Red Bull's Max Verstappen wins first sprint race to clinch British Grand Prix pole

Lewis Hamilton comes in second as 100,000 spectators witness historic qualifying session at Silverstone

Even a change in rules could not stop Max Verstappen as the Red Bull driver and world championship leader won Formula One's first-ever sprint race on Saturday to take pole position for the British Grand Prix.

Verstappen finished the 100km dash ahead of defending champion Lewis Hamilton, while Valtteri Bottas in the other Mercedes came in third.

The Red Bull star went into the weekend with a 32-point lead over seven-time champion Hamilton who is hoping for an eighth British Grand Prix triumph on Sunday, but is looking increasingly uncertain due of lack of power in his car compared to the championship leader.

At the end of the first lap, Verstappen was more than one second clear of Hamilton. Soon the Dutchman doubled the gap with Hamilton running out of laps. "I am giving everything. Have we got any more power?" Hamilton yelled over the radio.

On the other hand, it was yet another near-flawless outing for Red Bull and Verstappen.

"Around here it is difficult to pass but I made a good start and had a good fight with Lewis on the first lap," said Verstappen.

"We pushed each other hard and we had to manage the tyres to the end. I am happy to get the three points and it is funny to hear I am on pole but I will take it and I am looking forward to tomorrow's race."

Hamilton started the 17-lap sprint at the front of the grid having topped qualifying on Friday but was passed by Verstappen. He admitted he will face a battle to secure a 99th career win.

"First of all, let me say thank you to the fans, their energy is amazing," he said.

"I gave it everything today, I'm just sorry I couldn't win it for them. Tomorrow we will fight again, but Red Bull are just so strong."

He added: "Verstappen was pulling away and there was nothing I could do to hold on to him. Their starts have been great this year and we've lost a bit on our starts and losing position is never a good thing - I wish we could do the start again."

Mercedes teammate Bottas shared Hamilton's lack of optimism for race day.

"We tried to do something different and the target was to try and get Verstappen in the first lap. It didn't happen," said the Finn.

"Today shows that tomorrow is not going to be easy. If it's going to be a bit warmer, then we might see more issues.

The rest of the top 10 was made up of Charles Leclerc in a Ferrari in fourth, Britain's Lando Norris, in a McLaren, in fifth, and teammate Daniel Ricciardo just behind.

Fernando Alonso, behind the wheel of an Alpine, shrugged off his 39 years to climb to seventh on the grid.

Behind him are four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel in the Aston Martin, Williams' George Russell and Esteban Ocon in the second Alpine.

The big casualty of the new format was Verstappen's team mate Sergio Perez, who spun off across the gravel on lap six and was then told by the team to retire the car before the finish.

Saturday's sprint qualifying race was the first of three planned for this year. Another will follow at the Italian Grand Prix in September with the third venue still to be confirmed. It was a special day for F1 fans as more than 100,000 spectators arrived at Silverstone for the historic race.

The pole was a fourth in a row for Verstappen, who will be chasing his sixth win of the season and fourth in succession on Sunday.

Updated: July 17th 2021, 5:07 PM