Valtteri Bottas has drawn first blood at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix from Silverstone beating Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to pole position as Nico Hulkenberg claimed a sublime third position in his second substitution race with Racing Point.
Having aced Q1 and Q2, Bottas looked on unparallel form heading into the final segment of qualifying but found himself down on Hamilton after the opening run in Q3.
The incumbent world champion moseyed to the head of the timesheets with a storming benchmark time on the soft compound tyre.
The softer tyres brought to this weekend’s race means almost every driver bravely attempted to qualifying on the medium or hard tyre to avoid the indecently fast wear of the softs.
But like Bottas, Hamilton would run his final Q3 lap on the medium tyre and while both would improve on their lap times it was the Finn who romped to the top of the timesheets 0.063s clear of his rival.
The most impressive outing was by super sub Hulkenberg who only started his second qualifying of the year having been parachuted in to replace Sergio Perez who tested positive for Covid-19 a second time.
The German was comfortably quicker than his teammate Lance Stroll and his final time was enough to edge out Red Bull’s Max Verstappen who went the alternative strategy of running his final run on the soft tyre but failed to improve.
Daniel Ricciardo came into the round believing Renault can score a podium on outright pace after his jubilant fourth placed finish last weekend and the Australian has put himself firmly in the fight for a top-three having set the fifth fastest time.
Stroll ensured Racing Point had both its cars starting on the front three rows ahead of Perre Gasly and Charles Leclerc.
The Ferrari star equalled the Italian’s outfit worst qualifying performance at Silverstone since their tumultuous 2014 season. Sebastian Vettel was recovering lost time after an engine drama in FP2 and could only muster 12th.
Alexander Albon ended up half a second behind Verstappen, but he did at least make it through to Q3 for the first time since Austria to start ninth.
Lando Norris closed out the top 10 for McLaren while Carlos Sainz was another runner to improve with their final Q2 effort but not go through to the shootout as he wound up 13th. The team’s incredible stream of both cars in Q3 has thus been ended.
Romain Grosjean took 14th for Haas ahead of George Russell, who again made it out of Q1 for the fourth race in succession for the ailing Williams squad.
Kevin Magnussen was knocked out in the final laps of Q1 as the Haas driver failed to improve, with Nicholas Latifi and the Alfa Romeo duo of Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen bringing up the rear of the field.
The 52-lap 70th Anniversary Grand Prix is scheduled to start from 1.10 am NZT tomorrow morning.