By Gary Becker
Lewis Hamilton showed once again that he is part of British racing royalty claiming the pole for tomorrow's British Grand Prix by the wide, in Formula terms, margin of more than a half-second over his nearest competitor. Hamilton waited for the last minute of the last of three qualifying session to post a lap time mark that no one else could near.
In the process, Hamilton earned his 67th career pole and perhaps more importantly on this day, at this track, the 5th pole for a British Grand Prix at Silverstone tying racing royalty and legend, Jim Clark. Hamilton's only misstep was slowing Romain Grosjean while the Haas driver was on a hot lap.
"I can’t really explain in words just how good that pole feels." said Hamilton "A fifth Silverstone pole, equal with Jim Clark, it just feels crazy to me – it’s surreal to be up there with these legends. I’m so happy with how this weekend has gone. We started on the right foot straight from FP1 and we’ve built up from there. I loved the conditions in Q1 – it’s tough but those changeable conditions are so much fun. Then it was all about pushing to the limit as the track dried out, extracting everything out of the car. Everything has just been so perfect and I knew it was a spectacular lap - I knew that had to be it. I feel like I’m driving the best I’ve ever driven, so I hope the results start to show that. It’s been super tight recently, so to end up with a gap of seven tenths to the Ferraris is a nice surprise. I would never intentionally get in the way of anyone. I don’t think I was in the way of Romain, but if I was I apologize. The home support has been incredible and I’m so proud to take pole here again. It blows me away to see all of the flags. There’s nowhere else in the world where a driver gets this kind of love and support."
Starting next to Hamilton will be the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen who though a half-second off the day's top time out qualified everyone but Hamilton posting a better lap than Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel.
“In qualifying the handling of my car was better than any other time this weekend and I was really happy with that." said Raikkonen "Obviously we always want to finish higher, but today we got more or less what we could. In Q1, with the intermediate tires on a damp track, the conditions were a bit tricky. It was very slippery, but it was not wet everywhere and the tires wore out very quickly. Luckily we did the last run at the right time and it was ok. After that, the track was getting better and better. My last lap felt good, but it was still a bit tricky to know where to go because it was still a bit damp here and there; so I took it quite easily at first and then decided to push a bit more. The feeling that I got with my car today was nice, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow and I hope that in the race we can improve. Usually, we are a bit stronger on Sunday”.
Though he tried, the best Vettel could do was third best.
“We are quite happy with the result and our performance was good." said Vettel "I think it will be tough tomorrow considering that Mercedes has been very quick for the whole weekend. Our car today was good and felt amazing, so overall I am happy. The track was not really wet and it was good fun to drive, I just found a bunch of cars ahead of me in my last run, but otherwise I think we improved the car a lot over the weekend, also in qualifying trim, and that’s what really counts.”
Max Verstappen managed to work his way to the outside of the second row.
“It was a lonely qualifying for me and we ended up pretty much exactly where I expected." said Verstappen "We were lacking the speed and therefore unable to get close to the Mercedes and Ferraris but the car still felt good so I had fun out there. Fifth was the best we could have done today and I achieved that. I’ll start tomorrow in fourth which of course is better but I never like to rely on penalties for other people to help, I wish I was there just on pace. We shall wait and see what the weather brings tomorrow, hopefully some rain as I think I have a better chance of challenging for a podium in the wet. At the beginning of Qualifying it looked like it could have been a nice chance to get up front but unfortunately the track dried out. I want to be realistic and not dream so I’m hoping my luck has changed and I can have a good, fun race tomorrow and bring the car home. I am not talking about podiums or winning for now. If something happens to the cars in front then we can challenge for a better result.”
Valtteri Bottas posted the fourth quickest time but a five grid spot penalty for a gearbox change will move him to the ninth starting spot.
"Qualifying was tough said Bottas "It’s not ideal to be starting P9 but we start tomorrow on a different tyre to the cars ahead of us, which could offer up some good opportunities to move forward. The Soft should be a good race tire and I know anything is possible from there. I’ll have to be careful to not get stuck behind traffic, but that Soft tire should give me the opportunity to move forward as others stop. The balance of the car wasn’t bad, but I really struggled for grip. The lock-up at Turn 3 on the final run cost me a bit of time, but it doesn’t explain the gap to the front. Lewis seemed to be able to get the heat into the tires better than me today in the cooler conditions after the rain. I just didn’t have enough grip to compete for pole as the track dried out. We’ll look into that tonight. We definitely have a strong car here and we’ve been competitive all weekend, so I’ll be pushing all out tomorrow to make up some ground."
Verstappen's Red Bull Racing teammate met a much different end to qualifying. After showing speed early in the first session Daniel Riccardo's car slowed to stop on course ending his day.
“I’m not 100 percent sure what happened yet but it is a suspected turbo failure." said Ricciardo "I lost a bit of power down the straight and heard some weird turbo noises, I thought I could nurse it back to the pits but then it all switched off and we couldn’t save it for the session. I’m just disappointed not to show more of what we could do in qualifying as these conditions should have given us a bit more of an opportunity. We were quick straight out of the box today and I was P1 before the failure, so we look pretty good on the intermediate tire. Tomorrow is where the points are, we’ve got to work hard to get back in there but it is what it is. Mixed weather could hopefully help me out but I think in either these or dry conditions we can fight through the field and get inside the top ten.”
The first qualifying session was run under wet conditions as a light rain shower covered the circuit as the cars wearing intermediate rain tires left pit lane. The shower ended late in the session and Fernando Alonso pitted to opted to try a run on slicks. It was marginal as to whether Alonso would make it across the line to begin his flying lap before the checkered flag was waved but he made it by the tiniest margin vaulting from P20 to P1 with a time of 1:37.598 set on supersoft tires.
The second session saw Hamilton dominate with Bottas and Vettel chasing. Those who failed to progress to the final round included Alonso and Felipe Massa.
The final round was all Hamilton, early and late, both runs the best of the field.
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 1:26.600
2 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari 1:27.147 0.547
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari 1:27.356 0.756
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull TAG 1:28.130 1.530
5 Nico Hulkenberg Renault Renault 1:28.856 2.256
6 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:28.902 2.302
7 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 1:29.074 2.474
8 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Honda 1:29.418 2.818
9 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes Mercedes 1:27.376 0.776
10 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:29.549 2.949
11 Jolyon Palmer Renault Renault 1:30.193 3.593
12 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso Renault 1:30.355 3.755
13 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso Renault 1:31.368 4.768
14 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 1:31.482 4.882
15 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:42.573 15.973
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:42.577 15.977
17 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 1:42.593 15.993
18 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:42.633 16.033
19 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull TAG 1:42.966 16.366
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