At the conclusion of the final qualifying run in Q3, a mesmerizing statistic garnered everyone’s attention as David Croft ‘Crofty’ exclaimed, “This time around, Mercedes have gone up by seven-tenths of a second over a lap when compared to their times last year in Quali!” And there it was: the clear albeit unsurprising verdict of just how dominant were the two Black Arrows at the Silverstone Grand Prix 2020.
As Lewis Hamilton smashed the lap record here at his home Grand Prix at Silverstone, there was hardly any shock value to note the final result; teammate Valtteri Bottas comfortably lining up his car right behind the defending world champion as Mercedes locked out the front row in the first round of the Silverstone double-header.
In so doing, Lewis Hamilton clocked a ballsy 1:24:606 and thus gained, his seventh career pole at his home race event and rather majestically, the 91st of his gritty career. What was rather extraordinary that this was also his 65th career pole for his current team; the leader of the pack, Mercedes.
That’s precisely the number of poles that Hamilton’s idol Ayrton Senna had in his career.
Right behind the two Mercedes’, it was Max Verstappen on third
This wasn’t that bad a result considering there was little any car out there could do with the two Mercedes’ in such red-hot form. And as expected, the flying Dutchman put his machine in a competitive position even as he failed to reach the front row.
It wasn’t all too disappointing a weekend for Charles Leclerc of Ferrari, who finished fourth, giving the Scuderia fans something to cheer about, while his teammate was anything but that rapid fast as the Monegasque driver.
In hindsight, having both the Ferraris inside the top-10 is just the kind of mental relief anyone supporting the Scuderia would’ve wanted, knowing the woes of the scarlet red cars this season.
Stationed on fifth and seventh were the two McLarens, also not a big surprise given the competitive pace of the Woking-based cars.
But on this occasion, local hero, Lando Norris, who’s already bagged a maiden career podium earlier this year, had the nose of his MCL 35 just ahead of 7th-placed teammate Carlos Sainz Jr.
How did the midfielders perform?
Further down the midfield, Racing Point’s Lance Stroll put his RP20 on Sixth, which wasn’t the kind of result the young Canadian might have expected especially after topping the time-sheets the previous afternoon during the round of free practice.
Behind Stroll was Daniel Ricciardo on a strong eighth as his teammate Esteban Ocon, who had enjoyed the upper hand on pace over the Australian in the session before managed ninth, though just ahead of the other Ferrari, Seb Vettel doing no better than P10.
One could say, there was a bit of bad luck for Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly, who albeit had set the identical lap time as Sainz earlier in Q2, failed to make it to Q3, as a result (with the rule suggesting whosoever sets the time first is noted).
Still, starting the race right out of the top ten isn’t that bad a place either since there’s always a chance to break into the point’s finish early on. Red Bull’s Alex Albon found himself on twelfth as he failed to meet the required results to make it to the final quali run.
Although the Thai-British driver’s Silverstone run, thus far, has been anything but memorable as on Friday, he spun around at the challenging Stowe, thus enforcing a red-flagged session late last afternoon. Can he improve on race-day?
Not a great day for Albon, struggles for Nico, Antonio and Kimi
Further down the field, on thirteenth, was comeback driver Nico Hulkenberg, who in the previous session, was looking in solid contention for a good finish, his chances spoiled eventually as he skidded around the kerbs and didn’t quite hold it together to clock a great last flying lap in Q2.
Behind the returning German driver was Kvyat, who’s also due for a penalty owing to an unscheduled gearbox change, which may hamper his ultimate qualifying position.
Starting fifteenth is George Russell, another local-hero at his home Grand Prix event much like Lewis and Lando. Though, Russell’s P15 was the best of the rest given the final five on the grid.
Magnussen and Giovinazzi of Haas and Alfa Romeo, slipped out of Q2 and therefore, took sixteenth and seventeenth, respectively, the struggles of the usually decent midfield cars relegating the Danish and Italian drivers as backmarkers, for the lack of a better word.
There wasn’t much luck for Kimi Raikkonen either, who much like the last three rounds, struggled and could only take eighteenth, with Romain Grosjean in the other Haas and Nicholas Latifi in the other Williams completing nineteenth and twentieth, respectively. Surely, someone like the Iceman has seen better days and fared rather impressively before when you realize he’s bagged 7 podiums previously at Silverstone, his last coming with Ferrari in 2018, albeit in dramatic circumstances.
Meanwhile, the main question at the front-end of the grid would be whether Hamilton, a six-time winner at the British GP can claim a seventh win, the chances of which are very likely given the menacing pace the Briton is competing with.
Should he win on Sunday, it’ll take the six-time world champion even closer to another enviable record- one shy of notching up 8 wins at a particular track/event, which is what he managed a fortnight ago at Hungaroring.