FORMULA 1: Carlos Sainz mastered a soggy Silverstone to beat Championship leader Max Verstappen to pole position for the British Grand Prix.
Ferrari’s Spanish driver Carlos Sainz Jr rides in the rain during the second qualifying session for the British Formula One Grand Prix at the Silverstone racing circuit in Silverstone, central England, July 2, 2022. Photo: AFP
The English summer arrived in all its glory just as qualifying began, drenching the circuit with rain and intensifying in time for the pole shootout, although the weather calmed down once the cars returned to the track for Q3.
This turned the competition for first place from a pursuit of the perfect lap into a battle to be the last rider to set a lap time to take advantage of the drying circuit.
Ferrari and Red Bull Racing traded fastest times over the 12 minutes, but in their final laps Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen made crucial mistakes, with the first turn and second registering a messy second sector.
Only Sainz’s lap was clean enough to take the lead, and without enough time for either Leclerc or Verstappen to respond, pole position belonged to the Spaniard on his 150th start.
“In the end, I did a trick that I thought was nothing special,” he said. “Just put it on the board and see how it is, and it was pole position, which was a bit of a surprise.
“It was a good lap, but I was having a hard time with the standing water on the intermediate…it was very easy to snap and lose the lap.
Still winless despite his growing collection of podiums ‒ he is now just two podium appearances away from the all-time high for most podiums without a win ‒ Sainz said he was confident victory could be had since pole.
“The rhythm has been there all weekend,” he said. “If I base myself on my [free practice] rhythm, then we should be in a good position to keep it.
Max Verstappen’s fastest lap was just 0.072 seconds slower than Sainz, and the Dutchman said qualifying on the second row was a decent result for the conditions.
“It was a pretty tricky qualifying with the rain,” he said. “Overall the car was running very well.
“Being on the front row is very good for us. We have a good racing car, I think, in the dry and in the wet.
Charles Leclerc completed the top three but admitted he wasn’t sure how his race would go from there.
“The strategy is a bit mixed between one and two stops,” he said. “It will be interesting to see who opts for the single stop or the two stops.”
Sergio Perez finished fourth in sister car Red Bull Racing, despite being 0.6 seconds off the pace.
Mercedes’ upgrades resulted in a rather disappointing fifth for Lewis Hamilton more than a second behind, with the team’s technical director saying afterwards that he expected a lot more from the new parts.
Lando Norris was less than a tenth slower on a good afternoon in his home race, qualifying sixth.
Fernand Alonso showed terrific pace at times throughout qualifying, but his race times saw him finish seventh ahead of the second Mercedes of George Russell.
Zhou Guanyu finished ninth for Alfa Romeo ahead of Williams driver Nicholas Latifi, who will start a career-best equal 10th on the grid for just the second time in his career.
Pierre Gasly overqualified Valtteri Bottas and Yuki Tsunoda, but the biggest knockouts of Q2 were Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon, who were surprised by the intensifying rain during the qualifying segment.
Deteriorating conditions meant neither were able to improve on their lackluster opening lap, dooming them to 14th and 15th on the grid.
Thai driver Alex Albon will line up 16th on the grid despite using Williams’ updated aero package, which his Q3 teammate Nicholas Latifi did not benefit from.
Albon was frustrated with the team’s tire strategy, which he felt did not give him enough temperature in his wet weather tires as he was asked to alternate between fast and slow laps.
Haas and Aston Martin shared the final grid positions, with Kevin Magnussen beating Sebastian Vettel and Mick Schumacher ahead of Lance Stroll.