F1: Lewis Hamilton takes pole for British Grand Prix with Nico Rosberg second
Lewis Hamilton pulled out a bravura last-gasp performance to take pole position for Sunday’s and send Silverstone into ecstasy. It was the British champion’s fourth home pole and the 55th of his career on his 177th race weekend, but he left it late after having the time for his provisional pole lap deleted for running wide at Copse.
Vigilant officials had warned that they would be adopting a zero-tolerance view of any transgressions at Copse, Stowe and Club. Hamilton also went a little wide on his successful lap, but that was at Luffield.
It was another bad day at the office for his one serious rival and Mercedes team‑mate, , who was beaten into second place by 0.319 seconds. After the end of qualifying, the German was summoned to the stewards for an alleged breach of rules at the start of Q1, though that, to his undoubted relief, was later dismissed.
Rosberg was also made fully aware that he is in his arch enemy’s lair. Apart from the flags he was confronted with a banner that read: “Nico: Caution. Corner Ahead. Don’t Forget To Turn”, a reference to Austria a week ago where he received a reprimand for his last-lap collision with the world champion.
These two have been racing each other for two decades and the intensity of their recent battles has eroded their once close friendship. The days when they used to clown around together on unicycles feels like an aeon ago and now Rosberg leads Hamilton by 11 points in the drivers’ title race.
Hamilton’s qualifying triumph sets him up to equal Jim Clark’s hat-trick of successes in the British Grand Prix but he would become the first driver to win a Silverstone hat-trick because two of Clark’s victories were at Aintree and Brands Hatch.
It was a familiar Silverstone scene as Hamilton jumped atop his car and saluted the flag-waving crowd. After his earlier effort had been deleted Hamilton just had time to put in two flying laps at the end of Q3. “Honestly, it energises me, I don’t know why,” he said, referring to the weight of expectation he was under in those final minutes. “Those moments are when I am most excited.
“Being under pressure is something not to shy away from, something to attack full on and that is generally what I try to do. Every single lap I go out and every single corner I see the crowd they wave. There is nowhere in the world I can ever experience that and I wish people could feel what I feel.
“When I look and see the flags waving, it is very reminiscent of when I was growing up – I appreciate it more than anything, and that is why I did the lap.”
Hamilton is quick anywhere but he appears to thrive on this old-school track in Northamptonshire. It is a fast and challenging circuit, and that’s the way he likes them.
Hamilton has dominated Rosberg in qualifying this season but his team-mate has been difficult to shake off. Perhaps they should forget about racing cars and, to settle the issue once and for all, climb aboard the fighter planes that are performing over the circuit this weekend.
Hours later, in the Mercedes motorhome, Hamilton’s excitement had not subdued. “My love and appreciation for this track has grown so much over the years,” he said. “I complain about some of the newer tracks that don’t have character but this one has, old and new. As soon as I get on to the turf it’s reminiscent of what you’ve seen historically, when the great drivers were driving. You feel like you’re part of that history.”
And that late quick lap? “Imagine the most pressure you can be under, and that’s it. I feel comfortable in that scenario. Not if I’m having an argument with someone, because I don’t like confrontation, but in a car it’s to do with confidence and belief in your ability.” He was so pleased with himself that he was even contemplating a night out in London, he said.
Rosberg, whose best chance on Sunday is for Hamilton to make another of his poor starts, said afterwards: “Congrats to Lewis who did a good job here, and that’s it. It just wasn’t the best day out there for me. But tomorrow’s still to play for.”
The day had started badly for the British flag-wavers. Both Jenson Button and Jolyon Palmer dropped out of qualifying at the first hurdle. But Hamilton’s thrilling late charge more than made up for that.
Third place in qualifying was won by Max Verstappen, who beat his Red Bull team-mate, Daniel Ricciardo, for the first time.
Ricciardo sounded less than happy about that.
“It sucks,” he said. “You’d love to go through a perfect season, but we just missed a little bit here and there today.”
Qualifying positions for British Grand Prix
1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1min 29.287secs, 2 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:29.606, 3 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:30.313, 4 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 1:30.618, 5 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:30.881, 6 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:31.490, 7 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Williams 1:31.557, 8 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Force India 1:31.920, 9 Carlos Sainz (Spa) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:31.989, 10 Fernando Alonso (Spa) McLaren 1:32.343, 11 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India 1:31.875, 12 Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams 1:32.002, 13 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 1:32.050, 14 Esteban Gutierrez (Mex) Haas F1 1:32.241, 15 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:32.306, 16 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Renault 1:37.060, 17 Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren 1:32.788, 18 Jolyon Palmer (Gbr) Renault 1:32.905, 19 Rio Haryanto (Ina) Manor Racing 1:33.098, 20 Pascal Wehrlein (Ger) Manor Racing 1:33.151, 21 Felipe Nasr (Bra) Sauber-Ferrari 1:33.544, 22 Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber-Ferrari No Time