Sainz bests Verstappen in the rain for British GP pole

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Sainz bests Verstappen in the rain for British GP pole

Formula 1

Sainz bests Verstappen in the rain for British GP pole

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Carlos Sainz beat world championship leader Max Verstappen to claim his first career Formula 1 pole position in a drenched top-10 shootout at the British Grand Prix.

Rain set in just was the grid-setting hour was set to begin and intensified dramatically just before Q3, soaking the circuit to the point where the intermediate tire was at the limit of its capabilities.

It turned the shootout into a lottery, with times improving with every lap as the standing water was cleared from the track and the rain subsided again.

Ferrari’s Sainz, and Charles Leclerc along with Red Bull’s Verstappen traded fastest times throughout, but when the time came for their final laps, the Monegasque spun and the Dutchman lost bundles of time in the middle sector.

Only Sainz made it to the flag without a mistake, and his reward was his maiden pole position — to his own surprise.

“In the end I put together a lap that I thought was nothing special,” Sainz said. “Just put it on the board and see how it is, and it was pole position, which was a bit of a surprise.

“It was a good lap, but I was struggling a lot with the standing water on the intermediate … it was very easy to get snaps and lose the lap.”

Sainz, who is celebrating his 150th race start this weekend, now has only his first victory to tick off, and he said his practice form made him confident that too could be achieved at Silverstone.

“The pace has been there all weekend,” he said. “If I base myself on my P2 pace, then we should be in a good position to hold onto it.”

Verstappen seemed certain to take pole after a dominant final practice session but was caught out by the conditions, even tipping himself into a rare spin powering out of Stowe early in Q3. He recovered to vie for pole, but a slow final lap thanks in part to yellow flags caused by Leclerc meant second and 0.072s off the pace was his maximum.

“It was quite a tricky qualifying with the rain,” he said. “You had to be on the track at the right time.

“To be on the front row is very good for us. We have a good race car, I think, in the dry and in the wet.”

Leclerc put himself directly behind his teammate on the grid, albeit 0.3s off the pace, and said he was looking forward to tackling what promises to be a strategy grand prix on Sunday.

“I am [disappointed], but I’m happy for Carlos,” he said. “He did a great job today.

“The strategy is a bit mixed between one and two stops, so it’ll be interesting to see who goes for the one stop or the two stop.”

Sergio Perez completed the front-running quartet, though the second Red Bull driver was 0.6s off Sainz’s pace.

Mercedes’s resurgence delivered only fifth on the grid with Lewis Hamilton, who was more than a second off the pace. Lando Norris made it an all-English third row by lining up sixth after an impressive qualifying afternoon from the McLaren drivers.

Fernando Alonso qualified seventh for Alpine ahead of a bitterly disappointed George Russell, who clearly expected much more from his upgraded Mercedes.

Zhou Guanyu was ninth, outqualifying Alfa Romeo teammate Valtteri Bottas for the third race in succession, while Nicholas Latifi equalled his career-best qualifying result of 10th after nailing his progression from Q1.

Pierre Gasly qualified 11th ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas — the third race in a row the Finn has been outqualified by teammate Zhou — and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.

Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon were 14th and 15th for McLaren and Alpine respectively as the two big scalps of the increasingly wet session, with rain intensifying shortly after the drivers set their initial lap times and therefore preventing any improvement for the rest of the segment.

Alex Albon will start 16th, the Thai driver raging that his Williams team had committed him to a tire strategy that left him down on temperature for his final lap.

Haas and Alfa Romeo shared the final two rows of the grid, with Kevin Magnussen leading Sebastian Vettel in 17th and Mick Schumacher beating Lance Stroll to 19th.

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