Nico Rosberg will start Sunday's British Grand Prix from pole position as the weather played havoc with proceedings at Silverstone.
With intermittent rain the German found time in the final sector to claim pole from Sebastian Vettel who also took advantage of the late dash on slicks.
On an emotional weekend for him personally Jenson Button gave the home crowd plenty to cheer, taking third for McLaren.
Lewis Hamilton only sixth
As drivers struggled with a damp first half of the lap, Lewis Hamilton gave up on his final run allowing team-mate Rosberg through en-route to his pole position time.
His pessimism would backfire as drivers found several seconds in the final sector to improve on their initial Q3 lap times.
This meant Hamilton dropped down to sixth as Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen also found the huge amounts of time being gained in the final four corners.
Also caught out was Daniel Ricciardo who decided not to complete a final flying lap, as a result he dropped from fourth to eighth - it is only the second time he has failed to beat team-mate Sebastian Vettel in qualifying this year.
The two Toro Rosso's of Daniil Kvyat and Jean-Eric Vergne also looked set to benefit from the damp conditions, however, after both decided to stay in the garage, they too dropped down and will start ninth and tenth respectively.
Marussia star with best ever qualifying
As always, the mixed conditions gave the slower teams a chance to spring a surprise, as we saw with McLaren and Force India having both cars in the top seven.
Just outside the top 10, Marussia enjoyed their best ever qualifying session as Jules Bianchi will start Sunday's race from 12th.
Team-mate Max Chilton was just behind in 13th on the timings, but the Briton will take a five-place grid penalty from changing his gearbox moving him down to 18th.
Lotus and Sauber were the other teams in the midfield battle with Romain Grosjean taking 11th in the E22.
Esteban Gutierrez will take Chilton's place in P13 despite ending the session in the wall ahead of Pastor Maldonado and Adrian Sutil who also crashed his Sauber at the end of Q1.
Ferrari and Williams endure rain disaster
At the back of the grid there are some big names as both Ferrari and Williams saw both cars knocked out in the first part of the qualifying.
With the track drying those around them opted for a run on the slick tyres in a mad dash to make Q2, however, just as the slower cars had completed their laps, more rain meant Ferrari and Williams were unable to improve.
From a front row lockout in Austria, Williams returned to earth with a severe bump with Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa only 16th and 17th respectively.
For Ferrari it is the first time the team have had both cars out in Q1 since Malaysia in 2010, another session where they were caught out watching the radar.
Both Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen will start on the penultimate row on the grid with only the two Caterham's behind them as Marcus Ericsson beat Kamui Kobayashi.
Mixed grid leads to unpredictable race
With so many drivers out of their regular positions tomorrow's race is set to be one of the most action packed yet.
Rosberg has to be favourite to once again extend his championship lead over Hamilton, although if the Briton can produce another storming start, as he did in Austria, a home win can not be ruled out.
For Vettel, Silverstone could be a turning point in his season as he starts on the front row for the first time this season, while team-mate Ricciardo faces a similar come back through the field after the bad decision not to run again in qualifying.
Despite downplaying hopes all week, Jenson Button will look for a strong result starting from third as the Silverstone crowd prepares to go '#PinkforPapa'.
At Marussia, Bianchi will be hoping the fickle British weather can once again help him perhaps even repeat the points finish he achieved in Monaco, but with Ferrari and Williams likely to be very aggressive after such a bad qualifying, expect them to come flying through the field during the race.
The weather may yet play a part on Sunday with showers again possible but for Rosberg, with the weight of a nation on his team-mate's shoulders, this could be the most telling weekend in the battle for the championship to date.
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