Race Weekend Central

Slipstream Saturday: Lewis Hamilton on Pole, More Notes from the British GP


Lewis Hamilton set a British Grand Prix record by claiming his seventh pole for the event.  He bested his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas by three-tenths.  Hamilton recovered from a Q2 spin to blister the field and Mercedes set a staggering pace with Hamilton a full second clear of third-place qualifier Max Verstappen.

Charles Leclerc made Ferrari look competent by taking fourth on the grid with Lando Norris taking fifth after a sloppy effort during Q1.  Lance Stroll continued his streak of solid qualifying by earning sixth with the second McLaren of Carlos Sainz taking seventh.

Daniel Ricciardo placed his Renault eighth on the grid after the his team worked a miracle to rebuild his car overnight.  His teammate took the spot behind him; Esteban Ocon will be starting in ninth.

Sebastian Vettel is having a rather difficult F1 weekend.  The German driver sat out FP1 due to issues with his intercooler in his Ferrari, then had a loose brake pedal corrupt his FP2.  Even though FP3 may have seemed solid he still seems uncomfortable and wound up tenth on the grid.

Even with his spin, there seemed to be little doubt that Hamilton would claim his seventh British GP pole.  His performances at the track have always been special, if not spectacular.  Without his home crowd backing him, Hamilton is just showing the talent he has in a car that continues to be the envy of the grid.

Full qualifying results below.

Third Practice

The monster awoke during FP3 as Mercedes flaunted their dominance, with Bottas holding the top time and Hamilton sitting closely behind.  Verstappen held his spot as the second quickest but his teammate Alex Albon suffered from the loss of track time, again, as electrical gremlins attacked his Red Bull and kept it in the garage.  In FP2, Albon suffered after he spun and bashed his ride against the barrier ending his day early.

The McLaren team revealed that they do have some pace by sitting in the fifth and seventh spots at the end of the session.

The story of the session may have been Daniel Ricciardo even making the grid at all.  His team spent the night changing the chassis of his Renault after they discovered a hairline fracture after FP2.  With his car back together he posted a time that was eighth quickest.

Second Practice

In what is considered scorching conditions, with track temperatures hitting 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) and wind swirling across the landscape, the Mercedes duo looked vulnerable for the first time this season.  Bottas left his mark as third on the final scoring sheet while Hamilton aborted his fast lap and mustered only fifth.  These scoring sheet tallies tend to be more of an aberration than an indication of true performance.

What does it mean when Lance Stroll of all people leads the practice?  At this point, nothing will surprise in 2020.  Even Hulkenberg returned to the car and put it seventh in the scoring data.  The 2019 Mercedes is really giving the 2020 Mercedes a run.  It turns out that even the monsters that the Silver Arrows leave behind are still able to wreak havoc.

Red Bull is saying all the right things, claiming the car is hooked up and that they are fast and improved or they are masking serious deficiencies in the RB16.  That Albon lost his car in the practice and smacked the tyre barrier with 20gs of force, requiring that he make a stop for medical clearance.  Teammate Verstappen managed only 14th on the scoring sheet but could not show his true speed as he had to slow for Romain Grosjean during his fast lap.  Looks like the truth is in the middle with the Milton Keynes outfit.

First Practice

Antonio Giovinazzi earned himself a warning from the stewards for dangerous driving during an incident that brought out a 12-minute red flag during the first session.  His spin did not bring the scolding but rather his decision to drive the car back to the paddock on damaged tyres.  As he drove, his car littered the track with debris that brought about the stoppage.

Hamilton took a new MGU-K for the weekend.  Usually, these types of mentions find themselves followed by a comment about a grid-spot penalty but that is not the case here.  But the concern that Mercedes have toward their reliability is something to watch as the season progresses – much like how they fretted about the kerbs and how they messed with their reliability at the Red Bull Ring.

Odds & Sods

– The return of The Hulk. Dismissed by Renault after the 2019 campaign, Nico Hulkenberg left the sport like a whisper.  The German driver retreated into the shadows and then was set to drive for a couple GT events this year.

Just as he was set to test his GT ride, he received the call from Racing Point asking him to drive the British GP.  The team contacted him as he readied himself; he spent an hour on the ground in Germany before making his way to England, heading to Milton Keynes for a seat fitting, then spending time in the simulator to get used to the RP steering system before making it to the track roughly ten minutes before FP1.

His journey is a surprising and welcome one.  The 32-year-old ruffled few proverbial feathers during his time in F1, allowing him to return as a respected member of the paddock. Perhaps finally driving a worthy ride in the RP20 (or 2019 Mercedes, kidding) Hulk will erase his ignoble record for the most races driven without a podium finish.  He is going to have quite a challenge to earn that podium as he is starting 13th.

– Ah, Ferrari. Leclerc enjoyed a somewhat hospitable day on Friday as he spent the day on track shaking down the latest upgrades to his car.  Sebastian Vettel, however, faced intercooler problems that limited his participation in FP1 to two laps.  In the second session, he still much of the time in the garage, and his posted time was still poor.

Watching Ferrari struggle like this makes the efforts of a team like Williams or Alfa Romeo look all the better. The Prancing Horse have all the resources in the world whereas those teams eke by with a smaller budget and yet continue to march along.  Are the results Williams is claiming solid? No. But they are still doing what they can while Ferrari look completely mismanaged.

Pierre Gasly got slapped with a five-spot penalty for changing his gearbox out of sequence. While Gasly’s penalty is as established in the rulebook but it looks silly after Hamilton swapped out his MGU-K with no reprimand.

– Alex Albon is sporting a new lead engineer beginning this weekend as Simon Rennie takes over for Mike Lugg.  Rennie had been Mark Webber’s engineer 2014-18 and moved to the factory after his last season.  In what is considered a rough start to Albon’s season, the team felt that a change was necessary to bring out a better performance but qualifying 12th is not going to be a good start to the new relationship.

Qualifying Results

1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:25.900 1:25.347 1:24.303
2 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:25.801 1:25.015 1:24.616
3 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING HONDA 1:26.115 1:26.144 1:25.325
4 16 Charles Leclerc FERRARI 1:26.550 1:26.203 1:25.427
5 4 Lando Norris MCLAREN RENAULT 1:26.855 1:26.420 1:25.782
6 18 Lance Stroll RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES 1:26.243 1:26.501 1:25.839
7 55 Carlos Sainz MCLAREN RENAULT 1:26.715 1:26.149 1:25.965
8 3 Daniel Ricciardo RENAULT 1:26.677 1:26.339 1:26.009
9 31 Esteban Ocon RENAULT 1:26.396 1:26.252 1:26.209
10 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:26.469 1:26.455 1:26.339
11 10 Pierre Gasly ALPHATAURI HONDA 1:26.343 1:26.501
12 23 Alexander Albon RED BULL RACING HONDA 1:26.565 1:26.545
13 27 Nico Hulkenberg RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES 1:26.327 1:26.566
14 26 Daniil Kvyat ALPHATAURI HONDA 1:26.774 1:26.744
15 63 George Russell WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:26.732 1:27.092
16 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 1:27.158
17 99 Antonio Giovinazzi ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI 1:27.164
18 7 Kimi Räikkönen ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI 1:27.366
19 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:27.643
20 6 Nicholas Latifi WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:27.705


About the author

As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.

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