The Saturday in F1 British GP was different all-through with Sprint Qualifying but Red Bull fought back to eventually take pole for Sunday’s event.
It was the result which Red Bull’s Max Verstappen needed at the end of the Saturday in F1 British GP weekend, where the Dutchman won the Sprint Qualifying race and took pole for the grand prix ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
Verstappen had a good launch and managed to keep Hamilton bay at the start and also in the middle of the 17-lap F1 sprint race, showing some pace. The Brit enough to hustle him, but his bad start let him down, leaving with no choice but to chase the Dutchman.
There was some scare for Verstappen with the brakes on fire and he was worried a bit for it at Turn 3, but it was fine in the end. Bottas, meanwhile, started on the soft tyre with a gamble from him and Mercedes, but it didn’t pay off whole lot.
He was boxed behind his F1 teammate at the start which made it difficult to pass, and he had issues with tyres between Lap 3 until Lap 11, but managed to retain his position. It was not the best for Red Bull, though, with Sergio Perez’s spin in the dirty air. He is likely to start from the pitlane with changes made on his car.
Verstappen: “I think what was nice in the beginning was of course you start with lower fuel in this race, so naturally the cars are faster and that is what you like and the car is a bit more alive. So that was fun compared to a heavy car and everything and it’s just slow in the beginning, so I enjoyed that bit for sure. The thing I was really worried about was the brakes at the start.
“A little bit of fire, it’s OK but at one point it was becoming quite big and I was just looking in my mirror to the guys in the back, saying please, speed up, speed up. So then, of course, I was not sure going into Turn 3 if my brakes were going to work but luckily it didn’t do too much damage. I saw a few people in the grandstand making pictures when the brakes were on fire. For sure they have a good few shots there.
“In the race then, I was pushing otherwise I could not keep Lewis behind. You could see that. Also, my tyres were blistered. The understeer from Friday was gone but naturally you’re not going as fast through the corners as in qualifying. So I guess that helps. Looking at the main race, it’s very close again. It’s a bit different. It seems like we are quick through corners, they are quick on the straight this weekend.
“Of course, after one free practice session, and then you’re not allowed to make any changes and you don’t get it right, then you’re a bit stuck. So I think we’re a bit stuck on the straight, so that’s why we have to make up our time in the corners – but yeah, it seemed like in this more-or-less flat-out race – you cannot really call it flat-out but at least pushing more, the pace was alright but I still expect with a pit-stop coming into play – or two pit stops, who knows – it’s again going to be a good fight.”
Hamilton: “My start was terrible, so of course it could be better. We have a target position that you have to hit with your clutch and that’s what the goal is always to be on target, and I was on target, so I did what I was supposed to do but it didn’t deliver, for whatever reason. I don’t know why. Had a lot of wheelspin and the rest is history.
“I think he had a lot of pace in him and I don’t think he was particularly having to push too hard, and we were flat-out. The F1 race going to be tough. If I can try somehow to keep up with them through the stints, maybe we can apply pressure through strategy – but we’re not going to be overtaking them on the track: they’re just too fast. So, we play the long game hopefully.”
Bottas: “We tried something different. We thought most of the cars are going to start on the Medium, so it would give a bit of an opportunity for me, for lap one, for the start and the first few corners. We tried the Soft in FP2 and actually it was a bit better than I thought it would be. It didn’t quite work out but luckily the risk was quite minimal.
“I was in quite a tricky place there at the start. Obviously I had good momentum into Turn 1. I felt a bit boxed. I’ve been in that kind of situation before. Suddenly you get this understeer, you need to back off and it looks like a bigger lift than what it actually is when you lose momentum. Obviously when we race as team-mates, especially in this Sprint Qualifying and the main event being tomorrow, the last thing we want to do is crash.
“For sure, with your team-mate you race a bit differently. You have a certain amount of respect if you don’t want to ruin things. On the whole, I have to say the most I struggled with the tyre was from, let’s say, Lap 3 until Lap 10-11. There was quite a bit of overheating. I think once the tyre was starting to wear it was starting to feel a bit better towards the end. Losing a bit more temperature – so it was not bad.”
Perez: “I had a bad start and trying to get positions back with the car, managing the pace, and picking up the throttle out of the corner I just lost it. I became a passenger very early on. That meant that I lost the car and did a lot of damage to my race. Probably here is a place where we have been struggling the most. I struggled a lot with the dirty air and I don’t know if it is related to lighter fuel loads starting or something like that, but I did struggle in the dirty air at the start of the race.”
Behind them, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc maintained his position at fourth, while both McLaren drivers Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo gained after the problem for Perez. In fact, they lost to a fast-starter Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, but overtook him by the end of it.
