Fernando Alonso finishes four positions ahead of where he started; Sergio Pérez spins and retires
By Yuri Coghe
Formula 1’s first-ever sprint race qualifying couldn’t have gone better for Max Verstappen.
The Dutchman overtook pole-sitter and championship rival Lewis Hamilton for first place at the start, and was able to retain the position until the end of the session. The 100 km event, which in Silverstone’s case translates to 17 laps, marks the first out of three race weekends that a new qualifying system is being introduced and tested in 2021.
Verstappen also extended his championship lead to 33 points, being awarded three points for the sprint race win. Hamilton, who finished second, earned two points, with his teammate Valtteri Bottas adding one point to his current total by finishing third.
“I got off to a really good start and that was a great fight with Lewis (Hamilton) early on,” said Verstappen after the session. “You could see we were pushing hard as there was lot of blistering on our tyres. I think tomorrow will be a very exciting race and we’re looking forward to it.”
Verstappen also spoke about the fire that ignited on his brakes due to high temperature as he was waiting for the red lights to go off at the sart.
“Yeah, I was really worried,” he said. “A little bit of fire is ok, but at one point it was becoming quite big and I was just looking in my mirror to the guys in the back thinking ‘please speed up, speed up!’
“So I was not sure going into Turn 3 if my brakes were going to work, but luckily it didn’t do too much damage.”
The issue didn’t appear to cause any problems to the 23-year-old’s car as he was able to complete the 17 laps with no issues.
Near the end of the session, both Verstappen and Hamilton had blisters on their front right tires despite the short length of the race. The issue left the Briton unable to challenge the Red Bull driver for the lead. Hamilton also asked if Mercedes could find any more power during the session.
“I gave it everything today, I’m just sorry I couldn’t win it for them (the home fans),” said Hamilton, who also thanked the 90,000 British Grand Prix attendance for their support. “Tomorrow we will fight again, but they (Red Bull) are just so strong.”
Bottas choose soft tires for the session, unlike Hamilton and Verstappen, who were on mediums.
“We tried to do something different at the start but it didn’t quite pay off for us,” said Bottas. “Today has shown us that tomorrow isn’t going to be easy for any of the drivers – anything can happen and that makes it exciting.”
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Biggest gainer, biggest loser
Racing on soft tires, Fernando Alonso made six overtakes at the start to go from P11 to P5, eventually dropping back to seventh after the McLaren duo of Lando Norris, fifth, and Daniel Ricciardo, sixth, got the better of the Spaniard. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc finished just where he started in fourth.
Alonso received a warning from race control for moving under braking, after both the McLaren drivers and Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel complained about the Spaniard’s actions on the radio.
Sergio Pérez was the historic session’s biggest loser.
The Mexican driver had a bad start, dropping from fifth to eighth in the first few laps. But his situation became much worse on Lap 7. Pérez spun by himself and nearly hit the wall at Maggotts-Becketts. He dropped to P18, but limped back to the pits and eventually retired the car.
The Red Bull driver, who got his second career win at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix this season, will start Sunday’s race from pit lane.
George Russell had an early encounter with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. during the opening lap but managed to hang around in the top 10 after the session’s 17 laps had been completed. However, the Briton has been punished by the stewards for his accident with Sainz, and will start his home race on Sunday in P12 – a big setback since finishing his second Q3 as a Williams driver seventh on Friday.
Sainz finished the session in P11, moving to tenth after Russell’s three-place grid penalty.
Vettel took his Aston Martin to eighth, while his teammate, Canadian Lance Stroll, will start Sunday’s race in P14. Stroll and Kiki Raikkonen touched when fighting for P13, where the Finn will start on Sunday – two positions ahead of teammate Antonio Giovinazzi.
Esteban Ocon gained three positions from his initial P13, moving to ninth after Russell’s penalty. Pierre Gasly also benefited from it and will start Sunday’s race in tenth. His AlphaTauri teammate, rookie Yuki Tsunoda, only made it to P16.
Nicholas Latifi was 17th, ahead of the Haas duo of Mick Schumacher, 18th, and Nikita Mazepin, 19th.
The British Grand Prix in Silverstone is set for 10 AM Eastern Time on Sunday.
See the full sprint race qualifying results: