Rosberg storms to Silverstone pole ahead of Vettel and Button

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Nico Rosberg has secured pole position for the British Grand Prix after taming the tricky conditions at Silverstone on Saturday afternoon, finishing ahead of compatriot Sebastian Vettel and McLaren’s Jenson Button.

In the dying moments of Q3, a number of drivers managed to improve their times, but home favorite Lewis Hamilton was not one of them. As a result, he will start the race from sixth place on the grid after aborting his lap due to the falling rain.

Following many showers overnight, qualifying began in damp conditions with more rain falling lightly, warranting intermediate tires for Q1. Hamilton was the early pace-setter in the session, and he even suggested to the team that slicks could work if the track dried slightly. However, with Sauber reporting that more rain was due, most got out early to post a lap time and avoid being caught out by the weather.

The expected rain did not arrive initially, and the teams were able to head out for their second runs on dry tires. Nico Rosberg eventually finished quickest for Mercedes, but the big shock was seeing both Ferrari drivers drop out in Q1 after more rain began to fall. Fernando Alonso spun on his final lap, whilst Kimi Raikkonen was simply on the wrong tires. The result marks the team’s worst qualifying result since the 2010 Malaysian Grand Prix.

Equally as surprising was Williams’ double elimination in Q1 as Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa also struggled in the rain. After the momentum gained in Austria, the British team came back down to earth with a bump on home soil.

For Q2, intermediates were put back on as the rain continued to fall, but once again the track began to dry after the first set of runs. Lewis Hamilton sat in P1 on the intermediate tire, only to dive into the pits for drys with five minutes remaining in the session.

Nico Rosberg had made the switch slightly earlier, and went up to first place with his lap until Jules Bianchi momentarily shot up into top spot for Marussia. Although neither of the minnow’s drivers made it through come the checkered flag, Bianchi and Max Chilton did qualify an incredible P12 and P13 on the grid. Chilton will drop back five places due to a grid penalty, but it still marks the team’s best ever qualifying result in Formula 1.

The rain caught out Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez when he spun into the wall with one minute remaining, following the example set by teammate Adrian Sutil in Q1. Pastor Maldonado had to stop his car due to a problem and was also eliminated alongside teammate Romain Grosjean.

With no more rain falling, the drivers were able to head out on dry tires for Q3 in pursuit of pole position. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg once again gapped the field by over a second on their first runs, but provisional pole lay with the Briton by two-tenths of a second. Sergio Perez’s first lap was good enough for third ahead of Ricciardo, whilst Vettel opted to wait for the final run to post a time.

The final set of runs saw more great improvements. Nico Hulkenberg and Sebastian Vettel briefly popped up into P1, but it was Nico Rosberg who topped them all to secure pole position. Lewis Hamilton failed to improve his final lap time though, and will start the race down in sixth place.

McLaren enjoyed a great qualifying on home soil with Jenson Button in third and Kevin Magnussen fifth. Hulkenberg’s time was good enough for P4, whilst Vettel found some time on his final lap to qualify second behind Rosberg.

However, the spoils went to Rosberg. The German driver will know that with victory tomorrow, he will deal another huge blow to Hamilton’s title chances. Once again, the Briton was caught out in qualifying, and will unquestionably be disappointed with the result.

You can watch the British Grand Prix live on CNBC and Live Extra from 7:30am ET tomorrow.

Marvin Musquin’s Indy win may have come too late

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Marvin Musquin answered one question at Indianapolis last week, but the biggest one may well plague him for the next six weeks.

Musquin has won a battle, but can he win the war?

After standing on the podium in eight of the first 10 races, Musquin finally showed the field he was capable of winning in Indy when he grabbed the holeshot and led every lap on the way to Victory Lane. He was never seriously challenged and it was the Musquin that Supercross fans expected to see all season.

It was a long time coming. Musquin must have felt like victory was just around the corner after finishing second in the overall standings in Anaheim II’s Triple Crown race. He was third in the first Main that night and second in the last two Mains.

As it turned out, that single race defined his season until last week. Musquin stood on the podium all night, but he finished two spots behind Cooper Webb in the first Main and was one spot back in the second. It was only as time ran out that he was able to beat Webb by a single spot in the third Main. If Musquin had won either of the first two Mains, he would have had the overall victory – denying Webb his first career win in the process.

Webb’s Anaheim win revitalized the rider and gave him the confidence to rattle off four more wins in the next seven races.

Meanwhile, Musquin scored podium finishes in the next seven races, making him almost perfect. In another season, a record like that would have been enough to give him a comfortable points lead. In 2019, he sit 14 markers out of first, which is the points’ equivalent of the difference between first and 11th in one race. In other words, Webb cannot lose the points lead at Seattle unless he finishes outside the top 10 while his teammate wins.

Looking at the numbers another way the scenario is not quite as hopeless. Musquin needs to shave only 2.3 points off Webb’s lead each week to win the championship. Three points separate first and second. Five points differentiates first from third, which is where Webb finished in Indianapolis. Webb is vulnerable as his 10th-place finish at Glendale and an eighth at San Diego attest.

Those bobbles came early and Webb seems to have forgotten how to make a mistake.

A third-place is Webb’s worst finish in the last six weeks and since Anaheim II when Musquin started his impressive string of podium finishes, Webb has recorded an average finish of 2.2. That came with a worst finish of eighth on an extremely muddy and heavy track in San Diego. Musquin has a worst finish of only sixth, but his average of 2.8 still lags behind Webb.

Worse still, since Anaheim II Musquin has finished behind Webb in every race except for the outlier of San Diego.

It is no longer a question of keeping pressure on Webb. Musquin cannot expect his teammate to make a mistake; he has to find a way to pass him on the track. If Webb adds only two points to his lead at Seattle, Musquin’s fate would no longer be in his hands. He would need to gain 3.2 points per race. With that scenario, Webb could finish one spot behind Musquin every week and still win the championship.