British GP | Hamilton storms stormy qualifying at Silverstone

Lewis Hamilton wins the qualifying quest at the British Grand Prix.

From a wet start to a fiery end, Hamilton stormed Silverstone to clinch pole at the British Grand Prix. Lewis’ 67th career pole, and fifth at home, moving the Briton to within one of Michael Schumacher on the all-time list. And placing Lewis in a great spot to clinch his fourth consecutive British Grand Prix win.

On Friday, it was Valtteri Bottas setting the pace in practice. But when rain arrived on Saturday morning, it was Lewis Hamilton putting his name above the rest. Topping the final practice time sheet by just three-hundredths of a second to title-rival Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton carried that speed into qualifying, but with rain falling opted to take on slick tyres. Leaving Red Bull’s Ricciardo to take the top spot on intermediate Pirelli’s, only for his turbo to fail and end his session early.

A red flag window and drying track then left drivers looking for grip in a bid to beat the drop. None more so than Fernando Alonso as he risked slicks to put a McLaren top.

Unfortunately, Alonso’s Q1 triumph could not continue throughout the session and it was not a McLaren on top at the end of the day. Instead, that man was Lewis Hamilton as the Briton tied Jim Clark for the most poles at the British Grand Prix.

Although Hamilton may have feared he would not start there tomorrow, for the fastest man in qualifying fell under investigation for potentially blocking Grosjean during the early stages of Q3. But the stewards opted not to serve any penalty.

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Lewis Hamilton exiting the Mercedes garage to take pole at the British Grand Prix. Photo credit: Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

Q1

After final practice saw an 80% chance of rain turn into a late shower, qualifying approached with a 90% chance of a return to damp conditions. Teeing up the threat of qualifying runs carrying greater importance, so as not to spin out on a flyer like Ricciardo demonstrated in FP3.

The threat of rain then turned into a shower as the green light flicked on and slippery surface warnings were issued in track sector four. Leaving teams and drivers debating which tyre to take, only to realise the need of inters once out on track.

“Raining, raining, raining, it’s raining,” explained Raikkonen.

Having already been out on slick tyres, Hamilton was among the few to soon return to the Silverstone Wing for a change of tyres with the rain thickening.

Meaning the first man across the line had lapped with the best track conditions, enough to keep Red Bull’s pairing at the top while times splashed onto the board.

Verstappen’s initial 1:53.598, however, was not enough to make it a Red Bull one two having slid marginally off track to allow Hulkenberg into the top two. Followed by Hamilton’s first flyer promoting the Brit into third.

Contrastingly, Raikkonen’s early effort after his calls of heavy rain was only strong enough for 14th place and without a chance to immediately improve as Red Flags halted the session.

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Kimi Raikkonen during qualifying for the British Grand Prix. Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari.

Daniel Ricciardo may still have been fastest on the board, but as he accelerated out of Woodcote, his turbo whined and the power decreased. Ending the Australian’s 38-race run of Q3 appearances and already with a 5-place grid penalty, keeping the ever smiling man at the back of the grid.

With red flags out and light rain continuing to fall, the racing line dampened once more to wipe out the work of the early runners. Yet, after being sat just outside the cut-off point, when Raikkonen returned as the session returned to green, the Finn improved to take fifth place.

Times continued to improve with more cars returning to the track and with more parts of that track drying. Seeing Lewis Hamilton become the first to go fastest, 1.6 seconds clear of Ricciardo’s marker.

Yet, with each driver crossing the line, the track continued to dry and more drivers found time. Leaving Vettel to leap up from the drop zone to first, 1.2 seconds faster than Lewis to edge a 1:39 lap time.

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Hamilton stops for a switch onto intermediate tyres early in Q1. Photo credit: Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

Fernando Alonso was also pushing on another flying lap as he fell to 20th place. Narrowly avoiding putting his team-mate in the drop zone as he aborted his lap to take on slicks – one of two drivers to risk the change.

Esteban Ocon was the other to risk coming out on supersoft tyres, moving up the order to fifth place – 0.8 seconds down on Verstappen as the Red Bull moved back on top. But returning to the track with slick tyres on a wet set up saw the Force India’s rear-left brake catch alight on route back to the pits.

Fernando, on the other hand, just crossed the finish line thousandths of a second before the chequered flag fell. Ensuring he could complete a flying lap on the slick tyres as Vandoorne put the other McLaren into seventh and eliminate Magnussen.

Having just beaten the flag, Alonso was flying on supersoft rubber. Promoting the thousands of fans lining Silverstone onto their feet to cheer the McLaren man across the line as he stole P1 from Verstappen. Lapping 1.3 seconds faster than the Red Bull and eliminating Lance Stroll despite setting no opening purple sector times.

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Speed blurs. Fernando Alonso flies at the British Grand Prix. Photo credit: McLaren.

Q2

Having seen what Alonso was capable off at the death of Q1, slick tyres were the favoured call at the start of Q2. Ever more with the rain mostly clearing and only leaving isolated damp patches with minor spits of rain.

