Valtteri Bottas has beaten Lewis Hamilton by six-hundredths of seconds to take his second pole of the season for the Anniversary Grand Prix securing Mercedes sixty-seventh front row lockout. The Mercedes appeared once again to be in a class of their own going half a second faster than there nearest rivals Racing Point’s Nico Hulkenberg.
Like last weekend the German manufacturer appeared to look as if they were unstoppable, but the question was always going to be which of them would secure pole. Hamilton set the early pace in Q3 but while he still improved on his second run it wasn’t as much as teammate Bottas who found six hundredths to secure pole.
Bottas will look to recover points and ground to Hamilton in the championship, after losing second in Sunday’s race following his tyre failure late in the race cost him second.
It was a remarkable qualifying for Hulkenberg, who hadn’t driven a car since Abu Dhabi last year until last Friday after Sergio Perez tested positive for Coronavirus. The German having his best qualifying since taking pole ten years ago at Interlagos in a Williams.
Bottas said, “I just love qualifying and especially when it goes well it’s a good feeling. Nice to get everything out of myself and out of the car.”
Hamilton added: “I wasn’t that great! But Valtteri did a good job and deserved the pole I guess. For me, it wasn’t a perfect last lap.”
Third for Hulkenberg is surely going to fuel the ongoing row between Racing Point and Renault over the legality of the car. The German makes it an all Mercedes powered top three after Max Verstappen could only manage fourth nearly a tenth off the pace.
Hulkenberg said after taking his best result in qualifying in ten years, “Obviously last week, with the big high to come back and the low on Sunday [not starting the race], it was very extreme. This weekend I felt much better in the car, much more prepared. Qualy was still tricky and in Q2 I made life hard for myself a bit and I was scared I’d damaged the car.”
The second Racing Point of Lance Stroll was sixth ahead of the Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly. Stroll was three tenths slower than Hulkenberg. Ferrari’s session was another difficult one, Charles Leclerc could only manage eight and Sebastian Vettel was only twelfth.
The four-time champion was forced onto the soft tyres after being put in danger towards the end of Q2, but it wasn’t enough to get him out of the drop zone. Verstappen was also looking at risky the end of the session before only getting through by a quarter of a second.
But despite the risk of dropping out in Q2 after setting his fastest time on hard tyres, he will be at an advantage in the race starting on the hard tyre as the rest of the top ten starts on the less durable soft tyres.
Albon could only manage ninth a second and a half off the pace, and ahead of Lando Norris. McLaren appeared to struggle to find the same pace they showed at Silverstone last weekend, Norris was just over a second off his fourth in qualifying, settling for tenth.
Esteban Ocon was fastest of those knocked out in Q2, failing to improve on his final lap allowing Verstappen just to get through after being forced to run again in Q2 just to make it safely through. Ocon will start fourteenth after blocking George Russell as they ran onto the Wellington straight mid-way through Q1.
Sebastian Vettel’s woes continued, the Ferrari only twelfth. Again the four-time champion appeared too struggled to get the car to work for his liking saying on team radio “that was all there was in this car”.
Vettel was only three tenths behind Leclerc, despite switching to the soft tyres in a last-gasp effort to find performance and seemed perplexed as to why the gap was so big after the session. The man who will replace him next year Carlos Sainz also failed to make it through to Q3 this season.
Behind Sainz, Romain Grosjean was fourteenth fastest in the Haas ahead of another impressive performance from Russell in the Williams. Russell again getting the car through to Q2 showing that the team are beginning to make progress following difficulties in recent years.
Daniil Kvyat was a tenth and a quarter of a place in Q2, the Alpha Tauri was knocked out by Ocon. The Russian’s fastest time was deleted for exceeding track limits at Stowe, that wasn’t his only issue as on his final attempt in the session, he reported “something broke” on his slower and subsequently deleted.
Kevin Magnussen and Grosjean set their initial times in Q1 on the mediums, as did Russell, before all the rivers switched to the soft tyre. While Grosjean made it through to Q2, Magnussen was knocked out in the final flurry of laps, with Nicholas Latifi and the Alfa Romeo duo of Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen bringing up the rear of the field.