LONDON • Six-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton yesterday shattered the Silverstone track record with a blistering lap to put a dominant Mercedes on pole position for his home British Grand Prix.
The championship leader, who will be chasing a record seventh win at the circuit today, was joined on the front row by Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas with Red Bull's Max Verstappen qualifying third.
The pole was the 91st of Hamilton's career and seventh at Silverstone. He made sure of it with a lap of 1min 24.303sec after Bottas had led the opening two sessions on a gusty afternoon.
Hamilton had spun at Luffield at the start of the second phase of qualifying without damaging his car and, while the red flags were brought out owing to the amount of gravel scattered across the track, the Briton recovered in style.
"Qualifying is a lot about confidence building... I was already down and I was struggling through the first sector in every lap," the 35-year-old told compatriot and 2009 world champion Jenson Button in an interview after stepping out of the car.
"I don't know how, but with some deep breaths, I managed to compose myself. Q3 (the final phase) started off the right way, but it still wasn't perfect the first lap, but still a really clean lap and the second one even better."
Bottas, five points adrift of Hamilton (63) in the standings after three races, could manage a best effort of only 1:24.616.
Verstappen was more than a second off Hamilton's pace as the best of the rest, leading the Dutchman to concede that the Silver Arrows - as they have been since the season-opener in Austria - remain streets ahead of the other teams.
"Mercedes are way too fast, you just have to expect that and do the best you can, and that's P3," the Dutchman told the BBC.
"I'm going to fight and you have a fighting chance starting third. You could just see pretty early on in qualifying they were just way too fast, as they have been in the last three races."
Hamilton also feels it will be a straight fight between him and Bottas today.
91 Pole positions secured by Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, and his seventh at the British Grand Prix.
BRITISH GP GRID
1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes
2 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes
3 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull
4 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari
5 Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren
6 Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point
7 Carlos Sainz (Esp) McLaren
8 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault
9 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Renault
10 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari
12 Alex Albon (Tha) Red Bull
18 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo
"Ultimately, there's a real big gap between us and third place and Valtteri is pushing me right to the limit," he said. "It still isn't perfect but it never gets old."
Touching on what should have been a rousing reception instead of empty stands because of the coronavirus pandemic, the winner of 86 grands prix added: "You normally have sirens and flags and smoke and the atmosphere is buzzing.
"We definitely miss the fans. Thanks to the team and the guys at the factory, who are constantly working tirelessly and I'm proud to be a part of it."
The barring of fans at a race that boasted the biggest crowd of last season, with 351,000 people attending over three days, was not lost on Silverstone boss Stuart Pringle.
The Briton is hoping for a full house next year as the alternative, and the financial implications, do not bear thinking about.
"The piggy bank's nearly dry. The bank's standing by us, just as well," he told Reuters. "The finances are shot this year because doing a weekend track hire deal still doesn't accurately represent what the cost of keeping a Grade One FIA licence on a circuit is for a whole year."
F1 BRITISH GRAND PRIX
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