Hamilton on provisional pole in F1 qualifying upset
By Mat Coch
Saturday 17th July, 2021 - 4:23am
Lewis Hamilton will line up on pole position for the Formula 1 British Grand Prix Sprint Qualifying session on Saturday afternoon.
The Englishman lifted throughout qualifying, and though he wasn’t able to improve on his final flying lap, his effort early in Qualifying 3 was enough to secure top spot.
Max Verstappen will join him on the front row for the 17-lap sprint encounter, the Dutchman just under 0.1s slower than his Mercedes rival.
Further back, Daniel Ricciardo all but matched Lando Norris, the Brit in sixth just 0.002s quicker than the Australian, while George Russell starred for Williams.
Tweaked tyre regulations for the session, owing to the Sprint Qualifying format in use, mandated only the soft compound tyres be used in qualifying.
Teams had a total of five sets at their disposal, one of those reserved exclusively for Qualifying 3.
Spaniards Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso set the first laps of the session, though neither were especially competitive and were quickly bettered by Antonio Giovinazzi and Pierre Gasly.
Even Norris’ 1:28.277 was some way off the pace predicted in the session despite that propelling him to the top of the timesheets by 0.2s.
Sergio Perez then lowered the bar to 1:27.788s, and Valtteri Bottas to 1:27.487s, before Hamilton delivered a 1:27.160s as the provisional pole time plummeted rapidly.
Having topped opening practice, Verstappen then improved by 0.4s on Hamilton’s effort, going fastest with a 1:26.751s despite a moment at Club.
Loitering in the elimination zone halfway through the opening segment were Nikita Mazepin, Mick Schumacher, Lance Stroll, Kimi Raikkonen, and Nicholas Latifi.
Ricciardo was only one place to the good before Raikkonen improved to demote the him into the danger zone.
With five minutes remaining, McLaren had sent both Ricciardo and Norris back out on track.
It wasn’t a strong start to the lap for the Australian, though he ultimately improved to sixth with a 1:27.615s while Norris recorded a 1:27.444s to climb to third.
Their runs were slightly off sequence, completing their flying laps as the bulk of the field returned to the track for their own final efforts.
Those laps were completed with the chequered flag out, Ricciardo’s effort enough to see him progress though the same could not be said for Mazepin, Schumacher, Latifi, Raikkonen, and Yuki Tsunoda.
At the other end of the table, Verstappen headed affairs from Hamilton, Charles Leclerc, Perez, and Ricciardo, who’d improved to 1:27.323s with a third flying lap.
Verstappen escaped the opening segment of the three-part session having used just a single set of tyres, leaving him with four fresh sets.
Hamilton got Qualifying 2 under way with a 1:26.602s, just over 0.1s clear of Bottas with Ricciardo a distant third ahead of Norris by 0.1s.
The Red Bull duo of Verstappen and Perez then slotted in first and fourth respectively, the Dutchman’s effort a tenth quicker than Hamilton’s.
Following the opening sequence of laps the circuit fell silent, with all 15 remaining drivers sitting in the pits.
With the exception of Perez and Sebastian Vettel, the field as one headed out with three minutes to run in the segment, which saw flying laps begin with just over 60 seconds remaining.
Bottas and Hamilton improved, the latter going fastest with a 1:26.023s to head the field by 0.5s.
Second fastest as a result of the Mercedes drivers’ lap, Verstappen also improved but not enough to steal top spot.
Missing the cut were Stroll, Giovinazzi, Esteban Ocon, Gasly, and Alonso.
Russell sensationally progressed with his final lap, an effort which met the approval of the parochial fans.
Crucially, those who progressed will not carry those tyres into the start of Sunday’s race, or even Saturday’s Sprint Qualifying session, both of which afford tyre free choice under the regulations in use this weekend.
Qualifying 3 commenced with silence, all 10 runners remaining in the garage for the first two minutes before all bar Russell headed out.
Perez logged a 1:26.844 to go fastest with his first flying lap, a time beaten by Bottas and Hamilton soon after, the seven-time champ setting a 1:26.134s.
Verstappen was unable to match it, the points leader setting a 1:26.306s.
As the first round of flying laps were completed, Russell headed out, making him the only car on track.
The Williams was drowned out by the crowd as he began his lap, recording a 1:26.971s to set the seventh best time, quicker than both Ferraris and four-time champ Vettel (whose earlier lap had been deleted for track limits).
With 60 seconds remaining, the main protagonists resumed their battle for provisional pole.
Hamilton was unable to improve, setting a 1:26.282s lap courtesy of a wild slide at Vale.
It mattered not a jot, Verstappen only capable of 1:26.209s to remain second ahead of Bottas.
Leclerc snagged fourth from Perez, Norris, Ricciardo, Russell, Sainz, and Vettel to round out the top 10.
Teams now have another 60-minute practice session ahead of Sprint Qualifying, though with cars now in parc ferme there is precious little that can be done to them.
Free Practice 2 commences at 21:00 AEST tonight ahead of the inaugural Sprint Qualifying session at 01:30 AEST on Sunday morning.
The finishing order from that 17-lap encounter will determine the grid for Sunday’s race.
Results: Formula 1 British Grand Prix, Qualifying
|2||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing||1:26.751||1:26.315||1:26.209|
|5||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing||1:27.121||1:27.073||1:26.844|
|10||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||1:27.493||1:27.103||1:27.179|
|12||10||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia AlphaTauri||1:27.600||1:27.273|
|14||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||1:27.595||1:27.617|
|15||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||1:28.017||1:27.665|
|16||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Scuderia AlphaTauri||1:28.043|
|17||7||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||1:28.062|