Heikki Kovalainen takes advantage for Team Lotus at Silverstone

Hingham's Team Lotus took advantage of a wet Silverstone to put Heikki Kovalainen 17th on the grid for Sunday's British Grand Prix.

It is only the second time this season the Norfolk outfit have managed to send a car beyond the opening qualifying session on a Saturday, having managed it on pure pace at the Spanish Grand Prix, around Barcelona in May.

Kovalainen could not make further progress in Q2, despite a noble effort, so will take row nine alongside the Toro Rosso of Jaime Alguersuari. Team-mate Jarno Trulli will start 21, behind the Virgin of Timo Glock.

In truth, running in Q1 was hampered by intermittent showers that made life difficult for most of the Silverstone paddock.

That, on top of dramatic ongoing arguments over proposed mid-season rule changes to the teams' engines, made it an thoroughly intriguing afternoon.

'I'm very pleased with that,' said Kovalainen. 'Before qualifying we knew it would be important to get as much as we could out of the dry tyres because the showers were expected; we had to give it everything on the slicks.

'At the start of Q1 I managed to get a pretty decent lap in and got everything out of the car almost immediately. Then when I went out for the second run the rain started but having got it right when it was dry we were already where we needed to be so the whole team can be pleased about where we ended up.

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'Hopefully I can put in a good race from 17th. I know the whole team is working very well together and even though the outright performance isn't quite there yet, we are still getting everything out of the car and attacking the teams ahead.'

At the sharp end it was Mark Webber, winner around Silverstone last year, who stuck his Red Bull on pole with a fighting lap – barely one tenth of a second ahead of his team-mate and world championship leader Sebastian Vettel.

More of a surprise was the fact Fernando Alonso finished the same gap behind the German, third in his Ferrari, while the McLarens of Jenson Button (fifth) and Lewis Hamilton (10th) were some way off the pace going into Sunday's home race.

The new engine regulations appeared to hit Group Lotus-backed Renault too, with Vitaly Petrov 14th and Nick Heidfeld 16th for the Hethel-supported team.

Heidfeld added: 'The rule changes had an impact, of course, but our feeling is that today's situation is the result of several factors.

'The car is not bad to drive and is does not seem slow, we've just not been in a position to fully exploit it.'