I may as well have not bothered with the qualifying prediction after FP3 what with the damp conditions, but at least I got the pole sitter right! Lewis Hamilton convincingly took his third Silverstone Grand Prix pole in a right, fending off the resurgent Ferraris after they were off the pace throughout free practice. Hamilton clocked a 1:26:600 – a new absolute lap record around the track since its modifications in 2010. More impressingly, Kimi Raikkonens could only post a time of 1:27:147, over half a second back. His performance however did shut me up to some extent after I thought one of the Red Bulls may well have qualified ahead of him.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Lewis; the FIA did investigate the Brit after Romain Grosjean adjudged him to block his flying lap during Q3. It would’ve been very harsh for Lewis to receive this penalty, so it was no surprise when the FIA noted that there would be no further action. Now that Lewis can sleep knowing that his pole position is intact, he is now just 1 pole position away from the all time record currently held by Michael Schumacher. One would be a fool to bet against him not beating this record at some point in 2017.
“I was coming round to start my lap and Valtteri was up ahead. I was trying, as we all do, to get the space. Behind me was a Force India which then came in so there was nobody behind me. Literally as l was about to get on the gas l looked in my mirrors and saw there was a car coming and went as quick as l could. I don;’t know if l got in the way and if l did l apologise. I had no indication from anyone at the team that there was anybody coming. I think l just got out of the way without blocking him. I don’t think he was that close when l did pull away. But I’d have to look at the footage again.”
Lewis Hamilton after the incident with Romain Grosjean in Q3
Lewis’ Mercedes team-mate Valteri Bottas will be disappointed that he could only secure 4th place on the grid, which will convert into a 9th place start on the grid. More worryingly, in the same machinery in similar conditions, Valteris’ fastest time was some 7 tenths off of his British counterpart. Having said that, Mercedes decided to send Valteri out on the softs in Q2, with the hope that he can run longer into the Grand Prix and have a pace advantage during the closing stages of the race.
Like Valteri, Sebastian may feel disappointed that he couldn’t secure a front row start on the grid after being pipped by Kimi for only the 3rd time this season. Still, Seb will feel confident that his upgraded power unit will give him the best chance of closing the gap to Lewis, whilst the strategy employed during the race may or may not give the German the jump over his team-mate.
Elsewhere in the top 10, Nico Hulkenberg continued his fine form throughout the weekend by securing a highly impressive 6th place. The German has looked consistently quick all weekend, and a time of 1:28:856 secured a 3rd row start along with the Red Bull of Max Verstappen. It was also a solid performance from Jolyon Palmer, after a string of bad luck in previous races. He probably is getting sick of that 11th spot, but this gives him the opportunity to start on whichever tyre he wishes. I personally hope he gets points tomorrow; he deserves a break and it may well take some mounting pressure off him.
Back to Nico; he has shown solid pace this weekend, but he did profit from problems with Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull. Going into qualifiying, the Aussie already knew he faced an uphill battle after the Gearbox change after FP3. His task has been made even harder after what seemed to be a turbo issue coming out of Luffield corner. It will be difficult for Daniel to score points, but the encouraging pace the 2 Red Bull boys have shown throughout the weekend should give the Aussie confidence. Fair to say that his podium streak maybe coming to an end now though unfortunately.
The Mclaren drivers definitely had fun out on track in qualifying today. The team have been able to show the strengths of their chassis on a track needing a strong aerodynamic package, with Stoffel getting into the top 10 and out-qualifying Fernando Alonso for the first time this season. Whilst Stoffel deserves praise for achieving this, Fernando somewhat took the spotlight from his Belgian counterpart after finishing P1 (yes, you heard that right!) after Q1. The Spaniard made the bold choice to switch to the supersofts from inters after the track had dried sufficiently. Barely making the chequered flag, Fernando then set a time that was 1.3 seconds quicker than Lewis’ faster time. Yes, I know it was Q1, but was pleasant to see Fernando once again top the timesheets and he was clearly having fun out there even though he knew he was taking a 30 place grid penalty!
With more potential rain expected tomorrow, we may well see another topsy turvy race, with a few surprising results. I am not confident what so ever in the final standings, but I do think Lewis will take the win, with Seb jumping his team-mate into second, leaving a 3 way battle between Verstappen, Raikkonen and Bottas for the final podium place. I fully expect my predictions to be completely wrong though!