Lewis Hamilton introduced a sensational qualifying round to turn on Silverstone and ensure he starts the first F1 sprint ever from P1 ahead of title rival Max Verstappen.
This historic qualifying session on Friday night, which sets the route for the first F1 sprint ever on Saturday as opposed to Sunday’s British Grand Prix, so drivers give everything for P1 only on soft tires – according to the rules of this experimental weekend.
Mercedes may have taken nine of the last nine pole positions available on this track, but Verstappen fired the first shot for Red Bull, topping Q1 with 0.035s ahead of Hamilton. But Hamilton jumped back in the second quarter, his time there nearly half a second faster than Verstappen. That left the 90,000-man strong salivation for Q3 in the evening’s sunshine.
And in the final segment, Hamilton went fastest with his first effort – a 1m26.134s – to preliminary P1. Could Verstappen react this time? On his last run, Hamilton put two purple sectors, but could not improve with oversteering in Vale. However, the Dutchman was slower in sector 2 and his third sector was not good enough; the crowd went wild as he missed P1 with 0.075s at the flag, ensuring Hamilton took the top spot.
Red Bull Racing
Red Bull Racing
Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas took third, 0.194s out of pace, while Sergio Perez lost his P4 time for a track-limit violation at Stowe, finishing fifth overall, promoting Charles Leclerc to P4 for Ferrari.
McLaren’s pair Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo came through to the third quarter and were about seven-tenths of the leading pace, driving sixth and seventh, respectively.
George Russell, a star in the 2nd quarter for the second time in a row in the 3rd quarter, managed to qualify as eighth for Williams with a single flying inning, alone on the track in the final segment, as his home crowd cheered for each move in a electric atmosphere at Silverstone. He beat Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who finished P9, and Sebastian Vettel – the four-time champion who rounded out Aston Martin’s top 10.
Surprise fell out in the 2nd quarter was AlphaTauris Pierre Gasly in P12 and both Alpines – Fernando Alonso lost with a whisker to McLaren of Norris as he starts P11 for Saturday’s first F1 Sprint ever.
Qualifying Highlights: 2021 British Grand Prix
AS IT HAPPENED
Q1 – Hamilton a whisker behind Verstappen as Tsunoda and Raikkonen miss out
A sold-out crowd – only the minority dressed in orange for Max Verstappen this time after the last race in Austria – roared the drivers under the setting sun at Silverstone in this unusual Friday session. Still, it was the Red Bull championship leader who topped the timesheets in the opening segment with a benchmark time of 1m26,751s. According to F1 Sprint weekend rules, only soft tires were available in all three qualifying segments today.
READ MORE: Everything you need to know about the F1 Sprint format – including how it works
Lewis Hamilton made a late touchdown for P1 but could only finish 0.035s behind Verstappen, in the second, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc pulling a shake of the tail in the last corner to take third place in this session for Ferrari ahead of Sergio Perez.
Aston Martins of Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel were in the fall zone behind Williams’ George Russell as the session drew to a close. They did it out of Q1 though, but AlphaTauris Yuki Tsunoda eventually went out of Q2 for the fifth time this season – this time by 0.026 seconds to go in P15.
Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen, 17, was out in the first quarter for the fourth row in a row ahead of Williams’ Nicholas Latifi, and both Haas racers, Mick Schumacher, a place ahead of Nikita Mazepin.
Eliminated: Tsunoda, Raikkonen, Latifi, Schumacher and Mazepin.
Q2 – Hamilton bounces back while Gasly and Alpines are knocked out
As the sunset and the temperature dropped, the drivers wasted no time in launching the second pedestrian attack on Silverstone. And the innings came thick and fast in the second quarter, with Hamilton briefly owning the P1 spot – until Verstappen immediately responded with a shot of 1m26,504s to darken his rival by 0.098s.
Then the game starts. Behind the title protagonists were Mercedes of Bottas in third and the second Red Bull of Perez in fourth.
Fernando Alonso’s first flying inning was not ideal, while teammate Esteban Ocon seemed far more pleasant to have received a new chassis and MGU-K for this weekend.
Antonio Giovinazzi, who went up to his 50th Grand Prix start, was slowest after his first effort with a mistake at Turn 9. Aston Martins Stroll, Alonso, Russell and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly were in danger of finishing the 2nd quarter as the timer ticked away.
