British racing fans were left disappointed on Saturday, after Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen snatched away the pole position that Lewis Hamilton earned from the Friday session. The Dutchman won the new trial sprint race, and will start the main British Grand Prix from pole on Sunday.
Hamilton gave Mercedes fans hope that it will be the team’s renaissance this weekend, after narrowly snatching pole position from the championship leader on Friday. However, Verstappen got a jump on him at the start of the 17-lap sprint race on Saturday. The Red Bull driver got away cleanly from the starting grid and Hamilton tried to get the position back in the first few corners. However, the Red Bull had enough power to keep the Mercedes firmly in second place.
Verstappen led the rest of the sprint race comfortably, and even had the opportunity to ease up on the throttle in the closing stages as his tyres started to blister. Verstappen managed to extend his championship lead to 33 points after earning himself 3 points for the victory. Hamilton earned two points while his teammate, Valtteri Bottas brought home the final available point from the sprint.
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc is in fourth place, but his teammate Carlos Sainz will have to start from 10th after a first lap nudge from George Russell. The Williams driver gave British fans another thing to be disappointed about after he was slapped with a three-place grid penalty for the incident with Sainz. He ended the sprint race in ninth, but will start the main race from 12th.
The two McLaren cars of Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo occupy the fifth and sixth slots on the grid, with Ricciardo relieved to finally be on the same pace as his teammate.
Apart from Verstappen, the biggest winner of the sprint qualifying is Alpine driver Fernando Alonso. The former double world champion made a brilliant start by taking his car to fifth from all the way down in 11th place. However, he lacked race pace and will start the Grand Prix from seventh after giving up two places to the McLarens.
On the other hand, the biggest loser is Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, who had to retire his car in the final lap after having had a high speed spin on lap five that sent him into the grass. He missed the barriers by mere inches, but the team will likely have a look if the car sustained significant damage.
Red Bull would have wanted their second car higher on the grid to support Verstappen, but Checo has created miracles from the back before, and he will likely provide the team with an alternate strategy. However, based on Saturday’s race pace, it looks like Verstappen will be able to hold off the competition. Tyre management may be an issue, but both Verstappen and Hamilton’s cars had massive blisters at the end of the sprint. It remains to be seen which team will choose the right tyre strategy.