Lewis Hamilton will start the British Grand Prix from pole position after Mercedes obliterated the field in qualifying at Silverstone.
Hamilton was peerless when it counted, with both Q3 laps quick enough to take pole from teammate Valtteri Bottas, who was 0.313s adrift.
But if Hamilton was impressive, Mercedes was imposing. The German marque’s car was more than a second quicker than any other, with Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen hopelessly outgunned at 1.022s off the pace in third.
It wasn’t a completely flawless display from the reigning world champion, who spun his car through the gravel in Q2 while trying to make the top-10 shootout on the medium tire. But the car and driver combination was so inherently fast at Silverstone that another run on a fresh set of the middle compound at the resumption comfortably saw him through to the top-10 shootout and ultimately pole position.
“Qualifying’s a lot about confidence-building,” Hamilton said. “I had that spin; I was already down, I was struggling through the first sector every lap. I don’t know how, but with some deep breaths I managed to compose myself.
“Ultimately, obviously, it’s a relatively big gap between us and third place, but it doesn’t matter — at the end of the day Valtteri is pushing to the end, right to the limit.”
Bottas, though, hasn’t taken pole since the opening race of the season, and the Finn was mystified by the deficit.
“It was a pretty good qualifying until Q3 really,” said Bottas, who has a five-point championship deficit to Hamilton. “By the time Q3 started I started to drift a bit more with the rear end … I don’t really know.
“It’s disappointing but I need to look into it.”
Verstappen was happy to start third, the Dutchman conceding his car was never going to be quick enough to compete for the front row.
“I think the lap itself at the end was pretty good, but you could see of course very early on in qualifying [Mercedes] was just too fast,” he said. “You just have to accept that and do the best you can, and that’s P3 for us, so I’m pretty pleased about that.”
Charles Leclerc was another tenth of a second behind Verstappen, but based on its Friday times Ferrari has serious concerns about its race pace, which has been sacrificed for performance over a single lap. Leclerc has also come under investigation post-session with Lance Stroll and Daniel Ricciardo for blocking in the pit lane in Q3.
Lando Norris qualified fifth, the British driver 1.479s off the pace for McLaren but edging Stroll, who admitted disappointment Racing Point couldn’t convert its Friday practice pace when it counted.
Carlos Sainz qualified seventh ahead of Renault teammates Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon. Sebastian Vettel qualified a painful 10th and more than two seconds off the pace, though the German had his best lap deleted for exceeding track limits.
The lowly qualifying result compounds a difficult weekend to date for the four-time champion, who has sorely lacked track time with intercooler and pedal issues inside his problematic Ferrari.
Pierre Gasly was unlucky to miss out on Q3 progression. The AlphaTauri driver set an identical time to Stroll but logged it later in the session, relegating him to 11th and a Q2 knockout.
Alex Albon missed out on Q3 for the second week in a row. The Thai driver endured a problematic weekend, missing much of FP2 after a crash and most of FP3 with an electrical problem. He was 0.044s down on 10th place and 0.401s slower than teammate Verstappen, with his best effort despite using the soft tire compared to the Dutchman’s mediums.
Nico Hulkenberg qualified 13th on his F1 return substituting for Sergio Perez after the Mexican contracted COVID-19. The German’s final lap was scruffy, though he was only 0.065s slower than his Q3-bound teammate.
Daniil Kvyat qualified 14th but will take a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change on Friday night, dropping him to 19th.
George Russell was the slowest of the Q2 runners for Williams, qualifying 15th.
Haas failed to get both drivers out of Q1 for the second race in succession. Kevin Magnussen was the quicker of the pair, qualifying 16th. He was separated from teammate Romain Grosjean in 19th by Alfa Romeo drivers Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen respectively.
Williams rookie Nicholas Latifi qualified last and ended Q1 with a spin in the second sector, prompting yellow flags that almost tripped up teammate Russell for speeding past them on his final lap of the segment.
Russell was cleared of disobeying the caution in a post-session investigation.