Fernando Alonso claimed his and Ferrari's first pole position since the 2010 Singapore Grand Prix as he came out on top of a tight battle with Red Bull's Mark Webber in a drying and delayed British GP qualifying session at Silverstone.
The session was interrupted for over an hour and a half when the level of standing water became impossible to handle. By the time it resumed, conditions were much improved, and although full wets were still the best choice for the remaining six minutes of Q2, intermediates were the way to go in the pole shoot-out.
Webber looked to be in good shape as he put himself 0.8 seconds clear of the pack with a 1m51.793s in the closing minutes, only for Alonso to pip it by 0.047s. Webber's reply was not quite quick enough and he had to be content with the outside of the front row.
Germany's two Formula 1 world champions will share row two. Michael Schumacher produced one of his best qualifying efforts for Mercedes as he secured third ahead of the second Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel.
Ferrari got both its cars in the top five, as Felipe Massa qualified fifth.
Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus starts alongside the Brazilian, with Catalunya winner Pastor Maldonado next up for Williams.
The leading British driver was only eighth, Lewis Hamilton qualifying his McLaren on row four. Nico Hulkenberg was ninth quickest but will lose five places due to a gearbox change on his Force India.
Romain Grosjean qualified for Q3 only to the spin into the gravel at Vale at the end of Q2. With his Lotus beached, he had to sit out Q3 and settle for 10th.
Inevitably there were some midfield upsets in the rain. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) was third at the red flag but tumbled to 13th after the restart while Sauber's Sergio Perez dropped further still. Fastest before the stoppage, his choice of intermediates proved too ambitious and he tumbled to 17th.
The headline story from Q1 was yet another Silverstone disappointment for Jenson Button. The McLaren driver could do no better than 18th, his final lap hamstrung by more rain arriving in the final sector plus yellow flags for Timo Glock's spun Marussia on the exit of Club.
Hamilton was the only home driver in the top 10, Paul di Resta (Force India) being edged out of a Q3 place by Alonso in the closing moments, leaving the Scot 11th.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap 1. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m51.746s
2. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m51.793s + 0.047
3. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m52.020s + 0.274
4. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m52.199s + 0.453
5. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m53.065s + 1.319
6. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m53.290s + 1.544
7. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m53.539s + 1.793
8. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m53.543s + 1.797
9. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m54.382s + 2.636
10. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault no time Q2 cut-off time: 1m56.931s Gap ** 11. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m57.009s + 2.112 12. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m57.071s + 2.174 13. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m57.108s + 2.211 14. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m57.132s + 2.235 15. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m57.426s + 2.529 16. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m57.719s + 2.822 17. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m57.895s + 2.998 Q1 cut-off time: 1m47.105s Gap * 18. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m48.044s + 1.765 19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m49.027s + 2.748 20. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m49.477s + 3.198 21. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m51.618s + 5.339 22. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m52.742s + 6.463 23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m53.040s + 6.761 24. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m54.143s + 7.864 107% time: 1m53.718s
* Gap to quickest in Q1
** Gap to quickest in Q2