Max Verstappen has taken pole position following a 1.4-second win ahead of championship rival Sir Lewis Hamilton in the sprint qualifying session for the British Grand Prix. The Red Bull driver chased after the Mercedes on the run down to Abbey before opening up nine-tenths lead on the opening lap of the nineteen lap sprint.
The Dutchman won the start and was able to pass Hamilton on the approach to the first corner. That move cost Hamilton momentum and Verstappen opened up a 1.1-second at the end of the opening lap. Hamilton did attempt to fight back going wheel to wheel at Copse before Verstappen went onto control of the sprint from then onwards, while in the closing stage both beginning to struggle with tyres, suggesting a two-stop Grand Prix.
Verstappen then set about opening the gap to the Mercedes and by the end of the race had a 1.4 second lead, while his teammate Sergio Perez spun out of the race, before Red Bull decided to ‘tackily retire’ the Mexican, meaning he starts twentieth. It’s the Dutchman’s fourth consecutive pole position, breaking Mercedes nine year hold on pole position at Silverstone,
Perez lost the rear of the car on Lap Five, through Chapel going into a spin before shooting himself across the gravel. While only four of the twenty drivers finished in the same position they qualified.
Valtteri Bottas was third finishing three seconds ahead of Charles Leclerc, the Finn appeared to drop back behind the top two six seconds behind his teammate Hamilton. Bottas took the gamble on soft tyres, however failed to make any ground on Verstappen and settled into a lonely drive to third place.
But Mercedes will have the tactical advantage going into the race as Perez’s retirement means they can use both cars to attack the Red Bull. The decision to start Bottas on softs did not pay off for Mercedes, as he finished 7.5s behind Verstappen, albeit solidly ahead of Leclerc, who was a further 3.7s to maintain fourth on the grid for the main race.
Verstappen said: “It is difficult to pass but we had a good start and a good fight with Lewis around the first lap. We were pushing each other hard and at the end the tyres were blistering and we had to look after them.”
Hamilton said, “I hit the target on my start, it’s just not good when you lose from P1. We’ll try to turn the negative into a positive tomorrow. Every point counts, but I’m grateful to have finished. Tomorrow we’ll fight again.”
Lando Norris starts fifth, after finishing six tenths ahead of his McLaren teammate Daniel Ricciardo. It’s been a strong weekend for the team, Norris continuing to up his game after managing to dive past Alonso through the inside of Village. Alonso had managed to get past the McLaren’s early on following his brilliant start.
Alonso was the best at the start, vaulting up the order on the opening lap from eleventh to finish the race in sixth. The Spaniard had been holding up the pack behind after his gamble on the soft tyre, having steamed around the outside of several rivals at the race’s first corner, then taken advantage of the two McLarens and Perez battling on the opening lap.
Alonso passed both Sebastian Vettel and Carlos Sainz through Abbey, then George Russell through Farm, followed by Ricciardo at Three and into Arena, Perez at Luffield followed by Norris at Copse all within the first lap. But then the Alpine didn’t appear to have the pace to chase the Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari or McLaren.
The two-time champion was also given a warning for weaving as he tried to break the tow while defending from the two McLaren’s.
Vettel will start the race eighth ahead of the Williams of Russell, the British driver however is under investigation for a collision with Carlos Sainz. The two had a small contact on the opening lap which forced Sainz wide and dropped both cars slightly down the order.
The Williams driver locked up at the sweeping left-hander and ran into the side of the Ferrari, which was forced off and Sainz dropped to eighteenth before recovering back to eleventh and four-tenths behind Ocon at the finish. Pierre Gasly starts twelfth ahead of Kimi Raikkonen.
All the drivers will have a free choice of tyres to start the Grand Prix on, but looking at the choices made for the sprint race most will start on the medium tyre.
Lance Stroll was fourteenth managing to spilt the two Alfa Romeos, the Canadian just over a second ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi. Yuki Tsunoda put his Alpha Tauri sixteenth a second ahead of the Williams of Nicolas Latifi, with Mick Schumacher once again out-qualifying Haas teammate Nikita Mazepin.
Mazepin had a spin at on the opening lap, after glancing at the right-hand sidepod of teammate Mick Schumacher’s car, which looped the Russian driver around, and he eventually came home nine seconds behind Schumacher.