Mon | Jan 24, 2022

Verstappen takes pole in historic sprint qualifier

Published:Sunday | July 18, 2021 | 12:52 AM

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands pulls away from Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain during the Sprint Qualifying of the British Formula One Grand Prix, at the Silverstone circuit in Silverstone, England, yesterday.
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands pulls away from Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain during the Sprint Qualifying of the British Formula One Grand Prix, at the Silverstone circuit in Silverstone, England, yesterday.

SILVERSTONE, England (AP):

Max Verstappen out-dragged Lewis Hamilton at the start of Formula One’s (F1) experimental first sprint qualifying race to take the pole for the British Grand Prix and spoil the homecoming of the seven-time champion.

Hamilton initially seemed fine with the defeat and showed enthusiasm for the format and the fan energy at packed Silverstone.

“I don’t know how it looks to watch from the fans,” Hamilton said from aboard an open-air trolley used for the “podium” drivers as they were taken for a lap past the grandstands.

For him, Hamilton said in the trolley the inaugural sprint race format was “way more enjoyable. We should do more like that, or a version of it in the future.”

He’d changed his tune by the post-race news conference, and Hamilton sullenly accepted that he’d lost again to Verstappen and Red Bull. Hamilton said there he didn’t like the format – which, also, cost him another point in the standings.

The Dutchman stretched his lead over Hamilton by winning the sprint and takes a 33-point advantage over the beloved local driver in today’s Grand Prix.

“In my opinion there needs to be a Saturday and Sunday weekend,” Hamilton said.

Verstappen and third-place Valtteri Bottas said they preferred the traditional three-round qualifying, that they’d rather have used the track time for practice.

REACHING YOUNGER DEMOGRAPHICS

The leaders of F1 have recognised the series needs a freshening as its audience starts reaching key younger demographics, so this weekend they tried something new. One practice session was cut and transitioned instead Friday to the preferred knockout qualifying, which was won by Hamilton.

But that only set the starting grid for Saturday’s sprint race – dicey because there’s always the chance the drivers don’t push hard out of fear of damaging their cars a day early when points aren’t on the line.

That wasn’t a problem because it was racy right from Verstappen’s jump on Hamilton as flames shot from Verstappen’s heated left front tyre. Fernando Alonso jumped from 11th to fifth in the opening lap before finishing seventh, and Sergio Pérez Jr crashed.

Any chance at Hamilton finally bettering the championship leader was lost when Verstappen simply drove away from Hamilton at the start.

“They’ve done a really great job with their engine, their starts are really great this year,” Hamilton said. “We’ve lost a bit of performance on our starts, so we’ve got to work a bit harder to improve that.”

Verstappen earned three points for the win, as well as the pole for today’s full Grand Prix. It put Verstappen in position for a fourth consecutive win, all from pole.

Red Bull has won five straight, which includes a Pérez victory. He was the biggest casualty of the experimental qualifying when Pérez crashed on the fifth lap and finished last.

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 3

2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 2

3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 1

4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

5. Lando Norris (McLaren)

6. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)

7. Fernando Alonso (Alpine)

8. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin)

9. George Russell (Williams)

10. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)

11. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)

12. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)

13. Kimi Räikkönen (Alfa Romeo)

14. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)

15. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo)

16. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)

17. Nicholas Latifi (Williams)

18. Mick Schumacher (Haas)

19. Nikita Mazepin (Haas)

20. Sergio Pérez (Red Bull)