Home favorite Lewis Hamilton has stormed to pole position for the British Grand Prix after setting the fastest lap in the dying moments of qualifying, edging out teammate Nico Rosberg and the Red Bull duo of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.
Hamilton, who won the race in 2008, set a lap of 1:29.607, and was the only driver to dip below the 1:30 mark as he took pole by 0.452 seconds despite the best efforts of his teammate and the Red Bulls, whilst Ferrari struggled to P10 and P12 on the grid.
The first qualifying session got underway as Silverstone bathed in bright sunshine, but this serenity was soon broken as Nico Hulkenberg became the first driver to set a flying lap of 1:35.806, although he quickly fell behind his teammate and the two Lotuses. Most of the cars opted to go out on hard tires, but Marussia looked to optimize their grid position by running on mediums early on as per usual. Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas put in good lap times early on, hoping that it would be enough to make it through, but Mercedes soon rose to the top of the timesheets on the medium tire; Hamilton’s lap was met with cheers from the British fans. Red Bull left it late to release their drivers, but they did enough to make it through with ease unlike Ferrari. Felipe Massa required a last-gasp lap to make it through by the skin of his teeth, whilst Fernando Alonso remained in the pits as Ferrari believed he had set a quick enough lap, only for him to scrape through in P15. The battle to beat the drop ensued between Esteban Gutierrez and the two Williams drivers, but the Sauber came unstuck and ended up P18. Bottas did enough to sit just outside the dropzone only for Maldonado to relegate him one place. Giedo van der Garde managed to finish 21st with just one flying lap, with teammate Charles Pic winning the battle at the back to qualifying 19th.
Mark Webber bucked the trend for Q2 and was first out on track, setting a respectable time on the hard compound tire which was soon beaten by both Mercedes on the white-ringed medium tire. Fernando Alonso got close to Webber’s time, as did Adrian Sutil, but it wasn’t until Sebastian Vettel posted his first lap time that the Mercedes dominance was broken, shooting up to P1. McLaren and Ferrari appeared to be struggling, with Massa, Perez and Button sitting the dropzone as the final runs began. Daniel Ricciardo and Paul di Resta both put in impressive times to secure a place in Q3, whilst Webber also put himself in the frame to vie for pole by finishing P2. Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen scraped through in 9th and 10th, as did Alonso in P8, but Massa could only finish 12th come the checkered flag, joining both McLarens, Vergne, Hulkenberg and Maldonado on the sidelines ahead of Q3.
Once again, it was Webber who was first out in Q3 along with compatriot Daniel Ricciardo. The Red Bull driver managed to open up a one second gap over his potential replacement, and Fernando Alonso slotted between the two as Ferrari opted to run their one remaining driver with hard tires to begin with. Mercedes once again exercised their superb one-lap pace to go P1 and P2; Hamilton leading Rosberg with Webber and Vettel just behind. For the final runs, all ten cars went out on the medium compound tire in pursuit of the best possible lap, but once again it was Mercedes who led the way. Webber could only go P2 with his final effort, but Rosberg managed to squeeze out his teammate to take provisional pole. However, Hamilton had other ideas, storming to pole position by 0.452 – a very sizeable gap – ahead of Rosberg, Vettel and Webber. Championship contenders Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso could only manage P9 and P10 respectively.
For Hamilton, this is an important pole in front of his home fans, with the Silverstone crowd also delighted to see Paul di Resta finish an excellent 5th ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Adrian Sutil. Now remains the question of whether or not Mercedes can carry this form over into the race tomorrow.
MRTI: Chris Griffis Test Saturday times and notebook
New Tatuus PM-18. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
INDIANAPOLIS – Here’s a rundown of times and notes from Saturday at the Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test, as all three rungs of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires ladder had their first day of testing on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. A link to Friday’s notebook is here.
Drivers and teams alike have raved about the pace, and the rather loud sound, of the new Tatuus PM-18 Mazda. Reports from private testing had the new car rather close to Indy Lights pace at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and rather quicker than the old car at Road America. The first tangible evidence of that occurred today as all 10 of the Pro Mazda drivers who got representative laps (second BN Racing car of Leonard Hoogenboom ran only a few laps in session four after engine issues all day) supplanted the Pro Mazda lap record at IMS – 1:22.8800 by Pato O’Ward in 2016 – easily. Oliver Askew’s best time of 1:19.8920 in the second session was nearly a full three seconds quicker on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course.
