Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton matched Jim Clark’s record of five British Grand Prix pole positions on Saturday, after beating Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen by half a second in qualifying at Silverstone. The Briton put on a stunning display for his home fans, taking the 67th pole position of his career – and with the biggest margin of the season so far.
Hamilton was briefly under stewards’ investigation after the session for possibly blocking the Haas of Romain Grosjean early in the final phase, but the officials quickly decided that no action was warranted.
Championship leader Sebastian Vettel was third, ahead of Valtteri Bottas who had a big lock-up on his final Q3 run. The Finn will drop five grid places for an unscheduled gearbox change. Max Verstappen was fifth, but his Red Bull team mate Daniel Ricciardo – already carrying the same penalty as Bottas – will start from the back after a suspected turbo failure in Q1.
Nico Hulkenberg took a superb sixth for Renault, ahead of the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon. McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne scored his best grid position to date, while the aforementioned Grosjean completed the top ten.
Hamilton owned the first runs on Q3, with 1m 27.231s, but Ferrari were close with Vettel on 1m 27.430s from Bottas on 1m 27.580s and Raikkonen on 1m 27.622s.
But when it really counted, the crowd favourite put the spurs to it with a lap of 1m 26.600s, which left Raikkonen a little breathless in the lead SF70H on 1m 27.147s, and Vettel behind him with a disappointed 1m 27.356s. Bottas couldn’t better 1m 27.376s, as Verstappen was a distant fifth on 1m 28.131s for Red Bull.
The start of Q2 had seen everyone move to slick tyres after earlier rain, and the session ultimately accounted for Renault’s Jolyon Palmer, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, McLaren’s Fernando Alonso (out-qualified by team mate Vandoorne for the first time), Carlos Sainz, hampered by suspension problems on his Toro Rosso, and Williams’ Felipe Massa. Alonso will drop to the rear of the grid thanks to penalties totalling 30 places due to power unit element changes.
Bottas was notably the only man to progress to Q3 on soft rather than supersoft tyres, meaning he will be the sole top-ten runner to start Sunday’s race on the more durable rubber.
A do-or-die, last-minute lap from Alonso after a switch to dry rubber had seen McLaren top a thrilling Q1 phase, which started in damp conditions. The red flags came out briefly as Ricciardo’s stricken Red Bull was cleared and the Australian was eliminated along with Williams’ Lance Stroll, Haas’s Kevin Magnussen and Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson.
Thus, with the penalties for Bottas, Ricciardo and Alonso taken into account the provisional grid reads: Hamilton, Raikkonen; Vettel, Verstappen; Hulkenberg, Perez; Ocon, Vandoorne; Bottas, Grosjean; Palmer, Kvyat; Sainz, Massa; Stroll, Magnussen; Wehrlein, Ericcsson; Ricciardo, Alonso.