When you've had a tough time with a faster-than-expected team-mate and need to reassert yourself, there's no place like home to do it. And in front of 90,000 cheering spectators at Silverstone yesterday, Lewis Hamilton did exactly that.
However, British fans were left disappointed when the Scot Paul Di Resta, having finished fifth on the grid, was later disqualified from qualifying and will now start from the back.
Mercedes's qualifying pace has been undisputed this season, but Red Bull have won three of the past four British Grands Prix, and the showdown between the two teams did not disappoint.
Hamilton opened the bowling with the fastest time in the first session before Vettel asserted himself in the second. They went head to head in the third. Vettel's Red Bull team-mate, Mark Webber, set the pace initially before Hamilton's partner, Nico Rosberg, beat him, but then Hamilton stamped his authority with a time of 1min 30.096sec.
In the second runs, Rosberg went back in front with 1:30.059, but Hamilton's answer was emphatic with the only sub-1:30 lap of the weekend – timed at 1:29.607 – and left the local hero in a league of his own.
"For the first time since 2008 I had a car with which I could really compete here," he said afterwards. "I really hope I can deliver tomorrow."
At the end, Vettel shaved down to 1:30.211 to beat Webber by a fraction. If the German champion couldn't take pole position – and that was beyond Red Bull's reach, such was the pace of the two Mercedes – then third was the next best place, since it lined him up behind Hamilton on the cleaner side of the grid.
The Lewis Hamilton who faced the media afterwards here was a far cry from the man we'd seen in Canada. He was relaxed and smiling, and whatever it was that he'd had on his mind in Montreal had disappeared. His satisfaction with a job brilliantly done oozed from every pore as he described just how that final lap had felt.
"You have a delta time, so you can tell as soon as you go into Turn One whether you are up on that or not. You can be struggling and then you keep checking after each corner or sector, but this time by Turn Nine I could see that I was two-and-a-half tenths up, and I really didn't want to lose that so I was taking extra care.
"You also feel it when you have the tyres and the brakes up to temperature and the car beneath you, and it's not trying to get away from you. Sometimes it's like a wild bull and you are trying to tame it, but this time it really felt like 2007 [when he took pole position in his rookie year], though the car was so loud I couldn't hear the crowd roaring this time."
Beside him, his team-mate, Rosberg, smiled, saying: "We have been having a big battle all season and we are usually very close, but" – and here he smiled more– "not today.
"As a team we've been having a really big push, and Lewis and I push each other all the time, and we're very lucky to have a great atmosphere in the team where everyone is working in the same direction."
The big question, however, is how much Mercedes's tyre-degradation problems will hamper their race performance.
Behind them, Di Resta did the perfect job to take fifth place on the grid and was handily placed to challenge for his first F1 podium finish.
How sad, then, that for the third race in a row his team let him down. The stewards last night put him to the back of the grid after a post-qualifying weight check revealed his car to be 1.5 kg below the 642 kg minimum.
There was also disappointment for Jenson Button, who lost out to Kimi Raikkonen on the final Q3 slot. "The fans were unbelievable," Button said afterwards. "I will drive my heart out [today] for a good result."Reuse content