Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Silverstone, 2021

Hamilton beats Verstappen to pole for F1’s first sprint qualifying race despite last-lap slip

2021 British Grand Prix qualifying

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Lewis Hamilton will start Formula 1’s first sprint qualifying race from pole position despite an error at the end of his final lap in qualifying.

The Mercedes driver beat a frustrated Max Verstappen, who had been quickest by far in the single practice session ahead of qualifying.


The first runs in the opening part of qualifying hinted at the possibility Mercedes had found something to cut into the daunting seven-tenths of a second margin which Red Bull led first practice by. As track temperatures fell from 48C to the high thirties, the two W12s easily beat Sergio Perez’s 1’27.788. Hamilton was over six-tenths quicker, Perez having gone wide at Club.

Then Verstappen emerged from the pits and easily reasserted Red Bull’s superiority. Not quite by the seven tenths margin from practice, but still by nearly half a second, despite a lairy moment of his own at Club. “Well caught,” race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase commented.

Shortly after the leaders completed their first runs, others began their second, and many produced quicker times as the track continued to rubber in and the heat continued to fade. Fernando Alonso put his Alpine fourth behind Verstappen and the Mercedes. Antonio Giovinazzi, whose first run was also promising, moved up to eighth, less than two-tenths away from Perez.

As the final runs began both Aston Martin drivers had fallen into the drop zone and needed improvements from their final runs to proceed. They made it – Sebastian Vettel jumping to 10th, Lance Stroll squeaking through by just two-hundredths of a second in 15th.

Stroll’s passage to Q2 came at the expense of Yuki Tsunoda, who said before the day began that the greatly compressed practice time would make it harder for him to get the best from his car in qualifying. Fellow rookies Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin also dropped out in Q1 in their usual places at the bottom of the times, the latter also spinning.

Kimi Raikkonen’s poor run in qualifying this year continued with another defeat to his team mate and his sixth Q1 elimination. Nicholas Latifi’s session also ended in the first round as the home crowd cheered George Russell’s arrival in Q2 again.

While that was going on, Hamilton produced a quicker lap to almost match Verstappen’s best time, the pair ending the session separated by three-hundredths of a second.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

16Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda1’28.043
17Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’28.062
18Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’28.254
19Mick SchumacherHaas-Ferrari1’28.738
20Nikita MazepinHaas-Ferrari1’29.051

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The championship leaders headed the times again after their first runs in Q2. All 15 drivers used the soft tyres, which were mandatory throughout qualifying under the new rules for this weekend.

Hamilton used his red-walled tyres to set a 1’26.602. Verstappen remained strong at the end of the lap, but only by enough to edge the fastest time by less than a tenth of a second. Hamilton also found more time in the first sector on his way back to the pits.

Their team mates were next, though Perez’s deficit to his team mate was over half a second. They were followed by Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and the Ferrari pair, Carlos Sainz Jnr pipping his team mate despite Charles Leclerc taking a tow from a slowing Fernando Alonso on the Hangar straight.

Pierre Gasly, Russell, Alonso, Stroll and Giovinazzi began the final runs at risk of elimination. Only one of them made it through – and to the obvious joy of the home crowd, it was Russell. The cheer which went up when he took seventh was louder than the reaction to Hamilton producing a quicker time to head the session with a 1’26.023.

Both McLaren drivers made it into Q3, Ricciardo ahead of Norris. The latter scraped though by just two-hundredths of a second, ensuring all three home drivers reached the final 10.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11Fernando AlonsoAlpine-Renault1’27.245
12Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda1’27.273
13Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’27.340
14Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’27.617
15Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’27.665

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“Let’s not give those guys a tow,” commented Hamilton as he left the pits to begin his final run with his championship rival in his mirrors. But Verstappen, who had been unhappy at completing his last Q3 lap in Austria without a tow, remained in range of Hamilton as they began Q3.

It didn’t do him much good, however. Hamilton produced a 1’26.134 – a tenth of a second off his best from Q2, but better than Verstappen could manage. As the track temperatures continued to fall, the Red Bull driver was struggling with his car’s front end, and his pace at the end of the lap had gone.

“I have no front tyres to finish the lap, it’s insane,” he said on the radio. “I just don’t get what’s going on. The car is good but she’s understeering to the moon. And it seems like the front wing is doing nothing.”

Perez remained a similar gap behind his team mate in fourth, the pair separated by Bottas. The McLaren drivers were next.

Russell left it until later to do his single run free of traffic and bagged seventh place ahead of the Ferraris. Vettel’s time was deleted after he ran wide at Stowe.

