Lewis Hamilton came into his crucial home race 10 points adrift of the championship leader, Felipe Massa, and therefore needing to do everything he could in qualifying to give himself the best chance of clawing back some of the lost ground. But instead he ended up fourth on the grid instead of first, the position taken by his McLaren team-mate Heikki Kovalainen.
On his first run in the final session Hamilton ran wide into the gravel in the relatively slow left-hand Priory corner, losing valuable time on a lap that had up until that moment looked very quick.
"I was very relaxed," he said, "and on my first lap the first two sectors were good. I just went into Priory and on the turn-in I had an oversteer moment. I corrected it but ended up in the gravel. On the second lap I just didn't push as much in Priory. That was it."
He was uncertain whether heavy crosswinds were the reason for his initial problem.
"I don't know, but there were very tricky conditions out there," said. "It was quite tricky through Stowe and when you get to the last sector you are relying on the downforce. I came into Priory as normal and all of a sudden I had a great front end to the car and the rear just gave up on me. It is a circuit whose character makes it very difficult to figure out what the next corner will have in store for you, but it is still a fantastic corner, that one."
Starting fourth is not a disaster, especially if the weather is as poor as it is expected to be today, and with two of the three men who are ahead of him in the championship chase lining up behind him, Hamilton still has a chance to claw back some of the ground lost in Canada and France.
"Heikki did a fantastic job," he said, "but I'm quite happy with fourth, to be honest. The weather is going to be changeable and I am looking forward to doing the best job I can with that. I'm looking forward to an exciting race."
Two men well behind are Massa in a Ferrari and the winner of the Canadian grand prix, Robert Kubica. "It's a real shame ending up ninth because of a problem with my pit stop," Massa said. "I lost so much time as the mechanics had trouble changing the right rear wheel and I was unable to start my second run."
BMW's Kubica was also disappointed: "It was a difficult qualifying in the end," said the Pole. "Q1 was good and Q2 was even better, as the first time on option tyres was very good. I backed off in the last sector to just bring the car home, and it was still enough to be two or three-tenths off the McLaren time. In qualifying three I went through the first sector without any problems, but then I felt a problem at the rear of the car."
Putting a brave face on things, Hamilton explained why Silverstone has a place in his heart.
"It's a special circuit because of its high-speed corners. Obviously you have got Copse, which is spectacular, then Maggotts and Becketts, then Bridge and Priory. There are combinations of high-speed corners and a couple of slow ones so trying to find a set-up is not the easiest thing. You can either have one or the other but rarely both together. Getting a car that works in both types of corner is difficult. You always get great spectators here, so there is always a lot of support."
Mark Webber, who finished a superb second to join Kovalainen on the front row said: "It's a bit of a home grand prix for all the Red Bull guys; it's a proud moment for them but only five per cent of the job is done."
Watch the British Grand Prix this afternoon on ITV1, starting at 1pmReuse content