle to claim 'best of the rest' honours behind Massa in fifth, while Ralf Schumacher caused the surprise of the afternoon by annexing sixth in the better of the two Toyotas. The German - along with team-mate Jarno Trulli, who ended Q3 in tenth spot - were both fortunate to escape the cut in the second session, but showed the TF107 was at least better suited to Silverstone than it has been at other venues this year.

Between the two white-and-red machines, Heikki Kovalainen bettered veteran Renault team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella, having leapt, temporarily, into fifth place. Schumacher then went fourth, before Hamilton pulled his final effort out of the bag to demote them all. Fisichella will share row four with his rookie team-mate, pushing a lacklustre Nick Heidfeld into ninth.

The German had been lucky to feature in the top ten, his decision not to venture out for a final run in Q2 almost condemning him to join the rest of the early spectators. As it was, the BMW Sauber man survived, leaving the four Red Bull cars to sandwich Rubens Barrichello and Alex Wurz.

Mark Webber headed the casualties, missing out on another top ten slot by just 0.06secs as he headed RBR team-mate David Coulthard on row six. Wurz was next up, having joined the two Toyotas in escaping the drop zone, albeit temporarily. The Austrian was then dumped back into the bottom six in the session by Schumacher's escape, but still managed the rare feat of out-performing Williams team-mate Nico Rosberg.

Rosberg was, however, hampered by technical troubles, his FW29 refusing to run cleanly as he embarked on his last lap in Q1. Although he was safe when he crossed the line, improvements from those below him - notably Barrichello - left him 17th and with no recourse to reply.

The German was the biggest name to drop out in Q1, overshadowing even Jenson Button, who endured another home nightmare to wind up 18th. The former British favourite, who has found himself eclipsed by Hamilton in 2007, dropped into the bottom six midway through the session and was unable to improve on his final flying run, an effort compromised by friend and rival Anthony Davidson's curious spin in the stadium section.

The absence of both Rosberg and Button allowed both Toro Rossos to make it into Q2 but, despite optimism borne of solid practice performances, neither Scott Speed or Tonio Liuzzi could haul themselves any higher than row eight.

Button will be followed on the grid by the car he helped to develop in 2006, as Davidson had to make do with 19th. The British rookie appeared to time his final run badly, finding four cars -0 including Button - in front of him as he exited Becketts to begin the run to Stowe. Although he negotiated them all in a short space of time, the moves had already compromised his lap by the time he reached the stadium complex. Perhaps thinking he could warm the tyres for a final last-ditch run, the Super Aguri twitched and then ploughed into the gravel, bringing out the yellows which helped take the edge off Button's run.

The locally-based Spykers were also in the bottom group, but at least had the satisfaction of sandwiching Takuma Sato after the Japanese driver failed to get the best out of his Super Aguri.

 

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