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Max Verstappen Takes Pole in a Thrilling Silverstone Qualifying

Written by Vyas Ponnuri

Verstappen pleased to take pole position; credit - Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

The result will say the driver has taken pole for the fifth consecutive race, but that was far from straightforward, in a typical Silverstone qualifying session, that went from wet conditions to a sunny session right into the late stages of Q3, with action across all three segments of qualifying.

While Max Verstappen did take pole position on the day, he was made to work for it, having faced an unlikely challenge from the McLarens of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, who managed to net their first double top-three grid positions since that famous weekend at Monza two years ago. And should there be a repeat of the final result from that day, it is fair to say the team will be overjoyed with the result, considering their early-season struggles.

The other challengers for pole were Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, who ultimately fell short of Verstappen’s time right at the end, and had to settle for fourth and fifth respectively, ahead of the two Mercedes cars - George Russell outqualifying Lewis Hamilton, the seven-time World Champion surviving a spin early on in Q1, at a damp Stowe corner.

Alex Albon thrilled in qualifying once again; Although, he would be slightly let down with his eighth-place finish, which underlines the incredible pace he had all weekend. Fernando Alonso would be disappointed with ninth, however, he will be looking forward to being more competitive in the race. Pierre Gasly rounded out the top ten in his Alpine.

It wasn’t smooth sailing for Verstappen, who had to deal with the changeable conditions, and a small brush with the pit wall, which saw the Dutchman break his front wing, an incident reminiscent of Hamilton at Sochi in 2021. The two-time world champion also dueled with Hamilton on their out-laps in Q1, and managed to make it through into Q2, while his teammate Sergio Perez made a surprise exit in Q1.

Q1 - A Surprise elimination headlines a wet to dry session

Qualifying began on a mostly dry track, with the most prominent damp spot being turn 15 at Stowe. Drivers initially went out on track on either soft or intermediate tyres, but those on the latter came in instantly, to switch to soft tyres.

And as was expected, the right-hander at Stowe began to catch drivers out. Carlos Sainz, Alex Albon, and Lewis Hamilton among the drivers finding the conditions to be tougher, the latter having a big spin that sent him into the gravel. Thankfully, Hamilton recovered from his spin, and got a representative time on the board.

Kevin Magnussen stopped on the run down to the Vale corner, bringing out the red flag with three minutes and 11 seconds to go. It would be a one-lap shootout on a track evolving rapidly, and while Verstappen survived a few hiccups, he made it through to the next part of qualifying. Unfortunately, Sergio Perez was eliminated in Q1, having been the first driver to set a lap time on the drying track. He made way in the first stage of qualifying, along with Yuki Tsunoda, Zhou Guanyu, Nyck de Vries, and Kevin Magnussen. Valtteri Bottas too stopped at Luffield corner after the chequered flag had fallen, having stated “No power”, meaning he wouldn’t take part in the next stage of qualifying, having finished the session 11th.

Q2 - Another topsy-turvy session follows

Much like Q1, Q2 would also see major track evolution, the lap times getting quicker and quicker, with the sun slowly peeking out. The threat of rain had reduced, and all drivers started the session on soft tyres, barring Bottas.

A number of drivers were in contention for the top spot, with Gasly, Norris, Norris’s teammate Piastri, and Verstappen, but ultimately, it was Verstappen who took top spot in the session, ahead of Norris and Piastri. Albon and Logan Sargeant appeared to be a threat to make it through into Q3, but Sargeant was out of the running, following two lap-time deletions, while Albon made it through to Q3, despite a lap time deletion of his own.

The last moments of Q2 saw Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon jostle over track position on their out-laps, although neither driver eventually made it through to Q3, finishing 12th and 13th in the session respectively. Nico Hulkenberg too found himself out, following a late effort from Gasly to squeeze into Q3.

Verstappen and Red Bull were far superior in the Q2 and Q3 sessions, credit - Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Q3 - A surprise top three, despite a familiar face at the top

Q3 began under sunny conditions, and for the first time in the session, DRS was enabled. And Max Verstappen set the bar straight out of the pits, a 1:27.084s on a fresh set of tyres, over six tenths ahead of Hamilton’s Mercedes, the latter on a used set of soft tyres, along with the rest of the field.

With three minutes to go, the drivers were out on track to have a crack at Verstappen’s time. Leclerc and Sainz came close to beating the Dutchman’s time, but would be second and third at that point. Russell, Hamilton, and Alonso failed to eclipse the Red Bull driver’s initial time. However, Piastri soared up to second on the grid with an excellent lap, while Norris went even better, beating Verstappen’s lap time. However, the two-time world champion showed his abilities and his pace, usurping Norris’s lap time by 0.241 seconds.

The top ten in Q3 were - Verstappen, Norris, Piastri, Leclerc, Sainz, Russell, Hamilton, Albon, Alonso, and Pierre Gasly.

UPDATE - Valtteri Bottas has been disqualified from qualifying for failing to provide the stewards with an adequate fuel sample. He will start 20th on the grid, which promotes Perez, Tsunoda, Zhou, de Vries and Magnussen up by one position each.

Norris (L), with Verstappen and Piastri (R). Credit - Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images


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