Motorsport

Verstappen claims pole in F1’s first-ever sprint qualifying at the 2021 British GP

The Red Bull racer adds another three points to his book coming home ahead of Mercedes' duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas at Silverstone.

After Friday’s runs, the top racers of the world got back at Silverstone to claim their starting positions for the Sunday race. And with the new format and old vibes with fans back inside the racing stadium, the race was nonetheless thrilling. Lewis Hamilton started the race at the front for the sprint race after securing the first spot in the Friday’s session. With home fans cheering for him, the Brit definitely looked strong at Silverstone, but it was Verstappen who had the final cheer. The Dutchman, who reported some problems with understeer in his RB16B on Friday, beautifully managed to secure a pole position for the race day after a thrilling duel with Sir Hamilton. Let’s see how was the day for the rest of the racers, team by team.

Red Bull

Starting at second place in the Saturday run, Max Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton at the start and never looked back after that. The Dutch powerhouse will now start the British Grand Prix from pole position after winning the first-ever F1 sprint qualifying race on Saturday. Verstappen, who finished 1.4 seconds ahead of Hamilton, also extended his championship lead by a point to 33 after securing the 3 points from today’s qualifier. (BTW, If you’re still confused about where these 3 points came from before the race day, well we did a full article about the new sprint format which will explain everything to you).

Getting back to the qualifiers action, the second RBR driver surely had one action-packed day at Silverstone on Saturday. Let’s say Red Bull secured both ends of the race, the front and the back. The Austrian team had to pull Sergio Perez out of the race after his early spin off the track, which means the Mexican will be starting the Sunday race behind the whole fleet at Silverstone. The Red Bull driver had been running 18th after losing the rear of his RB16B running behind Alonso and Norris on lap five as they charged through Chapel – Perez going through a full 360-degree, high-speed spin and shooting through the grass and gravel.

Mercedes

Home circuit filled with 100,000 fans, Hamilton was surely in his natural habitat the whole time at Silverstone, and it showed clearly in his performance. After a bumpy ride in Austria, the British racer bounced back on Friday runs to secure a much deserved first spot, but a poor start in the qualifier from the 7-time world champion allowed his title rival to jump off him in the quali.

After that claiming the spot back looked like a tough job in the Silver Arrow’s F1 W12, even though he came quite close to it a couple of times but failed to overtake. However, the Brit secured P2 for the main race, and will surely be looking forward to a payback.

Finishing right behind Hamilton was his teammate Valterri Bottas in P3 which means Mercedes is clearly a favourite for the Sunday’s Silverstone race. The German team will be eying for another double podium after losing its title spot in Constructors’ tally to Red Bull during the latter’s home race runs last month in Austria.

Ferrari

Bottas’ W12 was being chased down by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc who crossed the chequered flag just 3.776s behind the Finnish racer to maintain fourth on the grid for the main race. The Ferrari duo of Leclerc and Sainz was right behind Max Verstappen after the second free practice session but couldn’t hold up to their positions by the end of the day.

The Spaniard later dropped to 18th – having started ninth on the grid – but used some very impressive Ferrari pace to cut back through the field and rescue 11th to minimise the damage to just two lost positions. Overall, the Ferrari drivers showed some promising performance and will surely be out for a hunt for at least one podium spot on the race day. (Man this session is getting more exciting with every other race)

McLaren

Another homeboy, Lando Norris pits in fifth after the qualifier finished at Silverstone. Interestingly, the Briton started and finished last year’s British Grand Prix in that position. However, he managed well heaping the pressure on Fernando Alonso before nailing a cracking move on the Spaniard into Village. The best part about Norris on Saturday was that he looked in a good mental state after having to spend a disturbing week due to the recent mugging incident with him at the Euro Cup finals (Man went to watch his life’s first major live football match and got mugged, what luck man. So I’m personally very happy to see him fighting for a top spot on the Saturday runs with his full attention).