Hamilton made a flying start to his final lap, setting a flying pace through the opening sectors, running in the slipstream of Bottas. But he nearly threw it away as he arrived at Vale, sliding wide, and throwing away the gains he had made.

“My heart was in my mouth as I came across the line,” he admitted. It was enough for pole – just. Verstappen cursed repeatedly after improving his time by a tenth of a second, yet still falling short of Hamilton’s earlier mark.

Bottas collected third place, while Perez fell to fifth when his final lap time was deleted for a track limits infringement. Leclerc claimed fourth.

The McLaren drivers fell back to sixth and seventh, while Russell stayed ahead of Sainz and Vettel, and will begin F1’s first sprint qualifying race from eighth on the grid.

Top ten in Q3

1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’26.134
2Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’26.209
3Valtteri BottasMercedes1’26.328
4Charles LeclercFerrari1’26.828
5Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda1’26.844
6Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’26.897
7Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-Mercedes1’26.899
8George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’26.971
9Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’27.007
10Sebastian VettelAston Martin-Mercedes1’27.179

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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75 comments on “Hamilton beats Verstappen to pole for F1’s first sprint qualifying race despite last-lap slip”

  1. That was a brilliant qualifying session.

    F1 at it’s best.

    Now for a pointless 17 lap pootle around Silverstone tomorrow which will show EXACTLY why we should leave qualifying alone…

    1. Why post the same comment again?

      As a long standing fan – I’m loving the new format. Bring it.

      1. And as a long standing fan (Since the 70s) i’m hating this new gimmick format.

        That would indeed have been a great qualifying session if it was setting the grid but since we have the gimmick race tomorrow this qualifying session has far less significance because it has less connection to the proper race.

        And we now also have an amazing pole position lap from lewis that we can’t call a pole lap and which won’t be in the record books which is a complete joke.

        1. Yeah, I must admit that I failed to feel the thrill we normally have with qualifying too @roger-ayles. I guess we’ll just get Russel dropping a few places, as he tends to do, and who knows whether we see Max getting ahead off the start (don’t expect much passing during that 17 lap race tomorrow)

        2. I thought Sprint Qualifying talks would never ever go through. And then it became a reality…

        3. The suspense of qualifying was undermined by the presence of the sprint race in the schedule. And poor George will probably start the feature race somewhere in the back.

          1. Calling a Grand Prix a Feature Race makes me cringe a little…

        4. As another long standing fan (since Silverstone 1953) this “novelty” two-day qualifying-sprint, no pole winner despite brilliant performances by Hamilton (and Russell), should be trashed. For those of us in North America, it’s timed for Friday lunchtime – so some fans will have to ask for time off work to watch live.

          It adds (little or) nothing to the sport, makes a mockery of cost-reductions (more engines? more gearboxes? for the season), and must only be seen as a money grab by F1 TV and advertizers (twenty of them on Canadian TV during the two breaks between sessions, let alone before and after) for booze, poker, casinos, unhealthy fast food, whatever – it’s time to make our voices heard, in big-money budgets, where it hurts most.

          1. I agree with you in principal but I think your last paragraph is a bit amiss.

            There won’t be more engines and gearboxes as the amount running will likely be the same or near enough as it is now. Parc Fermè being in place during FP2 will likely lead to less running so between that and the sprint race we will probably end up with as much as normal. Many stations already have ad breaks in practice sessions so that probably won’t see a huge increase either.

            It’s a stupid idea but I think you’re hitting on the wrong points there.

          2. Silverstone 1953? Wow, must be pretty rare to follow f1 for 68 years, requires a certain age and to never lose interest, shame for the first 3 years missed!

      2. You mean you’re loving all 0 seconds of it so far!
        I’m OK with seeing the sprint race post-qualifying-pre-race-qualifying thing, but I’m still annoyed that a brilliant real pole position won’t qualify as pole position (or GR in eighth).

      3. RandomMallard (@)
        16th July 2021, 19:30

        I’m with Swifty here. Silverstone has a track record of very good racing early in the race (Hamilton vs Bottas and Verstappen vs Leclerc in 2019, Hamilton and Bottas in 2020). If we get a repeat of any of those battles then I’ll be very happy

      4. You haven’t seen it yet…..

    2. I think tomorrow is gonna be chaos.

    3. It’s going to be like when they introduced ‘golden goal’ extra time in football. All it did was guarantee penalties as teams would play ultra defensive so as not to concede.

      1. I don’t know about that, Germany won Euro96 with a golden goal in the 95th minute.

  2. What a qualy!

    I think the upgrades have brought Mercs on par with the Bulls because Ham was about to go 3 tenths faster before that slide on the final run and Max just did not have confidence in the car.

