After clinching the pole position at the season-opener at Austria, Valtteri Bottas was playing next-fiddle to Lewis Hamilton in the qualifying battles that followed, the man to whom he’d concede defeats in the next three qualifying rounds.
But all of that changed as the noted Mercedes driver, fresh from a new contract that’ll see him drive for the team for 2021, conquered the daunting pole position at the British GP with millions glued to the live proceedings from the comfort of their screens.
Though nothing could’ve been more significant than the occasion surrounding Valtteri Bottas’ pole, this being the battle for the 70th anniversary British Grand Prix, what a landmark moment for the fastest form of single-seater racing.
Advantage Valtteri Bottas
The historic occasion on Sunday, will not see a Ferrari, Williams, or McLaren, but the fastest team on the grid start the proceedings from the position that’s its become habitual of bagging what it does with much finesse and style- the front-row start.
Clocking a belter of a lap in his final flying run in Q3, Valtteri Botttas went at 1:25:154, finishing less than a hundredth of a second ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton, who enjoys a 30-point lead in the driver’s championship over the Finn.
Another Mercedes 1-2 meant business as usual for the team that’s become the synonym of speed and not to forget, consistency. But amid the usual circumstances, Saturday’s closely-watched qualifying was served what could be called the ‘moment of the day’ as Racing Point’s Nico Hulkenberg went third-fastest and became the only driver to finish right behind the daunting Mercedes duo.
Anyone who said that the sport is so eternally steeped in changing vagaries couldn’t have said it any better. For two weeks back in time, Nico Hulkenberg was miles away from any F1 car garage, let alone going third-fastest in the same battle that had the likes of Lando Norris, Daniel Ricciardo, and Max Verstappen vying for top honors.
A lot about Sunday’s landmark race will be centered around hundreds of thousands who’ll hope that the ‘Hulk’ finally makes it to the spot that’s eluded him in a decade long run at the top of the sport. Though, the German would derive confidence in his race position, his P3 at Silverstone equaling the 2016 Austrian GP performance, that saw the then 27-year-old begin from the second row.
No Bull run for Max Verstappen as Ferrari and McLaren lose out
There was surprisingly no rush of speed for Max Verstappen, yet another driver who we’ve grown accustomed to seeing great pace on quali-days as the Red Bull driver will begin his charge from fourth, having been third in the last race-weekend (for quali).
Meanwhile, Daniel Ricciardo, the driver who’s enjoyed a delightful run of form especially in the last fortnight, having finished fourth in the first round at Silverstone positioned his RS 20 on fifth, another competitive run by the ‘Honeybadger.’
Meanwhile, Stroll and Gasly went sixth and seventh-fastest respectively, as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who later admitted his ‘current spot is truly indicative of the team’s pace’ could go no better than eighth on the grid.
Following the Monegasque was Alex Albon in the other Red Bull, with Lando Norris, on tenth emerging as the only McLaren to finish inside the top ten on Saturday.
Meanwhile, there was disappointment for Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who’s all set to begin from eleventh on the grid, having already started two races from tenth and one actually from eleventh.
Sainz, who endured a tough final run in Q3 could only do as much as position his MCL35 on twelfth on the grid, as Grosjean, Ocon, and Russell, took thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth respectively.
Vettel struggles as do backmarkers Alfa Romeo
The French driver, in the process, found better pace than a much more competitive Renault and a seemingly refreshing Williams.
Meanwhile, regular sightings made for much of the final five places on the grid with Kvyat emerging as the best of the final five, putting himself on sixteenth, only to be followed by Magnussen, Latifi, and the two Alfas with Giovinazzi emerging just ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, the backmarker for Sunday’s race.
While the two Alfas left a lot to be desired, struggling for pace and never really looking certain to make it to Q2, which was eventually the case, better luck prevailed for rookie Nicholas Latifi as he placed himself three places from the end of the grid.
Not too bad for a driver who’s been habitually beaten by a slightly more experienced British teammate. Between the two Haas’, Grosjean enjoyed the upper hand over Danish teammate Kevin Magnussen, the Swiss-French driver’s 13th not really the worst possible start given that drivers several times more powerful like Vettel could do only as good as start eleventh on the grid.
The challenge out in the front!
Having said that, Sunday’s main battle will be among the two Mercedes teammates. Probably, it was about time that Bottas tried something different in order to give his 2020 title hopes a realistic chance. What might have been better than beginning from the position where you can see a clear track right at the front- right?
But the quick Finn would be mindful of the man of the moment- Lewis Hamilton, who’s currently just four wins shy of equaling the great Michael Schumacher’s tally of race wins.
So far, the Nastola-born has defied Hamilton from conquering what would’ve been a sensational 92nd pole. Job well done, Valtteri. But can he go onto deny Lewis the race-win?
All to play for as we go racing at the 70th anniversary Grand Prix.
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