Three cheers for Brits! Russell beats Hamilton to take Silverstone F1 pole with Norris third

SILVERSTONE, England (AP) — The home crowd had three reasons to cheer when George Russell narrowly beat Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position for the British Grand Prix, and Lando Norris was third quickest for McLaren on Saturday.

It was all about the Brits at Silverstone, with Formula 1 leader Max Verstappen taking a rare back seat and qualifying in fourth for Red Bull.

“The crowd gives us so much energy. I don’t think Silverstone could have dreamt of (this),” a jubilant Russell said. “Three Brits in the top three, we love the support and we can’t wait for the race tomorrow.”

Russell is perfectly poised to aim for a second straight F1 win following his victory at the Austrian GP last weekend. Mercedes is showing signs of closing the gap in terms of speed, and team principal Toto Wolff clenched his fist after his drivers secured a 1-2.

“What a feeling. This is just mega,” Russell said. “The car at the moment is feeling so, so good. We are riding this wave and absolutely buzzing.”

Russell arrived at the track wearing an England soccer shirt ahead of the national team’s European Championship quarterfinal against Switzerland later Saturday, and said his own nerves were on edge.

“Probably the most pressure I’ve ever felt in a qualifying session,” he said, praising the crowd for uplifting him. “I wasn’t feeling that confident with myself.”

Hamilton just missed out on a record-extending 105th F1 pole by .171 seconds while Norris was .211 seconds behind Russell, who secured his second pole of the season and third of his career.

“Three Brits in the top three is incredible,” said Hamilton, who has won at Silverstone a record eight times. “This is huge for us (Mercedes). The car felt great.”

Sergio Perez’s poor run of form for Red Bull continued. He went off track at Copse corner and into the gravel during Q1 — the first part of qualifying — prompting team principal Christian Horner to shake his head. Perez’s car was removed by a crane as the Mexican driver looked on.

Since being given a two-year contract extension last month, Perez has not finished higher than seventh in three races and faces a difficult task to score points from 19th spot.

When qualifying resumed dark clouds were forming over the six-kilometer (3.7-mile) circuit.

Verstappen uttered an expletive over the team radio after momentarily sliding off track and riding over some gravel. He was way off the pace in Q1, which was led by Hamilton, and again in Q2, which Norris led.

Verstappen missed out on a ninth pole of the season. But he praised his team for fixing damage to the car floor from going over the gravel.

“I gave it everything. Guys, thank you very much,” the Dutchman said on radio. “We’ll go at it tomorrow.”

It was a frustrating day for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who failed to make it into Q3, the top 10 shootout, and starts 11th.

“I had huge problems with balance,” said Leclerc, who won the Monaco GP from pole in May.

McLaren’s Oscar Piastri goes from fifth followed by Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg, with Carlos Sainz Jr. (Ferrari), Lance Stroll (Aston Martin), Alex Albon (Williams) and two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) rounding out the top 10.

French driver Esteban Ocon qualified in 18th and called qualifying “embarrassing” for the Alpine team. He is leaving at the end of the year and reportedly could join Haas.

Earlier Saturday, a rainy third session saw an early red flag when Alpine driver Pierre Gasly went into the gravel.

Russell led P3 narrowly ahead of Hamilton in a sign of things to come.

“To compete with the McLarens and Red Bulls is a great feeling, a massive boost,” said Hamilton, who won the last of his record 103 F1 races in the penultimate race of 2021.

Norris led the two practices on Friday with Verstappen finishing out of the top three both times.

In Sunday’s race, the start could prove crucial.

Norris has to get past two Mercedes and hold off Verstappen alongside him, one week after Verstappen and Norris crashed into each other late on in Austria.

“I can bring the fight to George and Lewis so I’m excited to put on a good show,” Norris said. “I’m confident we can execute a good race.”


AP auto racing:

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