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Russell on pole for F1 British Grand Prix as home trio take top three spots
F1 Sport

Russell on pole for F1 British Grand Prix as home trio take top three spots

Having battled through a ­morning huddled under ponchos braving sheets of rain, the doughty home fans at the British Grand Prix were treated to a qualifying session that will still be warming the cockles long into the evening after George Russell, Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris delivered an ­all-British top three for Sunday’s race at Silverstone.

Not only was this a ­remarkable reason to cheer for the fans, an ­embarrassment of riches from the homegrown drivers, but it was ­delivered with high drama and verve. A gripping session over an hour that perfectly encapsulated the British summer, veering from heavy, ­gunmetal grey clouds and rain to bright ­sunshine and a dry track by the close.

Such success has been a long time coming. The last time three British drivers were at the front of their home grand prix was in 1962, when Jim Clark, John Surtees and Innes Ireland locked it out at Aintree. Moreover it has set up a gripping contest for Sunday, with the world champion, Max Verstappen, looming like Banquo’s ghost, in fourth on the grid.

As the cheers of the crowd did their best to echo against the wind ­bruising its way across the old airfield, all three drivers emerged from their cars in understandably buoyant mood. Even Norris, who expected more from his McLaren, which has been rapid this weekend, was not ­downhearted ­having made a minor error on his final lap that proved costly.

Hamilton, who is no stranger to success at Silverstone where he has eight wins, was in irrepressibly good humour, finally having a car beneath him that was competitive.

When asked why there were so many successful British drivers, they were in fine form. “Roast dinners,” was Hamilton’s response. “It can’t be, I don’t like roast dinners,” shot back Norris as the pair laughed it up. “Maybe that’s why I am not on pole 

The conditions had played a part on a wet track that dried out and Norris noted that this too was a ­contributory factor in forging the ­talent of the home nations.

“We always enjoy these ­conditions having grown up here,” he said. “England’s the most competitive area to grow up in, so weather and competitiveness.”

Certainly they were the class of the field, while Verstappen, who leads Norris by 81 points in the world championship, was undone by an uncharacteristic error. Caught out by a return of the rain in Q1, he went wide over the gravel damaging his floor and losing performance.

Yet the race remains wide open, a potential battle royale on one the best circuits in the world for wheel to wheel racing. Russell ­acknowledged that the McLaren is likely to be quicker on race pace while Verstappen with a ­replacement floor will be ­threateningly fast too. However, Mercedes open with track advantage and a car that is enjoying its best ­performance of the season, indeed since they last won the title in 2021.

“The car just came alive. Without a doubt one of the best feelings I have ever had driving this circuit,” Russell said. Which after the egregious form of the Mercedes in recent years is rare praise indeed.

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George Russell on his way to pole position at the British GPView image in fullscreen

The decisive moments were enthralling as the pole balanced on a knife-edge, impossible to call. On the opening hot laps Russell led the way from Hamilton and Norris with 1min 26.024sec time, there was only a tenth between them and Norris was just six-thousandths off.

With the track rubbering in, the final laps were key as the crowd came to their feet for the ­denouement as Verstappen had a slide at the loop, and lost time. Then Hamilton flew in the final sector, taking provisional pole, only to be passed by Russell with an exceptional final lap of 1min 25.819sec, over a tenth clear of his teammate to secure a first pole at his home race.

It is, significantly, Mercedes’ second pole this season in short order after Russell took the top spot in Canada, and after his victory at the last round in Austria. With the pace on display here they will feel like another win might be within their grasp but with rain expected again, nothing is a given and a capacity crowd of 160,000 have every reason to expect a thriller.

McLaren’s Oscar Piastri was fifth, Nico HĂŒlkenberg in sixth for Haas, Carlos Sainz seventh for Ferrari, Lance Stroll was eighth for Aston Martin, Alex Albon ninth for Williams and Fernando Alonso 10th for Aston Martin.

Charles Leclerc was a disappointing 11th for Ferrari Logan Sargeant 12th for Williams, Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo 13th and 15th for RB and Guanyu Zhou 14th for Sauber.

Valtteri Bottas was in 16th for Sauber, Kevin Magnussen in 17th for Haas, Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly in 18th and 20th, with the latter already carrying a grid penalty.

Source: theguardian.com