Lewis Hamilton has blitzed around the Silverstone Circuit securing pole position for the British Grand Prix amid controversy and tricky weather conditions.
Before anything even got underway a few penalties had been handed out, Mercedes had to change the gearbox on Valtteri Bottas’ car coming into the weekend so the Finn picked up a five place grid penalty. To add to that roster, Daniel Ricciardo has also got a five place grid penalty hanging over his head and Fernando Alonso will start from last as McLaren Honda have once again had to change multiple engine components resulting in a 30-place grid penalty.
A shower of rain before the start of Q1 saw teams scrambling for Intermediate tyres, although, a couple of drivers opted for slicks discovering that things were a little more-damp than they expected. With the rain not easing off everyone decided to get in a banker lap, Ricciardo was the fastest in the first few minutes but had to walk back to the pits on his own two feet when his Red Bull ground to a halt on the exit of Luffield with a turbo problem.
This brought out the red-flag as the Australians car needed recovering. With a five-minute delay the track began to dry out dramatically and when the cars took to the circuit again the timing screens were set alight. Conditions still weren’t dry enough for slick tyres but nobody told Fernando Alonso that, the Spaniard set an outstanding lap on the Supersoft (slick) compound to take his McLaren to P1. That’s right, McLaren topped a session.
“We took advantage of a track that was on the limit at that moment – and it was nice to see one of the McLarens on top, even if only in Q1,” said Alonso.
“I saw people in the grandstands excited [and] heard them cheering. It’s good for the guys in the garage as well: they deserve it as they have been working so hard these past couple of years.
“Even if it’s just for one moment, to be up there at the top of the time sheets feels good. I think people need sometimes to see McLaren back on top of the times.”
Alonso’s table-topping performance represented the first time McLaren have headed a qualifying segment since the 2013 Indian Grand Prix, when Jenson Button was fastest in Q1.
All this was great for McLaren but things were a little more dismal for the drivers that got knocked out of Qualifying’s first phase, this included Lance Stroll, Kevin Magnussen, Pascal Wehrlein, Marcus Ericsson and Red Bull’s Ricciardo.
Qualifying 2 got off to a slippery and greasy start with everyone venturing out on slick tyres, Valtteri Bottas was the only man to go out on the Soft compound, the rest of the guys on the red side walled Supersoft tyre.
The Silver Arrows got straight to it going first and second immediately, Hamilton set a staggering lap dipping into the 1min 27s to bring him to the top with Bottas just a few tenths behind and the two Force India’s hot on their heels. Renaults Jolyon Palmer missed out on Q3 by 0.09 of a second while Daniil Kvyat, Fernando Alonso, Carlos Sainz and Felipe Massa filled the spots behind him. McLaren celebrated with Stoffel Vandoorne making it into the third phase of Qualifying and so did Haas’ Romain Grosjean.
The gloves well and truly came off in Q3 with some extremely quick lap times and surprises too. Hamilton set the pace as usual in the first runs with a reasonable lap putting him 0.2s ahead of Sebastian Vettel who split the Mercs. Conditions were now optimal and the track was perfect, low temps, only just dry enough, everything was pristine for a cracking last gasp dash for pole position.
Bottas set out on his charge for pole but ruined his lap having a major lock up for turn three, he would not improve on his first lap time. We thought that it was over but Hamilton came out of no-where with a 1:26.600 much to the delight of his home crowd, Vettel went quicker and so did Kimi Räikkönen but no-one was challenging the Brit, Lewis Hamilton securing his fifth British Grand Prix pole position equalling the great Jim Clark.
Eyebrows were raised with Iceman Räikkönen finishing up in second on the front row of the grid beating his teammate Vettel who locked in third place. Bottas qualified in fourth but will start from ninth with his five place grid penalty.
Therefore, Max Verstappen will start from fourth place with Nico Hulkenberg on the third row of the grid in fifth. The two Force India’s who set their first lap times on used tyres will start from sixth and seventh, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon respectively. Vandoorne will start ninth behind the ‘pink panthers’ while Bottas and Grosjean round out the top ten.
“The track just feels incredible. We worked very hard and the engineers did a fantastic job to get the setup where I needed it and, of course, a tricky qualifying as always with the overcast, and a bit of rain – but as I said on the grid, that’s the conditions I grew up in, so I felt very much at home. And then when it dried up I was really able to utilise the tyres. That final lap felt fantastic. Of course I wasn’t expecting to have a gap like that but the gap… that’s what is the target. It definitely felt great and very proud and, as I said, I’m thankful.” Hamilton said.
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Words: Slade Perrins