In terms of excitement, the British Grand Prix weekend reached its high point at two o'clock on Saturday afternoon, when Lewis Hamilton gave the crowd what it had come to see, and took pole position in the closing seconds of qualifying.
To my mind, the current 'knockout' system - originally the brainchild of Bernie Ecclestone - has been the most successful Formula 1 innovation of recent years. There may be good reasons for rules stipulating one-engine-for-two-weekends, using-both-types-of-tyre-in-a-race, and so on, but by and large motor racing's public has neither the time nor interest to assimilate endless regulations of this kind. If they're going to pay for grand prix tickets through a building society, what they rightly expect in return is to be entertained, and that they are by qualifying - the races, we know, still need work.
The great attraction of the current system is that action is maintained throughout the hour, with the slower cars systematically weeded out, so that for the final segment only the hotshoes are left, and clear laps are easily found. Plus, the system is simple, and requires neither a rulebook nor calculator to understand. People like that. Very well, differing fuel loads mean that the cars are not precisely the same, and none are in all-out 'qualifying spec', as we used to know it, but still the dying seconds of the session are invariably to be relished.
It was just so at Silverstone. Inside the final minute Alonso had the pole, then Raikkonen - and then, of course, Hamilton. As at Montreal and Indianapolis, Lewis nicked it with his final lap, and he had me thinking back to Senna, to the times without number when he did the same.
Ayrton, without doubt, was the greatest qualifier I ever saw. Gerhard Berger, his close friend, and for three seasons his McLaren team-mate, put it this way: "You would go quicker and quicker, and finally do a lap - set a time - that you knew was as quick as that car could do. Ayrton, no.
He wouldn't accept it. In that situation, he'd somehow generate a power from within himself - he'd find another two or three tenths, and it didn't come from the car..."
Senna, as Berger cheerfully conceded, had the other drivers psyched out. Unless another team had a discernible performance advantage - as, overwhelmingly, in the case of Williams-Renault in 1992 - Ayrton was always more likely than not to take the pole. It was something his rivals almost came to expect. "They'd set their times," James Hunt once observed, "than wait for the inevitable, like rabbits cowering in headlights..."
Nine races into his F1 career, Hamilton is hardly yet at that stage, but already he is showing signs of the kind of special talent which can invariably find something from within itself - that power, of which Berger spoke, which can sometimes transcend the limitations of a car.
At Silverstone, unfortunately for the thousands rooting for him, Lewis failed on Sunday to deliver a comparable race performance. The following morning one newspaper headline seemed absurdly to ascribe his defeat to that moment in the pits when he momentarily confused the turning and raising of the lollipop, and released the clutch too soon. That probably cost him a couple of seconds, but hardly explained why Raikkonen was 39 seconds up on him at the flag, and team-mate Alonso 37. On this occasion Hamilton simply got the set-up wrong; he couldn't keep up with them, and admitted as much.
It happens. Of course, this being the British Grand Prix, there was a special resonance to the race for Lewis, and he desperately wanted to win it, but having kept his podium record going, his championship lead well intact, he was being a little hard on himself, it seemed to me, when he said: "I need to step up my game." Ye Gods!
In the space of seven days, meantime, Raikkonen's season has come alive. Long, fast, corners are meat and drink to the Ferrari F2007, and it was always going to thrive at Silverstone, as the post-Indianapolis test had suggested. The team came away from it in extremely good heart, not least because Kimi at last had a car that suited his style. He has not lost since.
Alonso may not have won on Sunday, but he seemed more relaxed in defeat than we have seen for some little time. Yes, he knew he had driven a great race, and finished only a couple of seconds adrift, but then he drove a fantastic race at Magny-Cours, which was ill-rewarded only because he had started, through no fault of his, way back on the grid.
No, this was a different thing - the old thing, if you like, common to great racing drivers since the beginning of time. If Hamilton has, to quite some degree, redefined F1 this year, suspended many of its most time-honoured beliefs, no one has suffered at Lewis's hand like Fernando, because no one else drives a McLaren-Mercedes; no one else, in other words, can be precisely compared with him.
Alonso, quiet and reflective - one who hates the trappings of fame, who likes to be with people he knows well, to make them laugh - is also a proud man, and these last few months must have been, in many ways, immensely trying for him. Several times he has been beaten in equal cars - and by a rookie; endlessly he has sat at press conferences, where all the questions have been directed at Hamilton, while he - the reigning world champion - has been virtually ignored.
In our different ways, we all have egos. In purely rational moments, Fernando could look at what he has achieved - two championships on the trot, both won in the Schumacher era - and quite reasonably think, 'If Lewis is doing this to me, God knows how he'd be making any other team-mate look', but rare is the grand prix driver devoid of any psychological fragility - Raikkonen, perhaps, in whom many normal human responses seem not to abide, but in this era I can think of no other.
None of this is Hamilton's fault, of course. He is a young man in a new job, and can hardly be blamed for starting it as no one has ever done. In several races he has had the better of his experienced, celebrated, team-mate, and one of them was the Spanish Grand Prix, before a massive crowd of rabid Alonso fans.
Felipe Massa's Ferrari won in Barcelona, but if Alonso had finished second to a faster car from another team - as he did to Raikkonen's McLaren in '05 - he could still have felt reasonably good about the day. To finish third, behind Massa and Hamilton, now that was a different thing. I don't doubt that Fernando was extremely keen to have the better of Lewis at Silverstone. That's how F1 superstars have always been, and McLaren has two on its books.
Both were in McLaren's new and extraordinary 'motorhome' (which, with a few more storeys, would not look out of place on Fifth Avenue) when I popped in on Sunday for a sandwich and a glass of wine. As they padded about, moving from this table to that, chatting easily, you wouldn't have guessed that the British Grand Prix was less than an hour away.
As I left, a group, thickly peopled by police, was making its way through the paddock, sweeping aside everything in its wake. This was some serious escort. Royalty? His Holiness? Jonathan Ross?
Wrong. The Beckhams. Fernando and Lewis, meantime, made their way to the pits, quite unaided. Ayrton Senna used to do the same.