Lewis Hamilton sets track record to beat Sebastian Vettel for British F1 GP pole

• Mercedes driver snatches pole on final qualifying lap
• Vettel will start second on grid with Kimi Räikkönen third

If ever Lewis Hamilton needed a lift, it was here, in the cauldron of qualifying for the British Grand Prix. Pushed to produce one of his best ever laps to take pole from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who will start second, the four-times world champion once again found inspiration from the huge crowd at Silverstone. They, in turn, were rewarded with an exceptional run that the Mercedes driver ranked as one of the most testing of his career.

Nigel Mansell said the home crowd at the British Grand Prix was worth up to half a second a lap to him. The 1992 champion adored his home grand prix and its fans, as does Hamilton and they were out in force for him again. Basking in glorious sunshine at the old airfield, a world away from the inhospitable cold weather and winds that often sweep across the circuit, their enthusiasm was undimmed even by the tense anticipation of England’s imminent clash with Sweden.

Hamilton had gone out to a campsite on Friday night to deliver 2,000 beers and 1,000 snack boxes at his own expense for the volunteer circuit marshals and helpers, a heartfelt gesture whose good intent was returned in spades – and just as well, he needed every possible encouragement to produce his very best.

Hamilton took the pole with a track record time of 1min 25.892sec in a final hot lap that was a tour de force around Silverstone but he was pushed to the limit by Vettel. The German was quickest on his first run in Q3, just five-hundredths of a second in front of Hamilton. Both laps were impressive but Vettel had the edge through the middle sector. But on the final runs Hamilton was extraordinary under immense pressure, threading the needle through Maggots and Becketts with precision, he finished four-hundredths ahead of Vettel, with Kimi Räikkönen in third and Valtteri Bottas in fourth.

“It felt like one of the best laps I have been able to produce,” he said. “It felt like the most pressurised lap that I have ever had. I was shaking afterwards through the emotion and the adrenaline rush, way above what I have experienced before. Which is crazy as this is my 76th pole but this 76th is so special.”

Mercedes had expected to be strong at the circuit, especially using the thinner-tread tyres that their car favours. They dominated on this Pirelli rubber in both Spain and France but Ferrari came at them with venom.

Hamilton recognised this, although understandably he could not wait to escape the post qualifying press conference, his excitement visible when he received news of England’s first goal. “It took everything to get it,” he said. “The fans were there I could see them, and I knew they were there, I really wanted to do it and with the pole give a boost to England. Start the wave and let them continue it.” The football team did indeed carry on the day of sporting success.

Having been frustrated at the last round with a DNF, his 14-point championship lead over Vettel became a one-point deficit to the German and he will be eager to once more top the table with a win on Sunday but is taking nothing for granted. “It’ll be demanding with the heat, the speed we have through corners, the G-force we are pulling,” he said. “I definitely think it will be physically tougher and more intense, it is not going to be a case of opening a big gap, it is going to be close all the way.”

Thus far, however, it is the perfect start. He has matched Ayrton Senna’s record of six poles at his home grand prix and now has the chance to again enter the history books. If he can convert it into a win it will be his fifth consecutive victory at the British Grand Prix, surpassing Jim Clark’s run of four, and he will become only the second driver to have scored five wins in a row at the same track, matching Senna’s run at Monaco between 1989 and 1993. A sixth win at the British Grand Prix would also make him the most successful competitor at the race, with one more that Clark and Alain Prost.

These details, though, will not concern him until the serious business is concluded. Hamilton has been enthusiastically following England’s progress in Russia and will go to Moscow should they make the final. Having been able to enjoy watching England’s win, he will now need to refocus on what is likely to be highly competitive race. A challenge awaits but one he can face buoyed by the enthusiasm that will doubtless be once again flowing from the grandstands.

For the once-mighty British team Williams, who are enduring a shocking season, there was no respite at their home race with a car that still looks a handful. Lance Stroll went off at Brooklands in Q1, ending his session and he finished in 19th. While Sergey Sirotkin also went off at Stowe and although he continued, managed only 18th place.

McLaren, who are also enduring the least successful period in their history, entered their home grand prix having announced a considerable restructuring after the resignation of their sporting director Eric Boullier on Tuesday but for the moment they are mired toward the back of the midfield with Fernando Alonso in 13th and Stoffel Vandoorne in 17th place.

The Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were fifth and sixth. Haas were once again the best of the rest with Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean in seventh and eighth respectively. Charles Leclerc was once again strong for Sauber, taking ninth place and Esteban Ocon was in 10th for Force India.

Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg was 11th in front of the Force India of Sergio Pérez. Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly was 14th, Marcus Ericsson in the Sauber 15th and the Renault of Carlos Sainz 16th.

Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley did not take part in qualifying after he suffered a high-speed accident in the final practice session. A suspension failure caused the New Zealander to go off and he took a major impact into the barriers at turn six. Hartley was unhurt but will start from the back of the grid or potentially the pitlane.

Sign up to The Recap, our weekly email of editors’ picks.


Giles Richards at Silverstone

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Sebastian Vettel storms to Canadian F1 GP pole with Lewis Hamilton fourth
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel took pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix, with Valtteri Bottas in second for Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton fourth, behind Max Verstappen

Giles Richards

09, Jun, 2018 @7:25 PM

Article image
Mark Webber on the epic Lewis Hamilton-Sebastian Vettel rivalry
The former champion on an era-defining struggle, why Ferrari are ‘a bit soft’ and the special joy of driving at Silverstone

Giles Richards at Silverstone

08, Jul, 2018 @7:30 AM

Article image
Sebastian Vettel snatches dramatic Canadian GP pole from Lewis Hamilton
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel left it late but delivered a stunning lap to pip championship leader Lewis Hamilton to pole position at Montreal

Giles Richards

08, Jun, 2019 @7:50 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton takes Hungarian F1 GP pole with masterclass in rain
Lewis Hamilton excelled in the wet conditions to claim pole ahead of his teammate Valtteri Bottas, with the Ferraris of Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel third and fourth

Giles Richards at the Hungaroring

28, Jul, 2018 @2:53 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton storms into pole for resurrected French Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton took pole for the French Grand Prix ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel third

Giles Richards at Paul Ricard

23, Jun, 2018 @4:12 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton says he just wasn’t quick enough after Vettel takes pole
Lewis Hamilton admitted he was off the pace in qualifying in Sochi as Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen sealed a Ferrari front row lockout, leaving him back in fourth

Giles Richards

29, Apr, 2017 @6:25 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton faces uphill battle as Sebastian Vettel takes China pole
Sebastian Vettel claimed pole for the Chinese Grand Prix with Lewis Hamilton in fourth after tyre problems

Giles Richards

14, Apr, 2018 @1:47 PM

Article image
Valtteri Bottas edges out Lewis Hamilton for British F1 GP pole
Valtteri Bottas took his fourth pole of the season by 0.006sec, with his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton completing a front-row Silverstone lockout ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc

Giles Richards at Silverstone

13, Jul, 2019 @2:15 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton takes pole for British F1 GP with Kimi Raikkonen second
Lewis Hamilton delighted Silverstone with a crushing performance in qualifying to secure pole for the British F1 GP and was cleared by the stewards of blocking Romain Grosjean

Giles Richards at Silverstone

15, Jul, 2017 @1:22 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton defends Sebastian Vettel over ‘lives on the line’ incident
The F1 championship leader said collisions are bound to happen when drivers are pushing to the limit

Giles Richards

25, Jun, 2018 @11:31 AM