The first-ever Formula One Sprint Qualifying saw Max Verstappen take the win and claim pole position for Red Bull at the 2021 British Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton who started the race from the front of the grid was beaten by the Dutchman into turn 1 and will start from second. But as an inaugural Sprint Qualifying format, the race was extremely exciting.
The 100km sprint qualifying 17 lap race saw Verstappen get a great start from the front row. The Dutchman got past Hamilton to take the lead of the race and kept it for the remainder of the race.
Behind them, on the first lap, George Russell in the Williams had contact with Carlos Sainz which dropped the Ferrari driver to the back of the pack.
As expected, tyres played a key role in strategy. With a free choice of tyres, like Verstappen and Hamilton, a majority of the grid started on the medium tyres. But four gambled with the soft compound Pirellis. Valtteri Bottas in the Mercedes, the two Alpine cars of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen in the Alfa Romeo were the gamblers. Apart from Bottas who started and finished in third , three of the others started to gain places quickly.
But as the sprint to the finish line continued, the soft tyres started to drop off in terms of performance. On lap 9, Alonso, Norris and Perez were fighting for fifth place. Through the fast Chapel, disaster struck for Perez in the wake of the cars in front, and off he went almost into the barriers. The Mexican driver dropped down to the back of the pack. Perez who started from fifth already lost places at the start and had now dropped a total of 13 places.
At the end of the 17 laps, Verstappen won the sprint qualifying to be awarded pole position for the 2021 British Grand Prix. He also claims three championship points. Hamilton will start the race from second on the grid and adds two points to his campaign and Bottas in third, awarded one point.
Leclerc in his Ferrari finished fourth and that is where he will start from. The two McLarens of Norris and Ricciardo settled for fifth and sixth, both of whom had made up a place each. Alonso made up four places and will start from seventh ahead of Vettel who moved up two places and into eighth on the grid. George Russell will start from ninth after dropping a place but will be ahead of Ocon in 10th.
Sainz drove well to recover to P11 getting past Gasly in the closing stages. The Frenchman will start from 12th on the grid. However, Russel will serve a 3-place grid drop after the contact with Sainz, meaning he drops down to 12th. Raikkonen with his good race pace on the soft tyres moved up four places and will start from 13th on the grid, ahead of Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin in 14th.
Giovinazzi, Tsunoda, Latifi, Schumacher and Mazepin will start from 15th through 19th respectively. But Sergio Perez will line up all the way back in 20th for Red Bull after his trip to the gravel as he retired the car on the final lap to lose a total of 15 places from his 5th place start.
The full Grand Prix race will take place as always on Sunday with the trial Sprint Qualifying classification making up the grid positions. From what we have witnessed today, Sprint Qualifying may have some meat in it and with a few changes and improvements, we could find it a regular affair in F1. But we still have two more trials to go later this year. Should you wish to know how this new trial format works, also read: F1 Sprint Qualifying Format at British GP Explained: How it works and what changes
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