Lewis Hamilton at front of grid for F1’s historic first sprint qualifying race
Lewis Hamilton made sure his last-minute efforts made the difference to ensure he will start at the front of the grid for Formula One’s historic first sprint qualifying race at the British Grand Prix. The Mercedes driver beat Max Verstappen’s Red Bull into second place and his teammate Valtteri Bottas into third in qualifying at Silverstone.
With the qualifying session held on Friday evening, Hamilton put in a superb run to take top spot for the sprint race which will decide pole position for Sunday’s grand prix. Hamilton has not been on top of qualifying since the Spanish GP, since which Red Bull have taken five consecutive wins. On finally turning the tables at his home race he and his team were ecstatic. He was effusive in his praise for the huge, enthusiastic crowd at Silverstone who as always roared their approval at his success.
“We have been missing this for a whole year, I am so grateful to see everyone here,” he said. “To come to Silverstone and have a full crowd like this, you can see the energy and when I was coming into it I was hopeful that the work we have done as a team plus the energy of the fans would get us there. This is down to the fans.”
Red Bull appeared to have the quicker car in first practice but when it mattered Hamilton had the edge. He had, it transpired, even returned to the Mercedes headquarters on Friday morning, searching for every tiny margin even on the morning of qualifying.
“I was on the simulator this morning just using it as a practice session,” he said. “Because it was the first time we have ever had a morning free. Just putting in the time trying to give absolutely everything and leave no stone unturned. I have been trying to give the guys as much information as possible so we can develop the car. We are squeezing every ounce of performance from this thing.”
The qualifying session was run exactly as it would have been on a traditional weekend with three sessions and five drivers eliminated at the close of the first two, before the final top-10 shootout. Hamilton delivered a dominant run, nailing the fast sweeping turns of the old airfield, where Mercedes had expected to be at their strongest, as they have been in the past.
Hamilton went out first on his opening hot run and was quick in the first and third sectors to set a time of 1min 26.134sec. Verstappen was hot on his heels but could not quite match him almost two-tenths back. It was nip and tuck between them with Verstappen unhappy at how quickly his tyres were coming up to temperature and suffering from understeer.
On his second run Hamilton was once more mighty through sector one and two but briefly lost his rear at the final corner, losing tenths as he held the car through a slide. It cost him what had looked like an even better lap but he had done enough. Verstappen went quicker yet could not match Hamilton’s first time but was only seven hundredths back. The home crowd roared as Hamilton immediately ran to salute their praise after climbing from his car.
With F1 experimenting with a new format for the race weekend, this was new territory for everyone involved. Qualifying took place after just one practice session on Friday afternoon and ran instead of second practice. The intention is to offer more entertainment over the weekend and potentially create a more mixed-up grid for Sunday’s race.
The result will not be recorded as a pole position in the record books, with that honour remaining to be claimed by the winner of the sprint race on Saturday. Unlike in regular qualifying the teams had to run with the softest tyre compound throughout, removing any strategic tyre selection and allowing all the drivers to push as hard as possible.
The serious business remains however. After a final practice session on Saturday at noon, the sprint race is scheduled for 4.30pm. It will not only decide the grid for Sunday’s race – world championship points will also be awarded: three, two and one for the top three finishers. Verstappen currently leads Hamilton by 32 points in the title race and Red Bull, who have won the last five races, have a 44-point advantage over Mercedes in the constructors’ championship.
The sprint, as F1 have named it, will take place over 100km, which is approximately one-third the distance of a grand prix. It will run for at least the number of laps required to exceed 100km – at Silverstone this should amount to 17 laps. Teams are not required to make pit-stops and can choose any tyres they like, encouraging a flat-out blast to the flag.
There will be no podium ceremony afterwards and it will not count statistically as a race win but the top three drivers will do a victory lap of the circuit and, in a nod to F1’s heritage, be presented with laurel wreaths to mark their achievement.
George Russell was once more superb over the single lap making Q3 for the second consecutive race and taking eighth for Williams, cheered to the rafters at ever moment of his final lap. Charles Leclerc was in fourth with his Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz in ninth. Sergio Pérez was fifth for Red Bull. Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo were in sixth and seventh for McLaren, with Sebastian Vettel in 10th for Aston Martin.
Fernando Alonso was in 11th for Alpine with his teammate Esteban Ocon in 13th. Pierre Gasly was in 12th for AlphaTauri with Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi in 14th and Lance Stroll in 15th for Aston Martin. Yuki Tsunoda was in 16th for AlphaTauri, Kimi Raikkonen in 17th for Alfa Romeo and Nicholas Latifi in 18th for Williams. Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin were in 19th and 20th for Haas.