British Grand Prix qualifying: 7 things you need to know ahead of Sunday's race
The big news from Silverstone this week – other than the hugely entertaining Rich Energy saga – is that the British GP will remain at the Northamptonshire track for another five years.
The crowd were in great spirits then as the drivers took to the track for qualifying today, with another Lewis Hamilton pole expected to follow.
Here’s how they lined up, and everything you need to know ahead of Sunday’s race…
1. Bottas ruins Hamilton’s day
They say Formula 1 is a sport of tiny margins – but boy, there can’t be many times that pole position has been claimed by a smaller margin.
Valtteri Bottas takes top spot on the grid for the British Grand Prix after he beat Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton by just 0.006 seconds.
Hamilton had made a mistake on his first Q3 run, leaving Bottas on provisional pole with a 0.250 second margin. The reigning world champ then put in a far tidier lap on his final run, but it wasn’t enough to dislodge Bottas from the No. 1 spot.
It’s Bottas’s first pole at Silverstone, but Lewis will be ready and waiting to get the jump on him in tomorrow's race.
2. What a difference a year makes
At this very race last year, Sebastian Vettel beat the home hero Hamilton to take a brilliant victory, and extend his and Ferrari’s lead in the drivers’ and constructors’ championships.
After beating Hamilton and Mercedes in their own backyard and the lead in both title battles, it looked like things might finally come together for Vettel and the Scuderia. After that, things fell apart and the second half of the season saw Hamilton and Merc hit back and take both titles.
Incredibly, since this race last year, Vettel has taken just one more win, and is yet to taste victory this season.
And it looks like he will have his work cut out to change that stat around this track on Sunday. In qualifying he could do no better than sixth – behind both the Red Bulls.
In the sister car Charles Leclerc was a superb third fastest, and as this season goes on, the young Monégasque is increasingly looking like the lead driver for the Ferrari team.
3. Can Red Bull challenge for the win?
Max Verstappen’s win at the Red Bull Ring last time out was something of a shock result in a season that had been totally dominated by Mercedes.
But will it prove to be a turning point for the team – and for engine suppliers Honda?
The cooler temperatures here at Silverstone will favour Mercedes, but with the Red Bulls lurking in fourth and fifth on the grid – and a fiesta and motivated Max Verstappen behind the wheel – could we see them push their way to the front come race day? It’s certainly possible.
And a mention for the much-maligned Pierre Gasly.
The young Frenchman was lapped by his own team-mate in the last race and is under mounting pressure to start delivering. Today he qualified fifth, just one place behind his team-mate. Nothing to create any headlines, but a step in the right direction for sure – and a platform to build on tomorrow and as the season goes on.
4. Norris impresses again
Lando Norris was born a few months after Michael Schumacher broke his leg at this very race track back in 1999.
And now the 19-year-old is here racing with McLaren – and already looking every inch the natural F1 driver in just his rookie season.
He did have a car-damaging off this weekend, but luckily for him that was in a McLaren road car while he was giving Johnny Herbert a spin around the track on Thursday.
But when it really mattered, Norris delivered again, popping his McLaren into eighth (splitting the Renaults) – and once again beating his more experienced team-mate Carlos Sainz who was 13th fastest, and unable to get into Q3.
5. A tip of the hat to Alex Albon
Speaking of impressive rookies, Alexander Albon had another great session, getting through to Q3 and qualifying a brilliant ninth – which looks even better compared to his team-mate Daniil Kvyat who could only manage 17th and a Q1 exit.
If Albon continues this great form, and Gasly continues to struggle, the Toro Rosso driver could find himself elevated to the top team come next season.
6. The Haas mystery deepens
What is going on with the Haas team? And we’re not talking about the saga of their sponsorship deal with Rich Energy (surely the most bizarre story of the season so far), but rather their wildly inconsistent car.
Two weeks ago in Austria Kevin Magnussen qualified fifth fastest in a quite brilliant display.
Fast-forward a fortnight and the Dane could only manage 16th and a Q1 exit at Silverstone.
Replays showed he made an error on his final run, but even so, his team-mate Romain Grosjean could do no better than 14th.
Of course there will be differences because of the track and the conditions, but to go from ‘best of the rest’ to the bottom end of the grid from one race to the next is just baffling.
7. Lance Stroll watch
Yup. Out in Q1. Again. For the 14th race in a row.