The historic Silverstone Circuit is hosting an experimental grand prix weekend format this year, with qualifying moved to Friday afternoon and replaced on Saturday by a 30-minute spring race to decide pole position and the grid for Sunday’s race.
Teams had just one hour of practice yesterday morning to perfect their cars, and Red Bull Racing had looked supremely comfortable heading into qualifying. But Mercedes, equipped with its last update package of the year, spent the break between sessions fine-tuning the set-up to present a substantially more competitive package in time for qualifying.
The team’s efforts culminated in Hamilton taking provisional P1 ahead of Verstappen by almost 0.2 seconds.
He was set to better his time with his final lap when a moment of oversteer through Vale risked handing Verstappen the place, but the Dutchman had car problems of his own and couldn’t capitalise, easing Hamilton’s way to the front of the grid for Formula 1’s first ever sprint race.
“I was hopeful that with the great work that we’ve done as a team and the energy of the fans would get us there, so this is down to the fans I think,” he said, acknowledging the sold-out Silverstone crowd.
“That first lap was great. The second one was looking even better, but I just lost that back end in the last corner, so my heart was in my mouth as I crossed the line.
“I don’t know what [Red Bull Racing] were doing in there. They were very quick in that practice session. But we were just focusing on our job.”
Verstappen was confused to wield an imperfect car in qualifying after such a convincing practice hour, but the Dutchman was confident his car was fundamentally fast.
“We just need to look at ourselves, because I think the car itself was actually handling quite well,” he said. “Just a lot of understeer, so I couldn’t actually attack any of the corners.”
Valtteri Bottas will start third and 0.194 seconds off the pace, the Finn having acknowledged his role providing Hamilton with a potentially crucial slipstream on their first laps, as per a rotating agreement between the teammates.
“It was a good qualifying,” he said. “We managed to get on pole as a team.
“I’m looking forward to Saturday. There’s all to play for. We are there, and we are there to fight.”
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc slipped into fourth ahead of Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull Racing car, the two split closely around 0.7 seconds off the pace.
Lando Norris pipped McLaren teammate Daniel Ricciardo by just 0.002 second sin a greatly improved qualifying showing by the Australian, but George Russell in eighth stole the show by getting Williams into the top-10 shootout for the second race in a row.
Carlos Sainz was ninth for Ferrari ahead of Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, who had his first lap deleted for exceeding track limits.
Alpine was run close in Q2 but couldn’t get any car into the top-10 shootout. Fernando Alonso qualifying 11th and Esteban Ocon 12th, the pair separated by less than a tenth and split by AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly.
Antonio Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo never looked likely to make it into the top 10 and qualified 14th ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll.
Yuki Tsunoda will start 16th for AlphaTauri ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen and Williams driver Nicholas Latifi, while Haas pair Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin will start at the back.