The Brit reckoned that low fuel start was interesting and it probably helped Alonso at the start, along with the soft tyre option. The Spaniard was quite aggressive and had ‘complaints’ for weaving too, but he did not budge and wishes to continue that way.
He managed to keep Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel at bay in the end along with Williams’ George Russell, teammate Esteban Ocon, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly. The other Spaniard in the pack was on recovery mode after a tangle with Russell.
The Brit was handed a 3-place grid drop for Sunday’s F1 race, which puts him in 12th. The fight behind the Top 3 will be mostly for McLaren to topple Leclerc, while Sainz will hoping to clear the likes of Alonso and Vettel quickly to help his teammate.
For Alonso, though, he noted that he was surprised by warnings of weaving and stated that he had enough of seeing how other F1 drivers used Lap 1 to their advantage in the races gone by. The Spaniard didn’t mind himself to be in the ‘dark side’ for it.
Ricciardo: “From what I understand, I think Charles was a little quicker and I saw that Carlos got put out and came through the field, so I would say we’ve still got a little bit of work to do if we want to get in the Ferrari fight. But I think we were decent relative to the others and started seventh, start sixth for main race, so it’s a little victory and yes, I’ll try and aim for a top five. Apparently, I haven’t got one this year, top five, so I think sixth is my best result. That’s kind of sad. I’ll try and break through the top five.”
Alonso: “I never moved under braking, I was moving at the beginning of the straight. But I don’t care, to be honest. I’ve been on the other side for now nine races. So, it’s gonna be the same for the remainder of the year. I will be in the dark side. This time. The guys in front, they are fighting for bigger things than us. So we will be aggressive.
“We’ve been aggressive in the last three or four races. In Baku it was a two-lap race, and we recovered many places. In Paul Ricard and in Austria we recovered a lot of places, but they overtook us outside of the circuit on lap one with no penalties. Here it seems a little bit more difficult. So let’s see if we can recover places and everyone stays on track.”
“I think the first lap was a combination of things. The start was better than Carlos especially. It was not too different compared to Sebastian and some other cars. So Carlos was made in the start. And then Sebastian was made in Turn One. And then it was some quite some high risk manoeuvres. One was with the McLaren and Perez in Turn Four. Then Perez again in Turn Six, Norris in Turn Nine.
“I guess if I was fighting for the championship, I will not make those manoeuvres, because there is more to lose than to gain. But we are in a position that we can take maybe more risk, and benefit also from the red tyre first lap performance.”
Sainz: “I guess I was a victim of a mistake there from George. I got bumped off and it cost me, going back to last in Lap 1. Then obviously I had fun after that because I could make my way through the field with strong pace and finish 11th, to minimise the damage. But still, it has cost me. I should have finished today around P8, P7 and be in a good position.”
Russell: “Carlos came from quite wide and sort of cut in on me. I saw him, but there was nothing really more I could have done with the angle I was at. I was trying to steer more, I was on the brakes but you could see I’d just started to lock up as he was closing the door, so there was nothing more I could have done. So I think it’s one of those things; when you’re coming from the outside, you can’t really see what’s on the inside, so I guess for him, he just didn’t know where I was. Just one of those first lap things really.”
Behind them, Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen was another on charge, having moves up from 17th to 13th for the main F1 race. The Finn had a tangle with Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, but managed to push on and make up places on the soft tyre.
The Finn had damage on the floor, much like Haas’ Mick Schumacher after his tangle with teammate Nikita Mazepin. The Russian had a front wing damage – both of which should be repaired for the F1 race start on Sunday.
Raikkonen: “I mean, obviously it’s always a bit better but I doubt there’s a lot between the two tyres at the start; it’s more if you get it right or wrong. It’s so easy to get it wrong and then you lose. “We got some damage on the floor. I think it was at the beginning of the race. We tried to fight; we are a bit too slow on the straight.”
Schumacher: “I think it’s unfortunate because we both carried damage from it which, I think doesn’t improve the position we are in unfortunately. But again I think it’s hard to say there’s a clear way or approach …obviously we are racing, we are very close by and eventually these things will happen but again I think it didn’t really affect our position in terms of race time.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have the pace so until that we were a bit more off. I had a damage, though on the right hand side of the floor which was broken in two different places which obviously did cost us a bit but I doubt it’ll cost us to the point that we will be able to follow Williams in the F1 race.”
Mazepin: “I had a very good launch – one of my best starts this year. The nature of this track means I was on the outside of T2 and then the inside of T3. You try to carry the speed in but the car on the left has a better stopping power and you both try to make the corner but then I had to avoid my teammate. With the pace of the car we have this weekend, the best comparison I have is my teammate and I was a lot faster than him for the first part of the race and then a lot slower for the second part of the race.”
Here’s how F1 British GP Sprint Qualifying panned out