As for Ferrari, their talisman Leclerc complained after a slipstream after taking the P8 with his opening tour, teammate Carlos Sainz in seventh, until late improvements put them fourth and fifth.
With the shadows looming, the black Mercedes from Bottas and then Hamilton emerged first; Leclerc follows Sainz out; and then a host of challengers to follow – with McLaren’s Ricciardo last out.
Hamilton’s first sector heralded an improvement of two tenths over his personal record, and it was clear that the Red Bulls were not so comfortable. The Briton delivered and improved to 1m26.023s and went 0.292s faster than Verstappen to P1.
The biggest cheer, however, was reserved for Williams’ Russell, who came to P7 in the 2nd quarter with a fantastic effort – a second from Hamilton – giving Williams a continuous Q3 look for the first time since 2017.
McLarens scraped through, Ricciardo in the ninth to end a Q3 drought in three races and Lando Norris 10. That left both Alpines out in the second quarter, as well as AlphaTauri’s Gasly, who did not reach Q3 only a second time in 13 races.
Eliminated: Alonso, Gasly, Ocon, Giovinazzi and Stroll.
2021 British GP qualifier: Silverstone breaks out as Russell bursts into the 3rd quarter
Q3 – Hamilton and Verstappen go toe-to-toe in a nail-biting session following Russell’s heroics
Fired up and apparently rejuvenated after his Q2 win, Hamilton was determined not to give his rival Verstappen a drag in the final segment. Sainz led the drivers out to the top 10 shootout with Hamilton and then Verstappen in the back.
A Euro 2020-style cheer went out as Hamilton set the benchmark time – while Verstappen said: “I just do not understand what’s going on,” complains of understeer – as Mercedes was 0.172s ahead of Red Bull on the leaderboard.
Sitting third early was Bottas, while Perez was fourth – averting the McLaren pair’s challenge – after the first innings were put down. However, Ferrari’s Sainz and Aston Martins Vettel struggled to set representative times and were in eighth and ninth. Take a short break from the action …
2021 British GP qualifier: Silverstone crowd cheers Russell’s Q3 ‘lap of honor’
As Russell finished his lap, Hamilton showed up for his final race with the checkered flag threatening and lit the first two sectors in purple. But on Vale, the rear end of his W12 stepped out. He saved the car, but the lap was destroyed. The benchmark for Verstappen was 1m26.134s.
The roar of the audience fell silent in a howl of excitement as the Dutchman, who had previously complained about understeer, put a personal best first sector. His second, however, was not so solid, and while gathering in the final corners, his ultimate time was 0.075s away from the pace. Hamilton once again made history: for the first F1 Sprint ever, he starts online first.
Bottas made sure Mercedes wanted both cars ready to pinch Verstappen for the start of the Sprint as he qualified third ahead of Ferrari’s fast Leclerc, while Perez missed P4 and another series of starts for Red Bull with his time descaled to a track limiting violation at Stowe.
McLaren lined up sixth and seventh, Norris ahead of Ricciardo, while Russell’s only lap time made him start eighth for Sprint. Ferrari’s Sainz battled in the 3rd quarter, starting ninth ahead of Aston’s four-time champion Vettel in P10. Crucially, however, those who reached Q3 will not be started on the decks on which they put their Q2 times.
The crowd returns tomorrow to witness an important day in Silverstone as the first F1 Sprint ever waves. Attend live coverage and updated reaction to FP2 and Sprint on Saturday.
2021 British GP Qualification: Hamilton claims P1 for F1 Sprint race start
The key quote
“We have missed this for a whole year. I’ve lost my voice a little. I am so grateful to see everyone here; we’ve missed you for a whole year, so to get to the Silverstone Grand Prix and have a full crowd like this, you see the energy, and when I got into it, I was hopeful with the great work we’ve done together in the team plus the energy of the fans it would bring us there. I think it’s because of the fans. ”- Lewis Hamilton
FP2 follows on Saturday at 1200 local time before the F1 Sprint debuts. Read our primer for a refresh on the brand new F1 format before the story is created in Silverstone, with title rivals Hamilton and Verstappen starting in the front row.
And of course, the action continues on Sunday with Saturday’s Sprint setting the net for the 2021 British Grand Prix.
F1.com will have live coverage and updated response throughout the UK Grand Prix weekend.