Hamilton blasts to British GP pole with stunning Q3 lap

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Lewis Hamilton blasted his way to pole position for the British Grand Prix on Saturday thanks to a stunning final lap in qualifying that saw him finish half a second clear of the Formula 1 field.

Home favorite Hamilton entered the race weekend keen to end a patchy run of form that has seen him slip 20 points back of Sebastian Vettel in the drivers’ championship, and the Briton sent out an emphatic warning shot with his qualifying display.

In greasy conditions following early rain, Hamilton was able to produce a lap of 1:26.600 to take pole at Silverstone, sending the home crowds into raptures.

Kimi Raikkonen finished as the best of the rest for Ferrari, qualifying second, while Vettel was left to settle for third after a scruffy final effort in Q3.

Valtteri Bottas finished fourth for Mercedes, but will drop back to P9 thanks to a grid penalty, bumping Max Verstappen onto the second row.

Nico Hulkenberg excelled in the damp conditions to qualify sixth for Renault ahead of the Force India duo of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, while Stoffel Vandoorne was able to lead McLaren into Q3, finishing ninth. Romain Grosjean rounded out the top 10 for Haas.

Jolyon Palmer’s hopes of reaching Q3 on home soil were dashed late in the second session, the Renault man being bumped out in P11 after Perez made a late improvement.

Daniil Kvyat qualified 12th for Toro Rosso ahead of Fernando Alonso, who was half a second slower than teammate Vandoorne in Q2, but Spaniard will drop to the back of the field due to a litany of grid penalties for power unit changes. Carlos Sainz Jr. and Felipe Massa struggled to 14th and 15th respectively.

Damp conditions early in Q1 meant that drivers had to try and time their runs perfectly as the circuit dried, with a flurry of late improvements quickly changing up the order.

The dropzone featured the usual pretenders, though, with Williams’ Lance Stroll being nudged out in P16, marking back-to-back Q1 eliminations for the Canadian rookie.

Kevin Magnussen emded up P17 for Haas ahead of the Sauber pair of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson, both of whom failed to capitalize on the wet conditions to make up for the team’s performance disadvantage.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo will face a challenge to extend his streak of podium finishes after suffering a loss of power on his car early in Q1, resigning him to last place, with his misery only compounded by a grid penalty for a gearbox change.

Usain Bolt, Bill Clinton among headline guests for USGP at COTA

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The Circuit of The Americas paddock ahead of the United States Grand Prix may have been busy with teams and drivers preparing for lights out, but much of the attention lay with a number of headline guests including former presidents and Olympic champions.

As part of its plans to up the excitement levels ahead of Sunday’s grand prix and mirror other sporting events, F1’s new owner, Liberty Media, announced plans a couple of weeks ago to link up with iconic boxing announcer Michael Buffer and eight-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt for the pre-race festivities.

Ahead of today’s race in Austin, Buffer will introduce the drivers in a number of groups before offering the call for drivers to start their engines, similar to the pre-race procedure for the Indianapolis 500.

Honorary race starter Bolt, who competed in his last athletic world championship event in London earlier this year, will appear on the start line to complete his signature victory pose before waving the green flags to launch the formation lap.

Bolt was also treated to a hot lap around COTA by Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton before the start of the formal pre-race build up program in Austin.

Liberty issued a list of celebrities and other public figures who are confirmed to be attending today’s race, including Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden and actor Owen Wilson among others.

One name that wasn’t on the list? 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton, who quickly became a focus for the paddock upon arrival three hours before lights out.

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBC and NBC Sports app from 2pm ET today.