Valtteri Bottas upstaged his team-mate Lewis Hamilton on Saturday when he secured pole position as Mercedes locked out the front row of the grid for Sunday’s British Grand Prix.
The Finn, who is 31 points adrift of defending world champion Hamilton in this year’s title race, clocked a track record fastest lap in one minute and 25.093 seconds to outpace the local hero by just 0.006 seconds.
“It was really good and it reminds me of why we do this,” said a smiling Bottas after securing his first British pole position and tenth of his career.
“It’s been really close with Lewis all weekend and I am really happy to get such a good lap and pole.”
Hamilton, who is hunting a record sixth victory in his home event, said: “Congratulations to Valtteri — he did a really good job. It wasn’t quite good enough… But this is the best Grand Prix of the year because of the energy this crowd and all these people bring.”
It was Mercedes’ 64th front-row lockout of the grid for a Grand Prix.
Charles Leclerc of Ferrari was third, just 0.079 seconds adrift of Bottas, ahead of Max Verstappen and his Red Bull team-mate Pierre Gasly with four-time champion Sebastian Vettel sixth in the second Ferrari.
Leclerc said: “I think Mercedes turned up the engine a little bit and they were so good in the corners, which we know we need to work on.”
Daniel Ricciardo was seventh for Renault ahead of rookies Lando Norris of McLaren and Alexander Albon of Toro Rosso. Nico Hulkenberg was 10th in the second Renault.
Two weeks after the heat-wave conditions in the Styrian Alps, the session began in cool and overcast conditions in front of packed grandstands with a little hint of sunshine. The track temperature fell to 28 degrees, around 30 below that recorded in Austria.
Leclerc proved his speed in the damp morning practice was no fluke with a series of quick record laps, on medium compound tyres, to top the times before Hamilton, on softer rubber, took over.
His best lap in 1:25.513 was only 0.020 seconds faster than Leclerc’s, suggesting a close scrap was in prospect later in qualifying and also for Sunday’s race. Verstappen was third for Red Bull, promising a possible three-team tussle.
As they progressed to Q2, Kevin Magnussen in the unpredictable Haas, topped the drivers who failed to make the cut ahead of Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso, Lance Stroll of Racing Point and the two Williams men, George Russell and Robert Kubica.
Bottas led Hamilton out for Q2, both on mediums, but Leclerc, also on mediums, was soon on top again in 1:25.646 followed by the two Mercedes and Verstappen.
Unexpectedly, Leclerc made a late switch to join Vettel on softs in the closing minutes, trimming his time to 1:25.546 to finish top ahead of Bottas and Hamilton, Verstappen and Vettel.
Most teams had estimated that the durability of the soft compounds was uncertain with them forecast to last no more than around 10 race laps, making it appear Ferrari had chosen a deliberately risky strategy.
After a final flurry of action, the two Alfa Romeos of Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen were eliminated along with Carlos Sainz of McLaren, Romain Grosjean in the second Haas and Sergio Perez of Racing Point.
On his first flying run in Q3, Bottas set a benchmark 1:25.093, 0.25 ahead of Hamilton who had a ‘moment’ after running deep at Brooklands. The championship leader narrowed the gap but couldn’t overhaul his teammate.