Max Verstappen jumped Lewis Hamilton off the line and claimed victory in Formula 1’s inaugural sprint race at the British Grand Prix.
The experimental 17-lap dash to decide the grid for Sunday’s main event was more eventful than sceptics feared, though the battle for the win was settled on the opening lap.
Despite the left front brake of Verstappen’s Red Bull catching fire on the grid, the championship leader made a better start than Hamilton and was clear of the Mercedes by the time they reached the first corner.
Though Hamilton tried to retaliate around the outside of both Brooklands and Copse on the first lap, Verstappen was able to make a slight break. His lead peaked at just over 2s and he won by 1.4s.
Mercedes threatened an upset by putting Valtteri Bottas on soft tyres while the vast majority had mediums, but Bottas was unable to get near Verstappen on the first lap and just steadily fell away in third place.
Alpine using the same tactic with both Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon shaped most of what happened behind.
Alonso pulled off an extraordinary first few corners to go from 11th to fifth with some imaginative use of the outside lines, and then dug in to try to hold off a pack of faster cars on more durable tyres – which also made sure Charles Leclerc in front had an uncontested run to fourth for Ferrari.
The McLarens of Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo eventually made it past Alonso despite the double champion’s best efforts (which included some weaving to try to break slipstreams) to claim fifth and sixth.
Sergio Perez had dropped behind Alonso and Norris during the opening corners and in his hurry to recover he spun out of the Becketts complex on lap five.
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 17, 2021
Remarkably the Red Bull missed the wall in the high-speed incident, but Perez fell right back to 19th and could only regain one place before pitting on the final lap when the team told him to retire the car. He’ll start the British GP last.
Carlos Sainz also tumbled down the order, in his case after a first-lap brush with George Russell that sent him over the run-off area.
The Ferrari rejoined in 17th but recovered well to reach 11th.
Alonso managed to hold Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin at bay for seventh, with Russell ninth for Williams but under investigation for the Sainz incident and Ocon completing the top 10.
Sprint Qualifying Results
|1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull-Honda||1m30.013s|
|8||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin-Mercedes||+44.439s||1m31.687s|
|13||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||+50.677s||1m32.139s|
|14||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin-Mercedes||+52.179s||1m32.21s|
|15||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||+53.225s||1m32.457s|
|Sergio Pérez||Red Bull-Honda||1m31.465s|