x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Fernando Alonso's ominous display to his F1 championship rivals

The Ferrari driver not taking anything for granted ahead of race as Sebastian Vettel fears event could be a "lottery".

Fernando Alonso took pole position at Silverstone.
Fernando Alonso took pole position at Silverstone.

SILVERSTONE // Could it be that, through the mist and drizzle, a pattern is beginning to emerge? Fernando Alonso, having become last month the only man to win more than one race in this volatile, unpredictable eight-race-old season, claimed pole position in a rain-plagued qualifying session ahead of today's British Grand Prix.

Yesterday's action was suspended for more than 90 minutes courtesy of an afternoon deluge and when proceedings reconvened it was the Spaniard, the current leader of the world championship standings, who proved fastest through the puddles. Such results can be interpreted as confirmation that a certain lay of the land is becoming clear. If only the sky above Silverstone Circuit would do likewise.

Under a grey firmament that constantly threatened and sporadically delivered, the 30 year old's fastest lap means Ferrari will head the grid for the first time in nearly two years. The Italian manufacturers' previous pole came at the 2010 Singapore Grand Prix, which Alonso went on to win.

Yesterday, however, the two-time world champion preferred to put his performance down to good fortune rather than his emergence as F1's front-runner.

"You need a bit of luck and we were lucky," said Alonso, who spun off the track midway through the session and was fortunate to avoid ploughing into a wall.

"We were lucky with that moment, with all the decisions that we made for the tyres, lucky that we put the lap together and lucky as well in the distance with Mark [Webber] because there were some milliseconds."

Webber, of Red Bull Racing, will start alongside him on the front row after finishing 0.047s behind, while Mercedes-GP's Michael Schumacher begins from third.

"It's tricky conditions for everyone," Alonso added. "You have to be calm in some difficult moments. To complete a lap without making a huge mistake is not easy in these conditions.

"With this weather, the qualifying becomes one of the less important qualifyings of the year because everything will mix up after a few laps [of the race] maybe. But for visibility and things like that it's always better to start at the front, so I'm very happy."

The rain has caused havoc off-track all weekend, with ticket-holders being advised by circuit officials not to attend yesterday due to car parks and campsites being flooded with water.

The problems spread to the track yesterday as cars struggled for grip and aquaplaned at high-speed.

Webber spoke of "rivers" of rainwater, while Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes British driver who will start from eighth, added: "Visibility is incredible with the spray. You can't see the car 10-metres in front of you."

Yet Schumacher said he is hoping for a wet race. The seven-time world champion is an accomplished wet-weather performer and lived up to his reputation, but Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull's reigning world champion, warned rain could result in the race becoming a game of chance. "It could be a big lottery with conditions like that," he said."

Webber said his session had involved "risk management" and explained the difficulties that racing in the wet brings. "Obviously the concentration is a little bit different to a dry grand prix, so you've got to have that in mind," he said. "Dry races still obviously require immense concentration and focus to put everything together, but in the wet you have more balls in the air and you need to be ready for that."

Marshals managed to sweep much of the standing water off the track during the 92-minute suspension, but it still proved treacherous.

Jenson Button, Hamilton's teammate and often regarded as a master in the rain, had earlier finished a lowly 18th in front of his home crowd in what is another disappointment in a growing pattern of disappointments for the 2009 world champion.

Having won the season-opening race in March, Button has struggled, scoring 24 points from the next seven races.

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