Valtteri Bottas has claimed pole position for the British F1 Grand Prix at Silverstone. And he’s done so by an incredibly small margin over his team mate Lewis Hamilton. The final gap was 0.006 seconds, or as someone measured out later, just 41 centimetres.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc will start from behind Bottas. The Mercedes duo has swapped places in Q1 and Q2, with Bottas quicker than Hamilton, then vice versa. Both found a vital half second of pace in the final stanza, with Bottas clocking 1:25.093 over the 1:25.099 of Hamilton. Leclerc needs a good start to take advantage of his excellent time, with his 1:25.172 certainly placing him in contention.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen starts from 4th, but his 1:25.276 was, he said, potentially better. “The whole day I had problems with turbo lag.” He’ll be looking into his rear vision mirrors as his team mate Pierre Gasly lit up late in Q3 to start from P5. His 1:25.590 sees him start next to Sebastian Vettel for P6. Vettel qualified on medium rubber, unlike the drivers ahead that used softs. Renault finally has cause for smiles as Daniel Ricciardo made it to P7 and Nico Hulkenberg for P10. Sandwiched in between are Lando Norris from McLaren, and Alexander Albon in his Toro Rosso.
A delighted Bottas said after the final session: “I’ve been missing the feeling being on pole. And a good performance, especially on a track like this where Lewis has been so difficult to beat. Again, it just reminds you why you do this, these kind of feelings.” Leclerc was happy but philosophic about his P3, saying that it was the best they could have done and that “In Q2 we were quite good, but then in Q3 I think Mercedes turned up a little bit the engines. They were very, very quick, also around the corners.” Vettel too was philosophic about his position, acknowledging that their pace throughout the year had been fine, howeverteh real battle will be between the scarlet of Ferrari and the purple of Red Bull for the British GP.
Antonio Giovinazzi was unlucky to miss out on Q3. His time of 1:26.519 was less than two tenths off Hulkenberg’s 1:26.386 in Q3 and 1:26.397 for Q2. P12 also goes to Alfa Romeo, the former Sauber team, with Kimi Raikkonen clocking 1:26.546. This looks to mean the Alas are improving and promises some good mid pack racing from the pair.
Carlos Sainz starts from P13 and he’ll be on the tail of Raikkonen thanks to a 1:26.578. Romain Grosjean is P14 and he’ll be disappointed with the performance of his Haas in qualifying, with 1:26.757. P15 is Sergio Perez who can count himself lucky to have broken the Q1 bubble. His Q1 time of 1:26.649 was quicker than his Q2 of 1:26.928, knocking out Kevin Magnussen with his 1:26.662 cruelly denying him a tilt at Q2.
Q1 saw Robert Kubica’s miserable return to F1 continue for P20. George Russell wasn’t much better but was a half second quicker than Kubica. P18 is Lance Stroll, 4/100ths slower than Daniil Kvyat for P17.
Renault’s weekend got off to a slow one with the engine in Ricciardo’s car failing during practice. As it turned out, it was an older engine, and one used for practice. Known within the team as “Pony”, Ricciardo’s humour had a characteristically shrug of the shoulder look, as the Australian alluded to putting the Pony down and spreading its ashes in the paddock. Further inspection of the car found a cracked chassis, meaning the Renault engineers worked overnight to rebuild his car. He’d also brought Norris to tears in a press conference by quietly asking the young Briton about a certain part of his anatomy, and pointedly looking at him behind Lewis Hamilton’s back as Norris dissolved into laughter.
At 19 years of age, Norris knows that this weekend is something incredibly special for him and his team. “I’m still very excited for the whole team and also myself to get into Q3 because I know I must’ve done a good job. It’s not like we’re easily quick enough that Q3 is an easy thing to do. It’s the same today; a small mistake can still cost you getting into Q3, so we have to get into Q3 off of pure performance and bring the lap together and really nail it, and that brings me confidence.”
The British F1 Grand Prix gets underway at 14:10 local time, Sunday July 14.