Silverstone, July 2 Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz came up with a masterful lap in a wet British Grand Prix qualifying to claim his maiden pole position in Formula 1. Sainz was at his best as he beat the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, who’d led much of the session.
The rain had begun falling on Silverstone just minutes before qualifying began, with Verstappen comfortably heading both first and second qualification (Q1 and Q2).
Verstappen was then leading Q3 in the final moments when Sainz unleashed his final lap to stop the clocks at 1m 40.983 and take P1 with an effort he described in disbelief as “terrible”. On the weekend of his 150th Grand Prix start, though, terrible did very nicely indeed.
Sainz was 0.072s ahead of Verstappen, with Leclerc at third, 0.315s off his teammate — both Leclerc and Verstappen having suffered Q3 spins while on promising laps.
Sergio Perez was P4 in the second Red Bull, ahead of the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, with Lando Norris P6, as Fernando Alonso and George Russell rounded out the top eight. Zhou Guanyu was P9, while Nicholas Latifi survived a scary off at Turn 1 to take P10, on his first-ever Q3 appearance.
Pierre Gasly was P11 for AlphaTauri, ahead of the second Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas and Gasly’s teammate Yuki Tsunoda, with Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon having fallen foul of worsening conditions in Q2 and failing to make it out, taking P14 and P15.
Failing to make it out of Q1, meanwhile, Alex Albon was P16 – despite being equipped with Williams’ extensive upgrade package, which Latifi didn’t have – while both Haas and Aston Martins went out in the first segment too, the order Kevin Magnussen in P17, ahead of Sebastian Vettel, Mick Schumacher and Lance Stroll.
Having decided the fate of many drivers in Q1 and Q2, the inters remained the tyre of choice for Q3. Verstappen looked to be setting a banker lap when he spun wildly coming out of Stowe, his RB18 performing a neat pirouette. However, he managed to post two purple sectors en route to P2, before improving on his second effort to set a 1m 42.966s. “More rain expected, keep pushing,” Verstappen was told, and the Dutchman duly kept his foot in and continued lapping.
With two minutes to go, it was Verstappen from Hamilton and Leclerc, those three looking set to duke it out for the qualifying spoils.
But then out of nowhere came Sainz, who’d flown under the radar ever since leading FP2 on Friday afternoon. And with the time having ticked away to nothing, Sainz took the chequered flag with a lap that was good enough for provisional pole.
Verstappen and Leclerc were going quickly behind — but then Leclerc spun at Turn 14, with yellow flags forcing Verstappen to lift and handing the pole position to Sainz.
As the Spaniard was informed of his triumph, he replied in disbelief: “I was terrible out there! How did I get P1?!”
“You kept it together like a smooth operator!” his engineer laughingly replied.