SILVERSTONE - Nico Rosberg claimed pole position for Sunday's British Grand Prix with a late fastest lap in the final seconds of a dramatic and shock-filled qualifying session on Saturday.

The 29-year-old German secured the prime starting position by persevering on his final lap in drying conditions as Mercedes team-mate and home hero Briton Lewis Hamilton pulled into the pits, thinking like most observers that he was already safe on pole. It was a sensational finish to an unpredictable session that saw both Ferrari and both Williams eliminated in the Q1 part of qualifying and which delivered surprise throughout.

For Rosberg, it was his fourth pole of the year, drawing him level with Hamilton, his first at Silverstone and the eighth of his career and gave him a great opportunity to enlarge his 29 points lead in the drivers' championship. Hamilton had dominated until the final seconds when, thinking he was secure, he went to the pits while his rivals improved their times by more than three seconds in the final sector of the lap.

Rosberg's fellow-German defending four time champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull qualified second on the front row ahead of Briton Jenson Button of McLaren, German Nico Hulkenberg of Force India and Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen who was fifth for McLaren.

Hamilton wound up in sixth place ahead of Mexican Sergio Perez in the second Force India and Australian Daniel Ricciardo in the second Red Bull.