Of the 11 Pro Mazda drivers that ran today, only Carlos Cunha, Robert Megennis, Nikita Lastochkin, Kris Wright and Sting Ray Robb ran in the 2017 season. But it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any or all five of them running full-time in 2018 for what would be each of their second seasons in the championship, as returning sophomores along with what should be a glut of strong rookies. Wright, who also races sports cars, looks poised to add a second program of some other series to a planned Pro Mazda full season.
Megennis is planning to test with other teams in the weeks to come, as he tests for Juncos this week after racing in USF2000 with Pelfrey the last two years. Both he and Robb missed portions of sessions today with new car issues.
Several Indy Lights spins and off-course excursions occurred but none produced any serious issues. Rinus Veekay and Anthony Martin were among those to test the course limits but kept on going unharmed. Veekay had a spin in session three on new tires, then promptly laid down the fastest lap of the session for Belardi later on.
His teammate this weekend, Nico Jamin, wound up with the fastest lap of the day in Indy Lights – although he wasn’t quickest in the cool evening session, the fourth of the day, when most of the field ran some sticker tire runs on their Cooper tires.
Pro Mazda title combatants Victor Franzoni (Juncos) and Anthony Martin (Andretti) made their Indy Lights test debuts. The perpetually happy Franzoni wrote on Instagram, “Awesome day!! We finished the day in P3!! The most import we learned a lot!! Tomorrow will be even better!!” Martin, meanwhile, said this: “It’s obviously a new car – bigger, faster and a lot more downforce, so I’m adapting to it and growing up to it nice and slowly. You don’t want to push yourself too early, so we’re working up to a few things. You have to do things a lot quicker and you have to use a lot more brake pressure.”
In USF2000, it was an excellent day at the office for Pabst Racing with Andres Gutierrez – who impressed in a pair of weekends with DE Force Racing this year – leading three of four sessions, while teammates Hunter McElrea and Lucas Kohl were also in the top-five. Pabst has been busy running cars in both USF2000 and Pro Mazda this weekend.
Beyond Pabst, Newman Wachs Racing also had an excellent day, mainly with sophomore Darren Keane and Californian rookie Jake Craig. Keane, who’s coached by Ozz Negri, led the fourth and final session of the day, and stands as a driver who could make a big leap forward in performance if he secures a full season in 2018.
Another team of note today was BN Racing, with Callan O’Keefe – Keane’s teammate when both drove for Team BENIK at this race weekend last May – second best on the day. The South African is poised to be that team’s lead driver next season. Teammates Elliott Finlayson and Zoey Edenholm are working towards seasons of their own; Finlayson having coming off a recent Super Sweep in SCCA Runoffs competition at IMS last month and Edenholm having only just graduated from karts into cars just this month.
While the USF2000 field was primarily rookie-dominated, two-year series veteran Aaron Telitz made a cameo return today with RJB Motorsports, and brought the ex-ArmsUp chassis its best pace yet in RJB’s hands as the Wisconsinite ran with Mirl Swan and Alex Barron’s crew support. Past RJB driver and two-time Team USA Scholarship, Michai Stephens, was also on site today.
Speaking of ArmsUp, its top rookie from 2017, Devin Wojcik was on hand today making the rounds as well, although wasn’t in a car. He looks to return to USF2000 for a second season in 2018.
USF2000 boasted some good diversity with Pabst, BN, Newman Wachs, Exclusive, Pelfrey, BENIK and RJB teams in the top 10 today, but there’s one notable omission: Cape Motorsports. The seven-time defending champions in the series are not testing in USF2000 this weekend, and has just a single Pro Mazda car on site for Oliver Askew. Granted, the team is also at Circuit of The Americas this weekend for F4 U.S. Championship action, where Kyle Kirkwood has taken that series’ championship. DE Force, which also ran in USF2000 this year, is also not here this weekend as it’s at COTA. ArmsUp isn’t here this weekend either.