Silverstone: Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton looked for a miracle after champions Red Bull and rivals Ferrari left their hopes looking as forlorn as a soggy spectator in British Grand Prix qualifying on Saturday.
Button, who has never stood on the Formula One podium at his home race in 12 seasons of trying, will line up fifth on Sunday's starting grid while McLaren team mate Hamilton starts only 10th.
Red Bull, with Mark Webber on pole, swept the front row with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa behind them.
With the race day crowd expected to top 120,000, any hopes of a home winner looked almost as likely as Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel allowing his 77 point overall lead to slip through his fingers.
"Today, of course, for the fans and the public here, we would love to be sitting on the front row," said Hamilton quietly.
"That is not the case. We will pull back, regroup. Obviously tomorrow anything can happen with the conditions that have been here today. Who knows? A miracle might happen tomorrow and we might still get our one-two.”
"I don't know about you Jenson, but I'm game," added the 2008 champion, looking across at his team mate.
Button, the 2009 world champion, could only agree.
"Miracles do happen," smiled the man who won in Canada last month after carving his way through the field from last place and forcing Vettel to make a mistake on the last lap.
"It's been a very tough day for us. It's been a very busy weekend trying to work out what has been going on with the regulations."
Formula One's governing body announced last month that it was clamping down on engine electronics that allow an aerodynamic performance gain by pumping exhaust gases constantly through the rear of the car even when the driver is off the throttle.
A series of directives have been issued, with one coming out during Friday's first practice seemingly giving Red Bull a significant exemption and then another on Saturday morning rowing back from that position.
After a series of technical and team meetings, the governing FIA announced after qualifying that they were prepared to return to pre-Silverstone set-ups and strategies if all the teams agreed.
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said the toing-and-froing had not helped but also recognised mistakes had been made.
"Firstly, this team...cannot be happy. We are not happy, we are not content, we are disappointed. That's a fact and it's quite obvious," he said in a lengthy explanation to reporters in the McLaren motorhome.
"We can bore everyone silly about exhaust gases, diffusers etc. The fact is the last 18 months everyone has been working hard to develop exhaust blown diffusers, we've worked particularly hard in that area and we've had lots of twists and turns and changes.
"During the course of this weekend there have been some changes and we did not put on a competitive showing in qualifying."
Whitmarsh said the team did not know entirely why but it was fair to assume that, in all the changes, either McLaren "haven't been able to respond to them or the impact on us was greater."
He said McLaren had also made a mistake in sending Hamilton out for his final run in the third part of qualifying on a used soft tyre and it then rained.
"Our car isn't as competitive as it was," he said. "That doesn't mean the weekend is a give-up for us. We have two great racing drivers.
"Tomorrow maybe we want rain, a lot of confusion. We are also realistic. On the evidence of today, our car is not good enough. That's how it is.
"Is it difficult to beat the Red Bulls tomorrow, before anyone asks?," said Whitmarsh, pre-empting the post-mortem. "Yes, it will be very, very difficult... but we have two guys who will try their best to do that."
First Published: Sunday, July 10, 2011, 12:48