Valtteri Bottas beat Lewis Hamilton to pole position for the British Grand Prix by just 0.006s as Ferrari and Red Bull gave Mercedes a real fight at Silverstone.
It was Charles Leclerc who led the way throughout the first two parts of qualifying but Mercedes hit the front in Q3, with Bottas posting a 1m25.093s to take provisional pole. Hamilton tried to respond and improved on his final lap but fell just 0.006s short in front of his home crowd and had to make do with second place.
Leclerc will start from third after seeing his final attempt fade following the fastest first sector, ending up just 0.079s away from making it back-to-back pole positions. And with Max Verstappen’s lap of 1m25.276s leaving him just 0.183s adrift, it was a thrilling three-team fight on Saturday that went the way of Mercedes.
Verstappen — who blamed turbo lag for costing him more time — was backed up by Pierre Gasly in fifth, but Sebastian Vettel struggled throughout and was a distant sixth, while both Ferraris will start on soft tires compared to mediums for Mercedes and Red Bull.
The tire choice was a strategic one for Leclerc at least, who was quickest in Q2 on the medium before improving again on softs.
Daniel Ricciardo edged out Lando Norris in the battle for best of the rest in seventh place, with Alexander Albon continuing a fine weekend in ninth ahead of Nico Hulkenberg in 10th.
Vettel had a nervous end to Q2 as he needed a final lap on soft tires to advance, having slipped into the drop zone following a poor first run while his main rivals used mediums. In the end his lap was good enough and Vettel knocked Antonio Giovinazzi down to 11th to form an all-Alfa Romeo sixth row alongside Kimi Raikkonen.
Carlos Sainz was a surprise casualty of the tight midfield fight as he dropped out in 13th place after failing to match his Q1 time in Q2, only beating Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez, with the Frenchman believing there was more on the table for Haas after being P9 in the first part of qualifying.
The two Racing Point cars were in the drop zone throughout Q1 but Perez pulled out an impressive final lap to advance, knocking out Kevin Magnussen right at the end of the session. Daniil Kvyat has struggled compared to his teammate Albon for much of this weekend and was unable to improve sufficiently on his final lap, also dropping out alongside Lance Stroll.
As has been common this season, the Williams pair were slowest once again at the race weekend being used to mark 50 years of Frank Williams as a team boss in Formula 1, with George Russell getting the better of Robert Kubica in the internal battle to the tune of half a second.