    Special kudos to Lewis, still having the potential to beat Bottas by 4-5 tenths in quali.

    Also, George was stunning. Give him a Merc already!

    1. Cooler track conditions benefitted well for Ham and Mercedes. We’ll see in the sprint where they end up.

    2. That was actually his second slide of that lap, the first being in Luffield. You could say the car was faster, but only being overdriven like that, and even Hamilton could not hold on like that for a full lap. Verstappen almost binned it himself in Q1 so I think both dudes are pushing like crazy. Overall it seems like the weather/temp change messed with RBR’s set up choices more, giving Verstappen a lot of understeer, as much as Mercedes suddenly finding .8s in their sofa cushions. It’s close, and both top drivers are going for it. It’s great to see.

      1. Agreed.

        Also, I believe that Mercedes has proven to be faster in the slower corners while the bulls are faster in the high speed ones.

        I think that gives an interesting outlook to the rest of the season given there are more (lets say) slower tracks to come than high speed ones and Verstappens lead is 30 some points.

      2. Yeah, it really is nice to see how close it is and having the top drivers really being at the top of their game pushing all the way @dmw. A bit of a shame this qualifying really wasn’t quite as significant for the race since it might well be mixed about a bit tomorrow.

        But for Hamilton and Mercedes, I think it is very important to get that momentum back of not being on the back foot like they have been for the last couple of races.

  3. George’s Q3 lap was a wondrous moment. A full capacity crowd cheering him on every corner. WIll relive that moment several times!

    He might get several poles later in his career. But not many will get as many cheers as this P8 on a Friday received

    1. And he had the whole stage to himself! For me it was symbolic of his tenure at Williams. Cool stuff.

  4. Maybe Lewis ruined his best lap, but…


    1. Excellent Sniff work there

  5. @keith collantine But the session was not about pole. Just the startgrid for the quali sprint. That one delivers the pole.

    1. Confusion reigns with this format, the race/sprint isnt really a pole shootout, as said by Vettel there have to put an extra table in the stat books.

    2. The sporting regulations refer to the driver starting in 1st position for the sprint race as “the driver in pole position.”

      Hamilton is on pole for the sprint race. The winner of the sprint race will be on pole for Sunday’s race.

  6. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    16th July 2021, 19:24

    I’m going to laugh so hard if Verstappen overtakes Hamilton tomorrow to take the ‘actual’ pole :^)

    1. I will laugh even more if Hamilton overtakes Verstappen sunday to take the ‘actual’ win!

    2. Thats Ok, Lewis will just overtake him in the race :-)

    3. I don’t think Verstappen will get close to him tomorrow. The Mercedes looks much faster now and Red Bull don’t seem to have their setup right. Obviously we don’t know much about race pace and how the cars will treat their tyres yet but on quali pace, the Mercs look much, much faster.

      1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
        16th July 2021, 19:55

        @petebaldwin This is when you need to have the details. Track temp played a key role in this session, and if you go back to Austria P2, the cooler temps favoured Mercedes. Both the sprint race and the main race will be run in very hot conditions with track temps in the 50s. The quali this evening the temps dropped to 40. On this track, the two cars are extremely close, so variances in temp will make a big difference. With this upgrade the Merc has got on par with the Redbull, not achieved dominance over them. Tracks and temps will be the key the next two races until Redbull bring their next upgrade.

  7. Super exciting, well done to Williams and Russell, what an amazing result.

    Bottas making it so hard to want to get rid of him though, he performs the second driver role so well.

    5th to 9th within two tenths on such a long and varied circuit in terms of corners is a really good look. Best way to send out these cars, turning in to such an epic season with interest throughout the field.

    Let’s just hope for a boring “sprint” tomorrow, this would be the perfect lead up to the race proper.

  8. It’s just a shame that we just got to see a fantastic pole position lap which we can’t call a pole lap and which won’t be in the record books.

    This entire gimmick race format is a complete joke.


    1. Wow Mercedes nailed their update again. (the non-update) Lucky with track temps, but that’s still a massive half a second up.

      Stunning by Williams and Russell. Faster than a Ferrari.

  9. Question: Is this Hamilton’s 101st pole position?

    Thought: The more I think, the more I feel this is a wasted process, the sprint qualifying. With limited engines on supply, 3 sprint qualifying events each of 100 kms, amounts to a race distance. They have to be even more careful with the engines, which means they will drive less aggressively.

