Hamilton qualifies first for sprint race debut at Silverstone; Verstappen and Bottas follow

Defending champion captivates crowd of 90,000 fans at his home race weekend; fellow Briton George Russell, seventh, also shines

By Olivia Kairu

Lewis Hamilton captivated a crowd of 90,000 fans in Silverstone on Friday (Photo: F1/Twitter)

Lewis Hamilton started his British Grand Prix home race weekend on top.

The defending champion captivated a crowd of 90,000 fans in Silverstone while setting the fastest lap in Q3 on Friday. He will start Saturday’s first-ever sprint qualifying race in P1. 

In the first of three experimental race weekends, Friday’s usual second free practice session was replaced by the same qualifying format fans are used to watching on Saturdays. Instead of setting the starting order for the grand prix on Sunday, the Q1, Q2 and Q3 system set the grid for Saturday’s sprint race – a 100 km race whose results decide the starting order for Sunday.

Further reading: Q&A: All about the new Formula 1 sprint qualifying set to debut at three weekends in 2021

Hamilton was followed by championship leader Max Verstappen, second, and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, third. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, fourth, and Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez completed the top 5.

Hamilton stole the show, earning cheers throughout the grandstands after setting a P1 winning 1.26:134 lap time after struggling earlier during FP1. The British driver was improving his own time late in the Q3 with two purple sectors, but a snap of oversteer in the Vale Chicane compromised the attempt.

Luckily for Hamilton, the lap time he had before turned out to be enough.

“We’ve been missing this for a whole year. I’ve lost my voice a little bit,” Hamilton said after the session. “I’m so grateful to see everyone here; we’ve missed you for a whole year, so to come to the Silverstone Grand Prix and have a full crowd like this, you see the energy and when I was coming into it, I was hopeful that with the great work we’ve done together in the team, plus the energy of the fans, it would get us there. This is down to the fans I think.” 

Verstappen came close in second, losing out by just 0.075 seconds.

“We were close, so it’s alright,” said the Red Bull driver. “This is a weird feeling because qualifying flat out doesn’t mean so much. I am still very confident we can have a very strong race.”

Bottas sits in third, nearly two-tenths of a second off his teammate’s flying lap time.

“It was a good qualifying,” said the Finn. “We managed to get on pole as a team. I look forward to Saturday. There’s all to play for. We are there, and we are there to fight.”

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The Ferrari duo of Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr. showed good pace throughout the session, constantly jostling for P4 and P5. Leclerc emerged as the victor of the two, securing P4 for the sprint race, with Sainz only able to finish with the ninth-best lap time. 

Perez had a quiet and solid session, finishing in P5, after previously holding fourth place but eventually losing out to Leclerc.

Russell shines again

Briton Lando Norris admitted he has been struggling with sleep after being mugged following the Euro 2020 final last weekend, saying he was “not in perfect condition.” The McLaren driver still managed to get a strong P6 followed by teammate Daniel Ricciardo in seventh. The Australian felt slightly disappointed and claimed after the session he felt like he could have got more out of his car.

George Russell had another stellar performance, earning him the second Q3 appearance of his Williams career – and his second in a row.

The Norfolk, England native received a thundering ovation from the crowd after his Q2 flying lap time of 1.27:080, which moved him from P12 to P7. Russell was cheered on by his home fans throughout his third session run, as he locked in P8 and a 1.26:971 lap time.

Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, tenth, had a late lap time deleted due to a track limit violation at Stowe. 

Bottom 10

Pierre Gasly lost out at getting into Q3 as he sat in P12 behind Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, eleventh. AlphaTauri rookie Yuki Tsunoda got eliminated in the second qualifying session by only 0.026 seconds, and will start the sprint race qualifying in P16.  

Esteban Ocon surprised many when he grabbed P13 after seeming newly energized from the new chassis and MGU-K he received this weekend. Ocon briefly stood in P3 early on and was within the top 10 for a large portion of the session. 

Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi will have start his 50th Grand Prix on Sunday, after qualifying in P14, three positions ahead of teammate Kimi Raikkonen.

Canadian driver Nicholas Latifi will start the sprint race 17th, with fellow countryman Lance Stroll having rounded off the Q2 knockouts to finish 15th. The Haas duo will start in P19 and P20, with Mick Schumacher extending his dominance by out-qualifying his teammate Nikita Mazepin, who lost the rear of his car in Q1 after a quick spin at Turn 3.

Saturday’s sprint qualifying race will start at 11:30 Eastern Time, after the weekend’s second free practice session at 7:00. Drivers will have their choice of tires for the sprint race and the Grand Prix, after all of them ran on the red-marked soft compound tire during Friday qualifying.

See the full grid for Saturday’s sprint race qualifying:

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