Lewis Hamilton, centre, celebrates after qualifying on pole, alongside Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, left and Kimi Raikkonen, right. Picture: Andrew Yates / Reuters

Silverstone, Northamptonshire - An emotional Lewis Hamilton outpaced Sebastian Vettel in a keenly-fought record-breaking qualifying contest on Saturday to claim his fifth consecutive British Grand Prix pole position.

The defending world champion, who trails Vettel by a single point in the Drivers' world championship, increased his record total of career poles to 76 with a dazzling record lap under pressure in the closing seconds.

Hamilton in a Mercedes and Ferrari's Vettel traded fastest laps until Hamilton clocked 1m25.892s in his final lap to outpace Vettel by 0.044s. Kimi Raikkonen was third in the second Ferrari and the other Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas fourth, ahead of Max Verstappen and his Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

It was Mercedes' sixth consecutive pole position at Silverstone, but came after a close battle that, which, Hamilton said, was decided by the support of his army of fans.

"These guys are the best," said Hamilton, pointing to the grandstands. "I gave it everything I could and it was so close between these Ferraris. They pulled something out for Q3!"

Vettel had been complaining about neck problems.

"I had a bit of an issue in practice, but I’m OK now." he said before reflecting on his battle with Hamilton. "It was very close. I was very happy with my last lap, but I lost a lot of pace on the straight. I am happy with second and it gives us a chance tomorrow."

Behind the top six, Kevin Magnussen took seventh ahead of his Haas team-mate Romain Grosjean with the ever-improving Charles Leclerc ninth for Sauber and Esteban Ocon 10th for Force India.

The session began in hot conditions with a track temperature of 51 degrees Celsius (or 124 degrees Fahrenheit) and the air at 26, Vettel following Raikkonen after some intensive physiotherapy to ease his stiff neck.

Almost immediately, another incident caused a red flag interruption when Lance Stroll went into the gravel at Brooklands in his Williams. This spelt the end of Stroll's part in the action after just three minutes and he joined Hartley, who could not take part following his big crash in his Toro Rosso in third practice, without a time.

After six minutes, qualifying restarted with Raikkonen going top before Russian rookie Sergey Sirotkin took his Williams into the gravel trap at Stowe, from which he managed to recover. In spite of his neck, Vettel, on softs, went fastest on the opening runs ahead of Hamilton and Bottas, on medium tyres.

Lap records tumble 

Out after Q1 went Carlos Sainz of Renault, complaining of traffic, McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne and Sirotkin, joining Stroll and Hartley at the back of the provisional grid.

In Q2, lap records tumbled as the leading cars clocked times inside Hamilton's 1m26.600 of 2017, Vettel leading the way until Hamilton, on softs, took over again despite a grassy excursion at Becketts. The five who missed the top 10 shootout were Nico Hulkenberg of Renault, Sergio Perez of Force India, Fernando Alonso of McLaren, Pierre Gasly of Toro Rosso and Marcus Ericsson for Sauber.

The top three teams were out quickly for Q3, Hamilton breaking his record on his first run only for Vettel to beat that by 0.057 seconds in 1m25.936s with Bottas and Raikkonen third and fourth. It was tense and very tight as they emerged for their final runs, Hamilton asking if there was "anything to gain me a tow?" The reply was simple: "Negative."

His response was dramatic, another record lap in 1m25.892s and a pole that gives him a perfect chance to claim a record sixth home win and fifth in consecutive years in Sunday’s race.

Results - Q1 (Bottom five are eliminated)

1 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) - 1m26.585s

2 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.233s

3 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.440

4 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.724

5 Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +0.964

6 Charles Leclerc (Sauber) +1.377

7 Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +1.394

8 Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +1.432

9 Romain Grosjean (Haas) +1.501

10 Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +1.558

11 Fernando Alonso (McLaren) +1.602

12 Sergio Perez (Force India) +1.625

13 Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) +1.664

14 Esteban Ocon (Force India) +1.694

15 Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) +1.814

16 Carlos Sainz (Renault) +1.871

17 Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) +2.511

18 Sergey Sirotkin (Williams) +2.667

19 Lance Stroll (Williams) No Time

20 Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso) No Time

Q2: (Bottom five are eliminated)

1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) - 1m26.256s

2 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +0.116s

3 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.157

4 Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +0.227

5 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.757

6 Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +1.113

7 Romain Grosjean (Haas) +1.266

8 Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +1.474

9 Charles Leclerc (Sauber) +1.534

10 Esteban Ocon (Force India) +1.587

11 Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +1.645

12 Sergio Perez (Force India) +1.672

13 Fernando Alonso (McLaren) +1.883

14 Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) +2.087

15 Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) +2.135 

Q3:

1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) - 1m25.892s

2 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +0.044s

3 Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +0.098

4 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.325

5 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.710

6 Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +1.207

7 Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +1.352

6 Romain Grosjean (Haas) +1.563

7 Charles Leclerc (Sauber) +1.987

8 Esteban Ocon (Force) India +2.302

9 Charles Leclerc (Saube)r +1.987

10 Esteban Ocon (Force India) +2.302

Agence France-Presse