    1. IIRC the pole sitter is the winner of the sprinte race.

      1. As per Liberty’s PR Fan Spin Directive 21.8 there is no race in Sprint Qualifying. It’s not a race. It’s a sprint.

        Liberty has spoken at length in somber tones that it is the new true qualifying session wrapped in a 17 sprint laps that are not in any way related to 17 race laps.

        Congrats to Lewis for qualifying for qualifying in the position formerly known as pole.

  10. Who needs 22 blokes kicking a bag of air about when we’ve got this.

  11. Well I found myself getting unnecessarily angry during that qualifying session. It was a great session, but i was watching it with my 7 year old Formula 1 mad son, and was having to try and explain why qualifying was on a Friday and all the differences to him. He almost entirely understands the current format, so this is a curve ball too much for him I think. Not helped by the fact I don’t like it either.

    Daddy, why is it today? – Because they are doing sprint qualifying tomorrow.

    Daddy, why can they only use the soft tyres? – honestly, son, no idea.

    Daddy, why is Hamilton not on pole position? – Because pole position is decided after sprint qualifying tomorrow.

    Daddy, So qualifying is actually tomorrow? No it’s today, tomorrow is a race, well it’s not a race, but it is a race, but it isn’t, it’s sprint qualifying, where they do a grid start and race for 17 laps… To determine who gets pole position, but it’s not a race, even though it sounds exactly like a race.

    I can’t wait to explain tomorrow how most of the drivers will get 0 points, and for some reason the winner only gets 3 points… Sorry, driver who gets pole position gets 3 points.

    1. Probably better off explaining it on top of the frame that it’s okay to try new things, which F1 are doing, rather than getting upset because things are different and confusing. No need to overcomplicate it either or follow F1’s silly “sprint qualifying” nomenclature, just call it a bonus race because the people who want to run F1 want to see if a shorter race will be be more exciting.

      Many times in life there are times when changes make no sense, but it’s usually because of having a limited perspective. Not a bad teaching opportunity really for how trying new things is important because that’s how you learn what’s good or not.

      1. If a Dad can’t be grumpy about change, is he truly a Dad!?

        I am both a Dad and grumpy about the change – qualifying was great today, but the fact it’s not considered a pole in the history books is a real shame. I think the bigger shame is actually that whoever wins tomorrow, it will seem to the layman who just sees the headlines, that they won Silverstone. And that takes away the shine from the Sunday main event I think

      2. In most cases I would agree with you. However, there’s a time and a place to try new things, and mid-way through a season is not one of them.

        If Verstappen passes Hamilton tomorrow, which I fully expect, the record books will consider it as Verstappen getting another pole position this season. There’ll forever be this weird caveat that has to be rolled out every time to say he did this by actually going slower than Hamilton in qualifying, but passed him in a race the next day, that wasn’t THE race.

        At least if they did it as a non-championship test event, perhaps at season end, or alternatively introduced it from the start of the season and just ran with it for a year, you can more clearly separate the formats.

        Regardless of whether it is deemed a success or not, the next race in Hungary will be a reversion to the standard formula. So my son’s inevitable question will then be, did they not like the change? Well, they did, but they’re not using it here…

  12. A 2nd consecutive Q3 appearance for Russell, a great feat while Latifi can’t even get into Q2, demonstrates something.
    I especially liked the background noise from grandstands while Russell was passing them.

    1. Yes, it’s really impressive when a driver can get into q3 and the other not even in q2.

  13. If Lewis was sandbagging during practice, his where did that 7/10ths come from comment in P1 is pure gold.

    1. Mercedes send the sandbags to germany after vt1.

    2. I think RedBull just had a glitch in quali. Should they straighten it out VER will be able to get his margin of 0,7 back. If not, Lewis will win both races. Shockingly to see RBs 2nd car being so off the pace again. Horner may be happy but he knows its not the car that hs made the step towards the Mercs.

  14. Odd titles galore: after qualifying 1st for saturday’s qualifying he is qualified to start on the last row on sunday after a bad qualifying session.

  15. Dave (@davewillisporter)
    16th July 2021, 19:58

    That was an epic session from a Brit perspective! Did anyone else have a hernia when Lewis slid the rear and you were waiting for Max’s time!!!!! George too, what a lap!!! A Red helmet will once again drive a Merc next year, guaranteed!

  16. So this is the qualification for the sprint race which is qualification for the real race?

    1. Yes, but according to Liberty Media no.

    2. Yes, with money money money as objective.

  17. “…the latter also spinning” Poor Mazepin not getting a break here either.

    1. It’s becoming a tradition, like the jet display or the champagne. The obligatory Mazepin Spin slo-mo. Its all part of the new format for 2021.

