Valtteri Bottas has claimed a brilliant pole position for Sunday’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone, pipping teammate Lewis Hamilton by just 0.06 seconds in an enthralling qualifying session at Silverstone.
With Hamilton claiming pole position and victory at each of the previous three Grands Prix to lead the Drivers’ Championship standings, it was critical that Bottas reassert his position as a genuine title contender in what looks set to be a truncated 2020 season.
Hamilton was denied a carbon copy run to pole position at a circuit where he has enjoyed so much success thanks to a superb final lap by Bottas. As he was a week ago, Bottas was quickest in the first two knockout sessions of qualifying being Hamilton delivered the hammer blow in Q3, but there would be no such repeat this time around.
Hamilton provisionally held top spot at the end of their first Q3 runs with a time just one-tenth of a second quicker than the Finn. On their second runs, it was Bottas who had the edge. Both drivers improved on their final runs, but it was Bottas who went faster to claim the thirteenth pole position of his Formula 1 career.
The points, of course, are handed out on Sunday. After both drivers suffered varying fortunes a week ago with late-race tyre failures, they are perhaps even more nervous given this weekend’s running takes place on softer tyre compounds as tyre supplier Pirelli tries to force teams to vary their race strategies.
The Mercedes W11 is known to be harder on its tyres than many of its rivals, and the two front-row starters will perhaps be nervous by the threat of Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen who starts on the second row from fourth on the grid.
Verstappen was unlucky not to win last weekend’s British Grand Prix when Hamilton’s tyre failed on the final lap of the race, and this time his Red Bull crew gambled on him contesting Q2 on the Hard Pirelli tyres on which he will start Sunday’s race. With more durable rubber compared to the Medium tyres the two Mercedes drivers will start on, the Dutchman will be looking to push the duo hard and break the Brackley team’s unbeaten run to-date.
Bottas’ fantastic pole lap aside, the star performer of qualifying was Racing Point stand-in Nico Hülkenberg who will start from an outstanding third on the grid. The German – standing in for Sergio Pérez thanks to the Mexican’s COVID-19 diagnosis – has never finished on the podium in his 177 Grand Prix career, and perhaps could finally break his duck.
His performance was a welcome distraction for the Silverstone team, which has been at the centre of headlines this weekend after the FIA Stewards opted to strip the team of 15 Constructors’ Championship points and slapped them with a huge fine for running a rear brake duct design that it copied from last year’s Mercedes.
Four rival teams – Renault, Ferrari, McLaren and Williams – have officially declared their intent to protest the team’s punishment, arguing it unfair that the Silverstone outfit can continue to run these brake ducts for the rest of the season. Racing Point will, in turn, appeal its sanction.
The controversy, along with the ugly public slanging match between rival team principals, will likely drag on into next weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix – if not longer.
Daniel Ricciardo was fifth-fastest for Renault, with the Australian confidently proclaiming that he too could be a podium contender in the improving RS20. Lance Stroll was sixth-fastest in the second Racing Point, while Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri), Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), Alexander Albon (Red Bull Racing) and Lando Norris (McLaren) completed the top ten.
Esteban Ocon was eleventh-fastest but will take a three-place grid drop for impeding George Russell (the Williams driver was P15), with the Frenchman outpacing the second Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel who continues to struggle for pace.
|EMIRATES FORMULA 1 70TH ANNIVERSARY GRAND PRIX 2020 – QUALIFYING|
|Q3 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap|
|1.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG F1 Team W11||1:25.154|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG F1 Team W11||1:25.217||+ 0.063|
|3.||Nico Hülkenberg||Racing Point F1 Team RP20||1:26.082||+ 0.928|
|4.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RB16||1:26.176||+ 1.022|
|5.||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team R.S.20||1:26.297||+ 1.143|
|6.||Lance Stroll||Racing Point F1 Team RP20||1:26.428||+ 1.274|
|7.||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia AlfaTauri AT01||1:26.534||+ 1.380|
|8.||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari SF1000||1:26.614||+ 1.460|
|9.||Alexander Albon||Red Bull Racing RB16||1:26.669||+ 1.515|
|10.||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team MCL35||1:26.778||+ 1.624|
|Q2 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap*|
|11.||Esteban Ocon||Renault F1 Team R.S.20||1:27.011||+ 1.226|
|12.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF1000||1:27.078||+ 1.293|
|13.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team MCL35||1:27.083||+ 1.298|
|14.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team VF-20||1:27.254||+ 1.469|
|15.||George Russell||Williams Racing FW43||1:27.455||+ 1.670|
|Q1 Qualifiers||Team / Entry||Time||Gap**|
|16.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia AlfaTauri AT01||1:27.882||+ 1.144|
|17.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team VF-20||1:28.236||+ 1.498|
|18.||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Racing FW43||1:28.430||+ 1.692|
|19.||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing C39||1:28.433||+ 1.695|
|20.||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing C39||1:28.493||+ 1.755|
* Denotes gap to fastest Q2 lap time of 1:25.785 set by Valtteri Bottas
** Denotes gap to fastest Q1 lap time of 1:26.738 set by Valtteri Bottas
- Ocon penalised three grid places for impeding Russell during qualifying.
Image via Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team
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