A series of fast laps saw Fabio Quartararo, Jack Miller and Johann Zarco win in quick succession for the lead, but it was the latter’s 1m57.767sec – a new lap record at Silverstone – who marks the Frenchman’s second pole in 2022.
Drama struck Espargaro before qualifying began when he suffered a 115 mph crash at a Farm Curve during FP4.
The Aprilia rider was taken to the medical center for checks on stretchers off the track, but was quickly declared fit to ride despite suffering some bruising to his right foot.
He put him last in the second set in 12th, 1.6secs off his pace, but went back to the waiting lane to get new rubber and watch the session.
Pramac’s Jorge Martin set the challenge on the offensive lap on his first time of 1m58.377sec, with teammate Johann Zarco clocking 0.053sec behind.
Championship captain Quartararo took the reins moments later with 1m58.259s to lead the field on MotoGP’s longest lap by just 0.001sec as Jack Miller at the Ducati factory kept him dark.
In his second career, Espargaro started lighting up the timing screens and produced the first new lap record of the day with 1m57.966s to take the provisional pole.
However, his heroic deeds wouldn’t be rewarded by starting the front rows, as he found himself turning into a still-honorable sixth.
Quartararo briefly went into pole position with 1m57.938s, before Miller — casting a shadow over the Yamaha rider — snatched him away by 1m 57.931s.
But it was 1m57.767s from Zarco who won Saturday’s qualification at Silverstone, just 0.098 seconds ahead of April’s second Maverick Vinales after a later increase from the 2016 British Grand Prix winner.
Quartararo eventually found himself running up from row one to fourth, and the final reckoning comes, which will complicate his racing strategy when he has to field a long lap penalty for his collision with Espargaro at Assen in June before the summer break.
Francesco Bagnaia completed the top five on sister factory team Ducati ahead of Espargaro, while Marco Bezzecchi came seventh on his VR46 Ducati after the Q1 session.
In the first quarter of the race, Ina Bastianini led by 0.005 seconds in eighth, with the Grissini Ducati rider beating Martin and Luca Marini on sister bike VR46 and Suzuki’s duo Alex Rins and Joan Mir.
A tense end to the Q1 session led to a disappointment for KTM as Bezzecchi’s late improvement to reach Q2 deprived Brad Bender of a place in the penalty shootout session.
Bender was also demoted by his KTM teammate Miguel Oliveira, who will start in 13th after missing the second quarter by just 0.097 seconds.
Fabio Di Giannantonio was brought back 15th at the end of the first quarter on his Gresini Ducati ahead of Tech 3 KTM rider Remy Gardner in his best qualifying result of his rookie season in 16th.
Alex Marquez was left furious with Bezzecchi after the duo came too close to resting on the track at Stowe as the former was pressing for an attack lap, before colliding in Vale.
The LCR Honda rider is back at the end of the first quarter, but will start as Honda’s top runner in 17th place ahead of factory duo Stefan Bradl – who is under investigation to block Bezzecchi in Luffield late – and Pol Espargaro.
Yamaha’s Franco Morbidelli finished second in Q2 in the early stages of Q1, but was demoted to 10th in the checkered flag ahead of LCR Honda driver Takaaki Nakagami, Tech 3’s Raul Fernandez – who suffered an engine failure in the previous FP4 session – And RNF duo Darren Bender and Andrea Dovizioso.
The 2022 British Grand Prix MotoGP will start at 1pm local time on Sunday.