    2. Guessing the spinning top steiner gave him didn’t work!

  18. 19 years ago, Australia did the impossible against Finland and it was on their home ground. 19 years later, Great Britain can get redemption against Spain and it will be on their home ground. Unless more than 5 drivers get stricken, there’s always a possibility.

  19. This was a great session, really enjoyed it. I’m not going to claim the new format is a winner but I’m not going to label it a gimmick. I’m open to it and excited to see how it goes/evolves. It’s in testing phase and deserves to have the chance to see how it holds up.

    I was sceptical about the reduced practice time but it has been a winner for me so I’m going to enjoy this format.

    1. RandomMallard (@)
      16th July 2021, 21:48

      @rob8k I’m with you 100% here. We haven’t seen the main part of the new format in practice yet, why are we already trying to make judgements already? It is worth the trial, and I’ll make up my mind later on after I’ve seen how it works in practice

  20. Tomorrow Lewis and Max will cautious disappear in the horizon and take P1 and P2. Max won’t go for it because he knows he might lose just one point, but a spin or something trying to overtake Lewis could make him fall to last.

    1. in this season the most error prone topdriver is called Hamilton.

    2. It would be sensible to be cautious indeed. If RB finds their 0,7 again they suddenly lost in Quali then the actual Sunday race is still a far better opportunity to overtake Lewis than risk much more over the course of just 17 laps, for just one point difference in the quali race. So the format is already dead and just gimmickery since there will be DNFs of otherwise top 10 starters. So a lot of injustice, unfairness and spectacle. All the ingredients for sheep. Liberty is going to profit enormously from their new audience.

  21. I am personally not too much against the idea of a sprint race, but I think they have integrated it into the race weekend wrong. In my opinion a WSBK style format is better. For those not familiar, the qualifying session determines the running order for BOTH sprint race and the actual full length race. The sprint race then only awards half the points that the actual race gives. I think this is a better format since the qualifying aspect keeps its role in the weekend, whereas half points in sprint race is enough motivation for teams to push hard enough in the short race. The risk of course is that if a particular track favors a certain team then the dominant team can bag a lot of points, but since we only have 2-3 races like that it shouldnt be too much.

    1. True, that format is gonna favour a team like ferrari at monaco, baku and possibly in hungary and singapore when it doesn’t get cancelled, since they perform a lot better, especially in quali, on slow circuits.

      1. Obviously talking about the 2021 car, things can change, the 2019 was the opposite at least in race pace.

  22. If “they” like their new gimmick (and I’m afraid they have already made up their mind, since this brain fart seems to be more about money than it is about sport or even “show”), I fear the days of celebrating one-lap specialists will fade, since the importance of one-lap performance relative to the overall weekend result will be reduced.

    And another thing (just getting my rant hat on). Next year they will introduce far reaching new regulations with completely new cars, all meant to produce closer and better racing with less dirty air in a car’s wake, which we have all been waiting/asking for. Yet now they shove this … this thing down our throats and they have the temerity to say it is all about the sport, when you can see the dollar signs in their eyes. If the sport was all you were thinking of, then wait for next’s year’s big changes. If they don’t put F1 back on the right track, then try other things. But don’t insult our collective intelligence to try and hide your corporate greed. End of rant.

  23. Keith Collantine remember it is “Sprint Qualifying” … forbidden to use the word “RACE”

  24. So are there still rules on race-start tyres? Does the quali sprint tomorrow start on the q2 tyres for the top 10 today? Or how does the starting-tyre rule now work?

    You still have to use 2 different types of tyre on sunday right?

  25. Nikos (@exeviolthor)
    17th July 2021, 6:47

    So it seems that it was a very enjoyable Qualifying session.
    Too bad it was on a Friday and I could not watch it because of work…

    I miss Bernie…

  26. I hope it doesnt look like a one man show on sunday as has been the past few years. F1 is not worth watching anymore. Mercedes seems to have turned their wick up and leave everyone in the dust. Mercedes makes all wind noise when other teams innovate, they had the DAS, probably other systems too and no one made bones about it, when other teams innovate as they do, they cry crocodile tears. No fair in my view, there needs to be parity.

  27. Sprint Qualifying Race

    I just leave it there

    I think yesterdays times should be counted as qualifying and todays sprint should be counted as sprint wins. I’m all in for this new system if it works but a qualifying is a qualifying and a race is a race.

  28. Wow Mercedes nailed their update again. (the non-update) Lucky with track temps, but that’s still a massive half a second up.

    Stunning by Williams and Russell. Faster than a Ferrari.

  29. Ah, yes, let’s not forget those saying championship over after fp1!

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