Lewis Hamilton sent the Silverstone crowd wild with a storming lap to set pole position at the British Grand Prix by more than half a second.
He also equals the record for pole positions at the British Grand Prix with five – alongside Jim Clark.
The Mercedes driver was 0.547 seconds quicker than Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen with his title rival Sebastian Vettel only third, a massive 0.756secs adrift.
Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas was fourth quickest but will start ninth after a five-place grid penalty.
An answer to the critics
It is the perfect start to a weekend on which Hamilton knows he needs to win.
The Briton is 20 points behind Vettel heading into the race and has said he wants to use this weekend to get his season back on track.
His performance was the perfect riposte to criticisms of his decision to miss the F1 demonstration in London on Wednesday.
Hamilton was the only driver not to attend the event in Trafalgar Square, a decision he said was based on making sure he was as prepared as he could be for his home race.
“I needed to make sure I got that lap in,” he said. “I didn’t do it last weekend.” That was a reference to his qualifying third in Austria last week, which meant he started eighth following a gearbox penalty for the same reason as Bottas has his rather than eighth.
As for the race, he said the car had been quick in practice in race trim, adding: “I need to do it for these guys,” gesturing at the crowd.
A high-speed thrill
Hamilton was bubbling with enthusiasm about his Mercedes’ performance around the high-speed corners of Silverstone.
There had been speculation before the weekend that Copse corner would be flat-out, but Hamilton said it was actually quicker to have a small lift and take it in seventh gear.
But he added that the faster, more demanding 2017 cars meant that part of the middle left-hander of the Becketts complex that follows Copse was flat-out when it never had been before.
He said: “You can take Copse flat in eighth but it is not necessarily quicker – you scrub a lot of speed off and the rpm drops off too much. I don’t personally take it flat.
“And then Maggotts and Becketts; that section is on fire – Turn 10 is always flat, 11 has been flat for years, 12, from 2007 to now, you were letting off later and later and now you are on the gas into 12. Turn 13 (the final right-hander) is a fantastic corner because it is very bumpy, a lot of compression on the tyres and it is all about the exit.
Vettel, who was greeted with boos from some sections of the crowd, added: “(Becketts is) basically flat until the last (right-handed) corner. Eighth gear, unbelievable. The car just sticks.”
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Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was best of the rest in fifth, his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo last after suffering a suspected turbo failure in the first, wet part of qualifying.
And there was a starring performance from Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, the German benefiting from a new floor to qualify sixth ahead of both Force Indias.
Team-mate Jolyon Palmer was 11th – 0.8secs slower than his team-mate in second qualifying.
A rare treat for McLaren
There was an unfamiliar sight in first qualifying, when Fernando Alonso made a late call to switch to slick tyres right at the end, only just made it around to start a final lap and ended the session fastest of all after a superb lap.
Only one other driver did the same – Force India’s Esteban Ocon – and he was more than two seconds slower than Alonso.
The Spaniard, who has a 30-place grid penalty for using too many engine parts, did not make it through into final qualifying, ending up 13th. Alonso will start from the back.
But the good news for McLaren continued as team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne out-qualified the two-time champion for the first time this season and snuck through into the top 10 shoot-out as the last man in Q2.
The highly rated Belgian, who for the first time has shown the form expected of him, qualified ninth, sneaking ahead of Haas’ Romain Grosjean with his final lap.