Max Verstappen shrugged off a minor blip as he hit the pit lane wall in Q1 to bounce back to take pole position for the British Grand Prix ahead of Lando Norris.
While Verstappen once again showed his speed, his team-mate Sergio Perez suffered a nightmare as he lost out by leading the Q1 queue and failed to make it into the pole position shoot-out for the fifth race in a row.
Heading out on a cold and slippery track, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell lined up at the end of the pit lane on soft tyres with Ferrari opting to go out on the inters. That had Charles Leclerc saying already on his out-lap that he needed to box for slicks.
Hamilton was the first spinner in the tricky conditions as the Mercedes driver spun as he headed down into Stowe corner, the Briton off into the gravel. He was able to keep the engine running and drove back out of the kitty litter.
Meanwhile Verstappen went P1 with a 1:33.5 but that was destroyed by Fernando Alonso. As track limits came into play, several drivers including Verstappen, Carlos Sainz and Norris, lost lap times for running wide at Turn 15 before Verstappen bounced back with a 1:30.7 to sit 0.011s up on Alonso with Leclerc third.
With three minutes to go the drivers reported more rain falling, bad news for Alex Albon as practice’s surprise package had yet another lap time deleted and fell all the way back to 20th place.
With the red flags out for Kevin Magnussen’s stricken Haas, his car cutting out as he came out of Stowe, the bottom five drivers were left with just 3m11s to save their qualifying session. This led to a queue in the pit lane, one that Verstappen tried to join only to hit the pit wall – “I just understeered” – and break his front wing. He was pushed back in his garage for repairs.
As the track was green lighted, Perez led out the field with it taking more than a minute for Verstappen, at the very back, to leave the pit lane. The ever-improving track conditions meant one after the other the drivers took turns in the top spots with Q1 ending with Norris quickest of all.
Out went Perez, Yuki Tsunoda, Zhou Guanyu, Nyck de Vries and Magnussen. Valtteri Bottas, although P11 in Q1, broke down on the side of the track so wasn’t able to line up for Q2.
Warned of light rain, the drivers again took part in the British tradition of queueing as they lined up in the pit lane with Alonso the first man out. Ferrari’s intra-team game, started in Q1 when Sainz was told to let Leclerc through only to pass his team-mate before they began their flying lap, continued with Leclerc clarifying he’d have priority in Q2.
Norris set the early pace ahead of Pierre Gasly with Verstappen lining up third. As the forecast rain failed to arrive and instead the sun peaked out, the track conditions continued to improve with Alonso posting a 1:29.0 to go quickest with Albon up to second while their team-mates Lance Stroll and Logan Sargeant both lost lap times for track limit violations.
In ever-improving conditions Verstappen finished Q2 quickest of all with a 1:27.7 ahead of the McLarens of Oscar Piastri and Norris. Out went Nico Hulkenberg, Stroll, Esteban Ocon, Sargeant and Bottas.
As the sun shone down on the circuit for Q3, DRS was made available, a boon for Verstappen who was also the only driver with two sets of brand new soft tyres at his disposal. He put that to good use with a 1:27.0 to sit on provisional pole by six-tenths ahead of Hamilton with Piastri third.
It became a battle of the brand new soft tyres as the drivers ventured out for their second run of Q3. Leclerc was the first to cross the line and shot up to second place with Sainz following him up the timesheet to third. Behind them came the Mercedes drivers, neither able to challenge for the top spot, but then Norris crossed the line and shot up to provisional pole to a huge cheer from the British fans.
However, Verstappen, still to complete his lap, silenced the crowd with a 1:26.720 to take pole position by 0.241s ahead of Norris, Piastri impressing with his P3.
1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing 1:26.720
2 Lando NORRIS McLaren +0.241
3 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +0.372
4 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.416
5 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +0.428
6 George RUSSELL Mercedes +0.435
7 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.491
8 Alexander ALBON Williams +0.810
9 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +0.939
10 Pierre GASLY Alpine +0.969
11 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team 1:28.896
12 Lance STROLL Aston Martin 1:28.935
13 Esteban OCON Alpine 1:28.956
14 Logan SARGEANT Williams 1:29.031
15 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo no time
16 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing 1:29.968
17 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri 1:30.025
18 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo 1:30.123
19 Nyck DE VRIES AlphaTauri 1:30.513
20 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team 1:32.378