By Alan Baldwin
SILVERSTONE, England (Reuters) – Valtteri Bottas beat crowd favourite and Formula One leader Lewis Hamilton by a wafer-thin margin on Saturday to deny his Mercedes team mate a fifth successive British Grand Prix pole position.
The Finn was a mere 0.006 of a second quicker than the five times world champion as the two Silver Arrows once again locked out the front row of the grid on a cloudy afternoon at Silverstone.
Ferrari’s young Monegasque Charles Leclerc will share the second row with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who won the previous race in Austria where the two 21-year-olds clashed on track while fighting for victory in the closing laps.
The pole, in a time of one minute 25.093 seconds, was Bottas’s fourth in 10 races this season — more than any other driver — and career 10th.
“Ultimately not good enough,” said Hamilton, who was fastest in the first phase of qualifying, of his performance. “We worked really hard throughout the session but it just got a little bit away from us.
“I sacrificed a lap in Q2 (the second phase), which would have helped get a reading of how the car was. And then just at the end I had that mistake on the first lap and the second one just wasn’t that great.
“Fair play to Valtteri, he did the job. But it’s a long race tomorrow and we’ve got a great crowd here so hopefully I can do something different.”
Bottas is 31 points adrift of Hamilton in the championship and needs to close the gap, fully aware that his team mate has a habit of hitting full throttle once the August break is out of the way.
“I knew the first lap was good but it wasn’t perfect and honestly I should’ve improved in the second run and I’m glad it was enough – it’s not easy to get a quick lap together and it’s very easy to do mistakes,” said the happy Finn.
Hamilton remains well-placed, however, to take a record sixth home win and 80th of his career.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, last year’s race winner, was sixth and behind Red Bull’s French driver Pierre Gasly on the third row.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo lines up seventh for Renault, alongside McLaren’s Lando Norris after another fine performance by the British teenage rookie whose Spanish team mate Carlos Sainz was 13th.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)