SILVERSTONE (AFP) - Lewis Hamilton admitted he made a mistake in choosing to abort his final lap and gift pole position to Mercedes team-mate and championship leader Nico Rosberg on Saturday.
The 29-year-old Briton qualified sixth after having appeared to have secured pole with less than minute remaining - when the last section of the circuit dried rapidly and offered big improvements in lap times.
"I made a mistake today and pulled out of the lap when I should have kept going," he conceded. "It was my decision, a bad call, and that decided my qualifying."
Hamilton had been slow in sector one and decided it was not worth pushing, so he aborted his lap just as his rivals sensed it was the moment to push faster on their slick tyres.
Mercedes admitted that proved to be a mistake because he could have gained a lot of time in the final sector.
Rosberg grabbed pole after just making it across the finish line before the clock reached zero and the German asked his team on the radio to tell Hamilton to go quicker while they were running together.
"I knew I had chance of getting much quicker, and that is how it worked out," said Rosberg.
"It worked out perfectly. Even across the line. I was right in Lewis' gearbox. I had to be there, otherwise it would have been red (lights at the start/finish line).
"I had to be fast as possible to do the last lap, as I crossed the line it went red instantly, so it was a very close call and it was a really good team effort. Everyone worked together. It's fantastic to have such a qualifying where it goes well."
Rosberg, who leads Hamilton by 29 points in the title race, rejected the idea that his success would give him any kind of psychological edge in their battle for the championship.
"I have never talked about trying to get a psychological edge," he said. "At the moment, the momentum is on my side and I have to make the most of it, and it comes and goes.
"I have a period where it is coming my way, but today is just qualifying. There are no points for qualifying and with the car we have everything is still possible but it is a big advantage to start first."
It was a sensational finish to an unpredictable session that saw both Ferrari and both Williams cars eliminated in the Q1 part of qualifying and which delivered surprises 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.
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 Huelkenberg of Force India and Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen who was fifth for McLaren.
On a day of intermittent heavy rainfall, and after a rain-hit final free practice in the morning, it was always likely that the rapidly-changing conditions would create problems. This was apparent in Q1 when the treacherous weather created a major upset as both Ferraris and the two Williams men, who had locked out the front row of the grid in Austraia two weeks earlier, were eliminated along with the two Caterhams.