Mercedes dominated qualifying for the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone on an overcast Saturday, with Valtteri Bottas just edged Lewis Hamilton for pole position in the exciting final seconds of the third qualifying session.
The Finn was ecstatic as he achieved his best time using the harder medium tires, as did Hamilton, while the rest of the big players were on softs.
“We agreed that the medium tires were better and we saved them until the end,” Hamilton explained.
The two drivers having found that there was not much difference between the two compounds during the practice sessions. The two Mercs were nine-tenths ahead of the nearest challenger, but that was a big surprise. Nico Hulkenberg, the stand-in driver at Racing Point, who has taken the place of Sergio Perez in recent days, after the Mexican tested positive for Covid-19.
Bottas suffered a big setback in the championship last week when he retired late in the race, leaving Lewis Hamilton was a 30-point lead in the points. He needs a big result this weekend to get back into the fight.
“It feels good,” the Finn said. “I just love qualifying - especially when it goes well. I think set up we have made some steps since last week. It was fun to drive this amazing car.”
Lewis Hamilton admitted that his last lap had not been his best.
“Valtteri did a good job,” he said. “My last lap wasn’t perfect.”
Hulkenberg was delighted but admitted that he was a little surprised to be third on the grid.
“It’s been a crazy eight days,” he said. “There was a big high to get the chance and then the low on Sunday when I could not race. It was very extreme. But this week I felt better in the car, more comfortable. It’s a big surprise to be here but I have a big smile on my face. Tomorrow we will do what we can but my lack of experience in the car is going to hurt because the car is still new to me. I will try to learn fast.”
The Mercedes team remained in control while the change of the available tire compounds for the weekend, which was designed to shake things up a little, achieved their goal. Max Verstappen was fourth quickest in his Red Bull-Honda while it was a surprise to see Daniel Ricciardo fifth for Renault, who was ahead of Hulkenberg’s team-mate Lance Stroll.
There were seven different teams represented in the top 10 Q3 run-off, underlining that the field is close behind the dominant Mercedes. Scuderia AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly ended up seventh overall, ahead of Charles Leclerc’s disappointing Ferrari. The Monegasque was a second and a half from Bottas’s pole time while Sebastian Vettel never made it through the Q2 session and ended up 12th fastest. The other disappointment was McLaren, with Lando Norris only 10th and Carlos Sainz being knocked out in Q2 and ending up 13th.