Those spits were not enough to cause any harm, though, as Kimi Raikkonen set the opening time with a 1:32.171 – four-tenths faster than Fernando Alonso.

Hamilton then dropped the benchmark into the 1:31s. But despite the pace of his Silver Arrow, Hulkenberg bettered the benchmark just set. While Bottas nestled one-tenth down on Hamilton having run the soft compound tyres.

Bottas, and Vettel, then continued to push. With Vallteri first to post a sub-1:30 lap despite the harder rubber, thanks to purple sectors two and three. Vettel, meanwhile. set the fastest first sector before Hamilton snuck in a flying lap to snatch P1 by half a second.

With Lewis now on top, the field returned to the pits for the mid-stage break. Leaving only Massa to continue to lap as the Brazilian remained slowest – with Sainz behind yet to run.

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Felipe Massa, out of the car and out of qualifying at the British Grand Prix. Photo credit: Williams Racing.

When Sainz eventually came out for his only run, though, Carlos moved into 11th place to leave Felipe rock bottom as the Ferrari’s pushed to take P1 and 2. With Raikkonen momentarily fastest, before Vettel’s purple sector two saw a 0.014 margin open between them.

Now, however, the chequered flag fell and the race to beat the drop kicked up a gear. With Stoffel Vandoorne first to take the flag, moving up to seventh and putting Grosjean into 10th.

Romain, though, soon took 7th from the Belgian, with Ocon snatching sixth putting Vandoone back on the cusp.

Perez then taking eighth place pushed Vandoorne down a further spot, too. But having seen Palmer’s improvements only take the Renault to 10th, it was the Briton who missed out on Q3 at his home Grand Prix.

Hamilton, meanwhile, improved to go top by one second.

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Box, box, box. Palmer is out of qualifying at the British GP. Photo credit: Renault Sport F1.

Q3

From top in Q2, to top in Q3 came the Silver Arrows with Valtteri Bottas first to post a lap time in the top-10 shoot-out.

Followed swiftly by Hamilton, demoting his team-mate with purples across the board to create a three-tenths gap, despite Bottas now running on supersoft rubber.

No purple sectors at Ferrari saw Vettel come home down on Hamilton as he took second place, with Raikkonen 4th. Leaving Lewis with the provisional pole in a title-rival front row.

A strong qualifying thus far for Hulkenberg left the remaining Renault as the fastest non-top three team driver, albeit 1.6 seconds off the Mercedes’ pace. Yet Force India had only run with used supersofts to this point and returned soon after with fresh sets and an empty track for Ocon.

Neither Force India, however, was able to dethrone the Renault. With only the remaining McLaren of Vandoorne and the Haas of Grosjean slower. Vandoorne, though, had out-qualified Alonso for the first time despite his team-mate’s Q1 triumph.

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Stoffel Vandoorne during qualifying for the British Grand Prix. Photo credit: McLaren.

In the battle for pole, it was Valtteri Bottas once again first to cross the line and begin his flying lap. Attacking the opening bends almost too hard as he heavily locked up into Turn 3 and only just made the corner without running wide.

Knowing he has a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change, too, Bottas kept pushing to improve on what was third place (eighth on the grid).

Come the end of the first sector, though, Bottas crossed the timing loop a tenth down on Hamilton’s initial benchmark. A benchmark Hamilton himself was a tenth of a second up on.

Valtteri then carried that tenth into sector two, where by Hamilton had moved four-tenths clear of.

By now Ferrari had joined the fight, too. Marginally seeing Raikkonen edge Hamilton’s sector two benchmark as Bottas crossed the line to take second place.

The gains made by the Finn at the wheel of the Silver Arrow, however, were not enough and he slipped back down the order the moment the Ferrari’s crossed the line.

Falling all the way to fourth place (ninth on the grid), while Hamilton blitzed his final lap to improve the benchmark and create a five-tenths lead, with Vettel a further tenth back.

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The top three (Raikkonen [L], Hamilton [C], Vettel [R]) pose for a post-qualifying group photo. Photo credit: Mercedes AMG F1 Team.

Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’26.600  POLE
2 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1’27.147 0.547
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1’27.356 0.756
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1’27.376 0.776
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1’28.130 1.53
6 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1’28.856 2.256
7 Sergio Perez Force India 1’28.902 2.302
8 Esteban Ocon Force India 1’29.074 2.474
8 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1’29.418 2.818
10 Romain Grosjean Haas 1’29.549 2.949
11 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1’30.193 3.593
12 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1’30.355 3.755
13 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1’30.600 4.000
14 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso 1’31.368 4.768
15 Felipe Massa Williams 1’31.482 4.882
16 Lance Stroll Williams 1’42.573 15.973
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1’42.577 15.977
18 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 1’42.593 15.993
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1’42.633 16.033
20 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1’42.966 16.366

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