Lewis Hamilton wrestled back some much-needed momentum from Max Verstappen by beating his rival in qualifying for the British GP, which will see the home favourite head the field for Saturday’s maiden F1 Sprint.
In an epic and unique Friday evening qualifying session that sets the grid for the short Saturday race – rather than Sunday’s showpiece Grand Prix – Hamilton delighted the packed grandstands with a customary Silverstone display, outqualifying Verstappen by a tenth of a second despite a last-lap error.
“That was an important statement,” bellowed Martin Brundle, with Hamilton having slipped 32 points behind Verstappen in the championship.
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“This is down to the fans,” said a clearly moved Hamilton in front of 90,000 spectators.
“That first [Q3] lap was great. The second one was looking even better but just lost the back end in that last corner, so my heart was in my mouth as I crossed the line.
“But I could see the crowd and it was really reminiscent of my first pole here in 2007.”
While Hamilton is not credited with an eighth Silverstone pole – with that honour awarded for the winner of Saturday’s Sprint – he stopped Verstappen’s three-race streak of qualifying victories, and has put himself in the perfect position to land more blows to Red Bull over a bumper weekend.
The debut 17-lap F1 Sprint – live on Sky Sports F1 from 4.30pm on Saturday – will set the grid for Sunday’s British GP.
Valtteri Bottas qualified third and just a tenth off Verstappen in the other Mercedes, who have hit back at Red Bull with their upgraded package.
Perhaps critically, Sergio Perez could only manage fifth for Red Bull after having his last lap deleted for track limits, with an in-form Charles Leclerc instead taking a second-row start for the F1 Sprint.
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Hamilton, meanwhile, was by no means not the only British driver to shine at Silverstone.
McLaren’s Lando Norris, after a incredibly difficult week, qualified sixth while George Russell was arguably the star of the show as he nailed his best-ever qualifying result, an astonishing eighth in the Williams.
Russell, a Mercedes junior, had the adoring home fans on their feet as he got through to Q3 for the second straight race, and did so again when outpacing Carlos Sainz and Sebastian Vettel in the final shootout.
British GP Qualifying: Top 10
1) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
2) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
3) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
4) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
5) Sergio Perez, Red Bull
6) Lando Norris, McLaren
7) Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
8) George Russell, Williams
9) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
10) Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin
More to follow…
British GP shake-up explained: How the new format works
What is F1 Sprint, when is it and what are the rules?
Debuting at Silverstone, F1 Sprint is effectively a mini race run over 100km (300km is the usual GP distance) on Saturday afternoon, one day ahead of the Grand Prix.
Short, fast and without the strategic intricacies of Sunday’s big race, F1 Sprint is, as its name suggests, designed to be a flat-out sprint for drivers from start to finish. No pit stops are expected.
The first edition of F1 Sprint will take place on Saturday afternoon at 4.30pm.
The 20 drivers start in the order they qualified on Friday evening, and their finishing positions 100km later will be the positions they line up in for the start of Sunday’s Grand Prix.
If you win, you are starting Sunday’s race from pole position; if you are 10th, you start in that same spot one day later, while if you hit technical trouble or crash out, you will be at the back and left with it all to do.
The 100km distance will work out to be 17 laps of the 3.7-mile Silverstone circuit.
The Saturday sprint is therefore expected to last 25-30 minutes, with the condensed and stripped-down nature of the racing action designed to be part of the appeal to spectators and TV viewers.
Limited points are on offer – three for first place; two for second; one for third – but every place counts through the field as the finishing order will set the 1-20 grid for the usual Grand Prix on Sunday.
When’s the Grand Prix?
It’ll be the same British Grand Prix that you know and love on Sunday afternoon.
Fifty-two laps of Silverstone, with lights out this year at 3pm. Sky F1 build-up starts at 1.30pm.
The usual points apply for race day, that’s 25 for the victory (and a maximum of 26 if the winner nabs the fastest lap too) down to one point for 10th place.
The only difference is that drivers who start in the top 10 are not locked into starting on the tyre they set their best time in Q2 on. Everyone therefore has a free choice throughout the race, although the usual two-compound rules apply in a dry race which guarantees at least one pit stop per car.
No changes otherwise.
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