Hamilton, the 32-year-old Briton who is bidding for a record-equalling fifth victory on home soil, has seen his preparations this week overshadowed by his no-show at a Formula One promotional event in London on Wednesday night.
Vettel was 0.199 seconds off Hamilton's initial Q3 benchmark but while the Mercedes driver found more than six tenths on his second run to claim a dominant pole position, his Ferrari opponent could only post a marginal improvement. I think the time he put in at the end was very strong.
Hamilton did mention that making a comeback at this stage to win the world championship crown, yet again, was very hard.
Vettel, who won his titles with Red Bull, is leading Hamilton in the championship by 20 points after nine of 20 races and Ferrari are keen to renew a contract that expires this year.
Vettel was fourth fastest in the second practice session, behind Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen, after an experimental transparent screen was removed from the auto in the morning.
Vettel started the day by trying out the new "shield", the first driver to experience the transparent open canopy system created to protect the head from flying debris.
The device, made of transparent polycarbonate, is created to sit in front of the driver and deflect any flying debris.
Championship leader Vettel tested the "Shield" in FP1 and spun at Becketts after the cockpit protection device was removed. The latter was described by Hamilton as the "worst-looking modification" in the sport's history. "The forward vision is not very good". Caught out on slicks, Verstappen ran wide at Brooklands and returned slowly to the pits after a slightly comedic moment when Red Bull informed him of yellow flags at Turn 7, to which the teenager replied: "Yeah, that's because of me!"
While Hamilton defended his holiday and his absence from the London Live event, he spoke to Sky Sports F1 about the strain the 2017 season is putting on him and labelled the Silverstone race as a must-win.
"The goal is to win the British Grand Prix for the home crowd".
The Spaniard, who has a 30-place grid penalty for using too many engine parts, did not make it through into final qualifying, ending up 13th.