Overall team McLaren secured a strong position for the British GP as Daniel Ricciardo also gained a place in F1 Sprint with a pass on Alonso, too, and at the same corner that his McLaren teammate Norris slipped by the double world champion no less. From there, he opened up a 12.5s lead over the Alpine, but didn’t have enough pace to catch Norris. The smiley-faced Australian will begin with his highest start of the year at sixth on the Sunday’s Grand Prix.

Alpine

Alonso who secured P7 for the race day was certainly the star of F1 Sprint by making the most of his fresh set of soft tyres to opportunistically make up six places to fifth at the start. However he knew trouble will follow his A521 as his tyre began to expire, but while he lost positions to both McLarens, he still ended up four places higher than he started, for his highest grid spot of the year.

His teammate Esteban Ocon also did well by starting tyre choice on the soft tyre. The Frenchman started 13th, and got through Pierre Gasly, while also benefitting from Perez and Sainz’s woe to gain three places and 10th on the grid, which means for only the second time this season, both Alpines are in the top 10.

Aston Martin

Sebastian Vettel was another driver who made progress in the Sprint, helped in part by Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz dropping back, to end up with a net two place gain at 8th. He gave chase to Alonso, who was dropping back – but didn’t quite have enough pace to launch a pass.
Nonetheless, eighth is his best grid slot of 2021 and he was pleased with the way the car handled his medium compound tyres.

Lance Stroll also gained a position on his qualifying performance and finished at 14th in the Sprint. However, the AM driver said he lacked grip, power and a good balance as he bemoaned a lack of pace during the 17-lap dash.

Williams

There was a moment when British fans will have held their breath, as George Russell locked up and slid into Sainz on the opening lap. Both drivers managed to continue – and while Russell lost a position to Vettel to drop one position – he had enough pace to ward off a threat from Esteban Ocon to secure Williams’ highest start at Silverstone since 2016.

As for his teammate, Nicholas Latifi was left lamenting his disappointing qualifying position as he simply lacked the pace to make any progress through the field. He did benefit from Perez’s slide, but finishing ahead of only the two Haas cars was not something he was understandably keen to write home about.

AlphaTauri

Pierre Gasly started and finished the Saturday’s Sprint in 12th position and was most definitely not happy with his AT02 as he made no progress. The Frenchman said he spent 17 laps “just trying to stay on track” so unpredictable was the AT02 – and was at a loss to explain why the team haven’t been able to get the car into the right window this weekend.

The story wasn’t much different with his teammate, Yuki Tsunoda who was also perplexed as to why his AlphaTauri lacked straight-line speed, the Japanese driver lost a place to Raikkonen but benefitted from Perez’s spin. That meant he also finished where he started at 16th, having failed to pass Giovinazzi and crossing the line just 0.342s adrift.

Alfa Romeo

Kimi Raikkonen had nothing to lose after getting knocked out in the opening segment of qualifying, so bolted on a set of soft tyres and used them to good effect to make up five positions at the start.
He lost one to Gasly, but crossed 13th, a net gain of four places – giving him his highest start of 2021.

On the other hand, his teammate, Antonio Giovinazzi was not very happy with the assessment of his first F1 Sprint after the Italian suffering from wheelspin at the start to lose ground. He recovered to 15th, but that was still one place lower than he started, as the Alfa Romeo driver said his pace was too similar to the cars ahead to overtake.

Haas

The F2 promotees had their own intrateam competition as usual. Mick Schumacher survived what he described as an “unfortunate” contact with teammate Nikita Mazepin to end his first F1 Sprint 18th, one place higher than he started (Well, thanks to Checo Perez). The German comfortably had the pace to hold off Mazepin but finished 13 seconds adrift of the next best Latifi.

Mazepin started the 100km race with his signature move by facing the wrong way within seconds the run began, with the Russian hitting his teammate, which sent him spinning. He got going again, but didn’t have the performance to catch Schumacher, and ultimately ended up 19th – which was one place more than he anticipated courtesy of Perez’s demise.

Now that they all have secured their spots for tomorrow’s Grand Prix, the world’s best racers will be taking a night’s rest, before they all meet again within 24 hours for the main action at Silverstone.

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Himanshu Harsh

My love for automobiles is what fuels my writing. You can catch me twisting synth knobs when I'm not drooling over cars.

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