Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton has always thrived racing on home soil, it was no different in qualifying for the 2017 edition of the British Grand Prix as he powered pole position by a half a second margin over next best Kimi Raikkonen in the Ferrari.
Hamilton will start Sunday’s race from the top spot on the grid thanks to a sensational best lap time of 1:26.600 set in changing, but improving conditions during a tense qualifying session at Silverstone.
Stewards investigated am alleged block by Hamilton on the Haas of Romain Grosjean but found that a penalty was unwarranted.
Hamilton, acknowledging the cheers from the home fans, said afterwards, “I feel amazing in front of a great crowd like this. I hope you liked the lap. Always save best till last. I had to make sure I got that lap in. I couldn’t do it last weekend so I made sure I could here.”
“I generally like it to be dry but I like it when the conditions are tricky, The team did a fantastic job and when it dried out, the tyres were incredible and those fast corners. It’s the best position to start from. The long runs were looking great,” he added.
This, Hamilton’s fifth pole position at Silverstone, equals the 50-year-old record of five top spot starts at the British Grand Prix held by Jim Clark. It is also Hamilton’s 67th career pole position, one short of tying Michael Schumacher for the all-time record in Formula 1.
After playing second fiddle to Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel during free practice sessions, the veteran Finn delivered when it mattered to claim a front row start, notably the gap to Hamilton was 0.547 of a second.
Raikkonen summed up, “It felt OK, conditions were not easy, changing a lot, but the car we had was the best it has been this weekend. Not quite fast enough for first place.”
Championship points leader Vettel would have to be disappointed with third place in qualy, as well as the gap to Hamilton but at the same time have a glimmer of hope for the race, as there are two Ferrari drivers in the top three and their race pace is pretty handy.
Vettel said, “The car really came alive this morning, that was really good. It’s a shame, the last run in Q3 I think there was a bit more.”
Valtteri Bottas looked capable of giving Hamilton a good run for his money, but on his final run in Q3 a big lock up early on compromised his lap. he was fourth fastest but a gearbox penalty means he will start from ninth on the grid.
Bottas said, “Qualy was tricky. Tricky conditions for everyone, but once the track dried it was like a normal qualifying and I just didn’t feel that good with the car. The lock-up costs me a tenth, or a bit more, but it doesn’t explain the difference to the front.”
In wet and tricky conditions, during Q1, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo topped the timing screens, but midway through the session his car came to halt with an engine failure. His day’s work over there and then.
Thus it was left to Max Verstappen to fly the Red Bull flag for the rest of the session. The Dutch teenager ending fifth fastest, but ominously 1.5 seconds down on the pole winning time. When Ferrari and Mercedes turn up the wick, Red Bull simply have no answer.
Verstappen said, “The whole weekend we couldn’t get the car where we wanted to, the grip where we wanted to, so not ideal. It will be difficult to beat them on merit, but hopefully something can happen and I have some luck.”
Sergio Perez got the better of his Force India teammate Esteban Ocon as the pair ended the session seventh and eighth respectively with less than a tenth separating the boys in pink.
Feel good moment of day took place at the end of the Q1 session was Fernando Alonso topping the timing screens in the McLaren.
While last on the timing screens, the Spaniard bolted on a set of supersofts very late in the session, he then blitzed around on his out lap, just making it across the line with a tenth of a second to spare, and delivered the top time of the first stanza of qualifying.
But in Q2 the magic had dissipated as Alonso failed to make it through to Q3 as he was only good for the 13th best lap time. Add a 30-place grid place penalty and Alonso will be starting from last on the grid.
Or as a fan wrote: “Alonso will be starting the British Grand Prix at Silverstone from Brands Hatch!”
However Stoffel Vandoorne surprised all by making it through to Q3 and with it out-qualifying his illustrious McLaren teammate for the first time this ever. He was ninth fastest.
Romain Grosjean rounded out the top ten in the Haas.
Q1 began in greasy conditions and with drizzle falling. The weather and the expectation that it might worsen led to a flurry of activity as soon as the pit lane lights went green.
Ricciardo set the first time on inters, a lap of 1:42.966 with Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg taking P2 ahead of Verstappen.
Ricciardo’s time as the pacesetter was limited, however. Seven minutes into the session he slowed dramatically and was forced to pull over at the edge of the track at Luffield, reporting to his team that his car was suffering a turbo issue.
With Ricciardo’s RB13 stranded just off track the red flags were displayed and all cars returned to the pit lane while the Australian stricken Red Bull was removed.
When the session resumed Hamilton was quickly into his stride and he took P1 with a time of 1:41.296. That was bettered by Vettel, however, with the German stealing top spot by 0.240s. The track was improving rapidly, however, and with two minutes to go Verstappen jumped to P1 with a time of 1:38.912.
The major drama in the closing stages was provided by Alonso. The McLaren driver pitted late in the session and opted to try a run on slicks. It was marginal as to whether the Spaniard would make it across the line to begin his flying lap before the chequered flag was waved. He made it by the tiniest margin, however, and then on a rapidly drying track the McLaren driver vaulted from P20 to P1 with a time of 1:37.598 set on supersoft tyres.
There was no such reprieve for others, however, and eliminated after the first segment were Williams’ Lance Stroll in P16, followed by Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, the Saubers of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson, and in P20 the unfortunate Ricciardo.
With conditions improving by the minute the early part of Q2 saw times improve rapidly. Verstappen was quickly in P1 but his time of 1:33.917 but over the next few minutes chunks of time were found as the track dried and as the session entered its final minutes Hamilton held sway with a time of 1:29.097 with team0-mate Bottas almost half a second back in P2 and Vettel third.
In the closing moments Hamilton powered away from the pack, setting an untouchable time of 1:27.893, 1.1s ahead of team-mate Bottas. Vettel was third ahead of team-mate Raikkonen, while Hulkenberg took fifth in front of Verstappen.
There was no last-gasp escape from the drop zone in Q2 for Alonso though. While team-mate Vandoorne scraped through to Q3 in P10, edging Renault’s Jolyon Palmer by eight hundredths of a second, Alonso was eliminated in P13 behind Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat. Carlos Sainz qualified in P15, while Williams Felipe Massa finished in P15.
Hamilton made an early claim for pole position in Q1 with a first run time of 1:27.231. That put him 0.199s ahead of Vettel, with Bottas in third ahead of Raikkonen and Verstappen.
The Briton was in irresistible form, however, and in the final runs he put in a blistering lap of 1:26.600 to claim his fifth Silverstone position 0.547s ahead of Raikkonen. There was the possibility of an upset, however, as Hamilton was put under investigation for an incident involving Grosjean early in Q3.
Vettel’s final flyer was a slightly scrappy affair and the German had to settle for P3, two tenths behind his team-mate. Bottas qualified fourth ahead of Verstappen, with Hulkenberg sixth. Perez took seventh place Ocon, Vandoorne and Grosjean.
British Grand Prix, Silverstone – Qualifying, Best lap Times
|5||33||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:38.912||1:29.431||1:28.130||23|
|7||11||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:42.009||1:29.824||1:28.902||26|
|8||31||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:39.738||1:29.701||1:29.074||25|
|20||3||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:42.966||4|