Rule changes fail to ground Red Bull
Red Bull Racing shrugged off the technical row that has so far cast a shadow over the British Grand Prix weekend by locking out the front row of the Silverstone grid.
But, for only the second time in nine races this season, Sebastian Vettel is not on pole as team-mate Mark Webber will instead lead away the field.
A light shower in the closing couple of minutes scuppered all hope of anybody dislodging the mighty Red Bull pairing from their lofty perch, although in truth it is unlikely they would have been headed anyway.
With reigning champion and runaway leader Vettel lining up second, it means he has now qualified on the front row for the last 14 races, just 10 behind the record set by Ayrton Senna over the 1988 and 1989 seasons.
The furore surrounding the ban on off-throttle blown diffusers had an impact, but not in the way many had thought in light of the row that developed yesterday between Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and McLaren counterpart Martin Whitmarsh.
Red Bull were today forced to back down following an extraordinary meeting of the Technical Working Group prior to qualifying, but in essence there appeared to be little change as Webber set a lap of one minute 30.399secs, just 0.032secs ahead of Vettel.
Behind the Red Bull pair were Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and team-mate Felipe Massa, the Spaniard maintaining his record of out-qualifying the Brazilian at every race this season.
McLaren's Jenson Button starts fifth, finishing narrowly ahead of Paul di Resta in sixth, who produced a brilliant performance for his best showing in his debut campaign with Force India.
Williams' Pastor Maldonado also registered a career high in seventh, with Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi eighth and the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg in ninth.
As for Lewis Hamilton, he will start 10th, his worst grid position since last year's Malaysian Grand Prix, his car clearly affected by the regulation change.
Adrian Sutil lines up in 11th in his Force India after missing out at the end of the 15-minute Q2 by just 0.029secs to Maldonado.
Behind the German comes Sergio Perez in his Sauber ahead of Michael Schumacher who starts 13th, the seven-time world champion's second worst grid slot of the season.
Clearly compromised by the diffuser ban, in particular due to their radical mid-section exhaust, Renault pair Vitaly Petrov and Nick Heidfeld find themselves in 14th and 16th.
Williams' Rubens Barrichello sits in between the Renault duo, whilst Heikki Kovalainen is 17th in his Lotus after escaping from Q1 for the third time in the last five races.
That was primarily due to the fact that five minutes before the end of the opening 20-minute session, the rain that has so far blighted the weekend again made its presence felt.
A short, sharp, heavy shower soaked the track, but when it hit all the big guns were safe, with the majority of the usual suspects in the bottom seven, with the exception of Kovalainen.
The losers were Toro Rosso pairing Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi who will start 18th and 19th.
Behind them will be Virgin Racing's Timo Glock in 20th and team-mate Jerome D'Ambrosio 22nd, sandwiching Jarno Trulli in his Lotus.
On the back row come the Hispania Racing duo of Vitantonio Liuzzi and debut-making Daniel Ricciardo, the Australian 'on loan' to the Spanish team from Toro Rosso for the remainder of the season.
The rain scuppered Ricciardo's chances of potentially overhauling Liuzzi, and instead the 22-year-old finished six tenths of a second adrift of the Italian.
Webber, after clinching the eighth pole of his career, said: "I've always enjoyed driving here.
"But that was a very mixed session for all of us, even yesterday with all the rain, so it was a question of not being caught out.
"At the end I'm very happy with the job we did."
With regard to the regulation change, Webber added: "Every year we have a new thing to talk about it.
"But the fans cannot understand point one of a per cent of what's going on, so let's keep the rules simple and go from there."
Vettel was reasonably pleased with his performance as he said: "It was a difficult session because when it rains here it's difficult to see where it's wet or damp.
"In the end it was dry, although it was a shame we couldn't get the second run in because I would have liked to have challenged Mark.
"But despite all the talk coming into qualifying it's good to see we can still produce competitive lap times."
Alonso was arguably the most delighted of the leading trio as he finished within a tenth of a second of Webber.
"Here at Silverstone which is not our preference in terms of layout and characteristics, to be one tenth off pole is great for us," said Alonso.
"Hopefully we can perform well in the race and put pressure on them (Red Bull) to be in the mix at the end."