Max Verstappen was seen waving his hands at the end of the final qualifying run on Friday as he emerged second-best but only to Lewis Hamilton here at Silverstone for round ten of the 2021 season. It was more a sign of, “Well, I tried my best but that’s all I could do today. We will see tomorrow!”
Advantage Max Verstappen
But on Saturday, the Red Bull driver took perhaps three seconds or maybe less to snatch the lead from Lewis Hamilton, the Briton seeming utterly in charge the proceedings for Formula 1’s maiden sprint race, which was aced without much ado by Max Verstappen.
In taking home three strong points, with Hamilton, who despite his P2, delivered the fastest lap of the day, Red Bull have fired the opening salvo for what seems to be a spicy race for Sunday. Valtteri Bottas, meanwhile, settled for third and collected a useful point in Mercedes’ dominant 2 and 3.
It wasn’t that Lewis Hamilton was found napping at the start of the historic maiden sprint race; it’s probably just that Max Verstappen was more hungrier than the seven-time world champion as he cut across to the Briton to snatch lead making light-work of a man so determined to excel in front of home fans.
It was a qualifying afternoon to forget for Sergio Perez, who made a visit down the barriers and limped back to the rear-end of the field, better only just when compare to the two Haas drivers.
Ricciardo and Norris, due to start sixth and fifth, respectively, showed glimpses of great pace for McLaren and seem firmly etched in the contest to deliver a great race tomorrow, while Charles Leclerc collected a hard-fought fourth, seemingly out of trouble for the entirety of the afternoon.
The greatest Sprint moment, if one could put it that way, belonged for Fernando Alonso, who in demonstrating quintessential herculean appetite for a battle went four places up in the end, having made several places seconds form the sprint-start, eventually settling for seventh. A masterclass in attacking driving that could have most certainly happened from the greatest counter-attacking racer on the grid, if one should put it that way.
Yet, in keeping his Alpine ahead of the fast-catching Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel, the German bossing Stroll, yet again, had to settle for a decent-if not lowly- eighth.
George Russell, one of the most promising talents around, bagged a fighting ninth, his best-start ever in front of home fans, keeping the nose of his Williams ahead of Esteban Ocon, in the other Alpine.
Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz, who at the start lost two places and had to mount a fast-paced recovery drive begins the 2021 British Grand Prix from eleventh on the grid, just ahead of Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, the Frenchman in twelfth.
Kimi Raikkonen, meanwhile, made up four places right at the start and showed great reflexes and hunger to contest in bagging thirteenth, easily a second up on Lance Stroll, P14. The brand new set of soft tyres helping the two ageing warriors on the grid in Kimi and Alonso to show some mettle on an afternoon that was about as important as the main race event.
Down in fifteenth was Antonio Giovinazzi, who actually began from thirteenth on the grid but couldn’t keep his head down to make foray north of the grid.
But his effort was enough in keeping Yuki Tsunoda behind, who struggled all afternoon, never looking in a position to make a single move in all of the seventeen laps afforded to the drivers.
Will Max Verstappen trump Lewis tomorrow?
The last four grid positions were made up by the quartet of Latifi, Schumacher, Mazepin and Perez, the Red Bull driver having been asked to retire the car in the very last lap seconds before the checkered car. Should the Red Bull engineers repair the suspension damage and the front wing, which ideally they should, it will all be down to Perez to mount the charge ahead and recover from the end of the grid.
That being told, Sunday’s race offers the prospect of seeing yet another tantalising Max Verstappen versus Lewis Hamilton duel, the likes of which we’ve seen in the past couple of races.
One remembers the 2018 British GP, where with Hamilton in top form and Vettel stepping on the top step of the podium, the German’s last-ever win, thus far, at the venue seeing Max Verstappen retiring, a prospect that would please Hamilton fans endlessly should that happen after all.
Though, for now, it’s Hamilton chasing Verstappen, in the familiar role of the hunter. But could it be that he becomes the hunted at the completion of what promises to be a fascinating race? A lot of that would also boil down who excels in the art of tyre-management.