Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes-AMG teammate Lewis Hamilton in qualifying for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, snatching pole position for Sunday’s race by a mere six-thousandths of a second.
While the crowds packing the grandstands were expecting their hero Hamilton to once again blast to pole position on home soil, Bottas defied the script and denied them their celebrations.
Bottas’ run to pole position, his fourth of the season, came with a superb lap of 1:25.093 on his first Q3 run. Hamilton was the quicker of the pair through the first and third sectors, but a slide through Brooklands saw him lap three-tenths slower than the flying Finn.
When they emerged for their second and final runs, there was an expectation that Hamilton – as he has done so often before – would find another gear. The crowd held its collective breath as first Bottas and then Hamilton, hot on his heels, started their final laps. Bottas couldn’t match his earlier time and so it was up to Hamilton, plotting sector splits quicker than is previous run, to be the hero.
He crossed the timing beam with a 1:25.099 – just 0.006 seconds slower. It was a supreme performance by Bottas, who was inch-perfect throughout Silverstone’s high-speed sweeps where a balance is key, as well as its low-speed turns where mechanical grip is critical.
Bottas will be needing plenty of grip and lightning reactions to convert pole position into the race lead on Sunday. He has been out-started twice by Hamilton so far this season after beating him to pole, with the Englishman going on to victories in China and Spain. With a 31-point deficit to Hamilton, a winner of four of the last five Grands Prix, Bottas must convert.
“The championship fight is still on,” Bottas said after qualifying. “I am the one chasing, I am behind but there are so many races to go and it is up to me and my performance. Every opportunity there is now I need to take. If I don’t, Lewis is going to be far away and out of reach. So tomorrow is super important but so is the race after and the race after. The season is long and I need to take those opportunities and I will do everything I can to keep that lead tomorrow.”
Hamilton has exceptional form at Silverstone and it will take an outstanding drive from Bottas to beat the crowd favourite, who is seeking a record-breaking sixth British Grand Prix victory.
While all three of the ‘big three’ teams took turns at the top of the timesheets this weekend, Ferrari and Red Bull Racing couldn’t quite match the mighty Mercedes duo over one lap on Saturday.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc finished third-fastest – impressively just 0.079 seconds slower than Bottas on his second and final Q3 run – while teammate Sebastian Vettel seemed out of sorts and was only sixth-fastest. Both Ferrari drivers posted their best Q2 lap times on the Soft Pirelli tyres – the Mercedes runners used the Mediums – which could give them a grip advantage at the start, however they will have to pit earlier.
Sandwiched between Leclerc and Vettel were Red Bull Racing teammates Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly, who will start from fourth and fifth respectively.
It was a stronger performance from the factory Renault team after a run of poor results, with both Daniel Ricciardo (7th) and Nico Hülkenberg (10th) making it into Q3, split by rookie stars Lando Norris (McLaren) and Alexander Albon (Scuderia Toro Rosso).
The two Alfa Romeos of Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Räikkönen locked out the sixth row of the grid, with late laps from the pair bumping the second McLaren of Carlos Sainz Jr. down to a frustrated thirteenth ahead of Haas’ Romain Grosjean and Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez.
Having locked reasonably strong earlier in the weekend, Kevin Magnussen was at a loss to explain his Q1 elimination in his Haas Ferrari. The Dane will start ahead of Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and Racing Point’s Lance Stroll, who continued his season-long failure to make it past the first knockout session.
Predictably, the two Williams’ of George Russell and Robert Kubica locked out the last row of the grid. On the fiftieth anniversary of team founder Sir Frank Williams’ first foray into Grand Prix racing as a team owner, it was another stark reminder of how big a mountain this once-great team has to climb.
|FORMULA 1 ROLEX BRITISH GRAND PRIX 2019 – QUALIFYING|
|Q3 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap|
|1.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:25.093|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:25.099||+ 0.006|
|3.||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:25.172||+ 0.079|
|4.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:25.276||+ 0.183|
|5.||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:25.590||+ 0.497|
|6.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:25.787||+ 0.694|
|7.||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:26.182||+ 1.089|
|8.||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:26.224||+ 1.131|
|9.||Alexander Albon||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:26.345||+ 1.252|
|10.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:26.386||+ 1.293|
|Q2 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap*|
|11.||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||1:26.519||+ 0.973|
|12.||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||1:26.546||+ 1.000|
|13.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:26.578||+ 1.032|
|14.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team VF-19||1:26.757||+ 1.211|
|15.||Sergio Pérez||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:26.928||+ 1.382|
|Q1 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**|
|16.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team VF-19||1:26.662||+ 1.149|
|17.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:26.721||+ 1.208|
|18.||Lance Stroll||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:26.762||+ 1.249|
|19.||George Russell||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:27.789||+ 2.276|
|20.||Robert Kubica||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:28.257||+ 2.744|
* Denotes gap to fastest Q2 lap time of 1:25.546 posted by Charles Leclerc
** Denotes gap to fastest Q1 lap time of 1:25.513 posted by Lewis Hamilton
Image via Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport