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Strong British GP qualifying for Renault; Hulkenberg P5, Palmer P11

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Renault Sport F1 Team put together its best performance of qualifying this season for Sunday’s British Grand Prix (7:30 a.m. ET, CNBC) as Nico Hulkenberg posted yet another great under-the-radar lap and the under-fire Jolyon Palmer turned in one of his best laps of the year.

Hulkenberg qualified sixth, winning the unofficial best of the rest battle behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. With Daniel Ricciardo knocked out in Q1 with an apparent turbo issue on his Renault-powered, TAG Heuer-badged car, it opened up a spot on the third row for someone from the crowded midfield to emerge.

Valtteri Bottas’ five-spot grid penalty for a gearbox change knocks the Mercedes driver back to ninth and promotes Hulkenberg to a season-best fifth on the grid, and along with that his best qualifying effort since joining Renault at the start of the year.

Hulkenberg hailed both the team’s strategic calls from the pitwall during the rain-affected session and the upgrades that have come this weekend, as Renault celebrates its 40 year anniversary in Formula 1 since 1977.

“Today we had a very successful qualifying and will start the race just behind the top teams,” Hulkenberg said. “I had a good rhythm and we had good times. The team made the right calls for the right track conditions; there was a nice flow. I was feeling calm and confident with the car so I was able to produce a good lap.

“The upgrades we brought here this weekend seemed to also have played their part in our step forward. That said, tomorrow’s race is the true test. Let’s try and have a clean race. We’ll push very hard and I’ll be very happy to bring points home.”

Hulkenberg has scored 14 points this year, with a best finish of sixth place in Spain.

Palmer remains yet to score but was pleased with his performance, having only just missed Q3 to McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne.

“Yeah starting P11 is my second best all year. There’s a really good feeling with the car,” Palmer told NBCSN’s Will Buxton. “I needed maybe a tenth to beat Stoffel but I’m still happy with that.

“Normally I start further back! I’m confident. If there’s the normal chaos I’m pretty confident we can get some points.”

Sporting Director Alan Permane hailed both drivers’ efforts.

“We are of course very happy with the result today,” he said. “The aero updates used this weekend for the first time worked well and Jolyon just missed out on Q3 by the narrowest of margins.

“Nico is well placed for the race and Jo has a free tire choice so we’re looking forward to the start and converting the result today to points tomorrow.”

Valtteri Bottas on Silverstone pole; Nico Hulkenberg a surprising third

F1 Bottas Hamilton Silverstone
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Valtteri Bottas nipped Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in Silverstone qualifying Saturday to maintain the team’s hammerlock on F1 results this season while Nico Hulkenberg was a surprise in third.

Hulkenberg is filling in for Sergio Perez for the second consecutive race while the Racing Point driver recovers from coronavirus.

It’s the best F1 start since 2016 for Hulkenberg, who was left without a full-time ride after the 2019 season. He finished 20th at Silverstone last week when an engine problem on the grid prevented him ftaking the green.

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“The last seven to eight days have been crazy,” Hulkenberg said after qualifying. “This weekend I felt much better prepared. Q3 was just head down, full beans, and give it whatever I had.

“I’m a bit surprised to be standing here, but there’s a big smile on my face.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen qualified fourth and will be among the field trying to derail the Mercedes duo that has won the first four races of an F1 season delayed because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Feels good,” Bottas said after nipping Hamilton by a few hundredths of a second on his final lap for his 13th career pole position. ” I just love qualifying especially, when it goes well. Proud to drive this car. The race pace is there, so our first job is to get a good start off the line tomorrow and go from there.”

The impressive lap came two days after Bottas, who won the season opener in Austria, announced a one-year contract extension with the team.

Mercedes also is set to begin negotiating a new deal with Hamilton, who has won the past three races in F1 but was disappointed Saturday.

“Valtteri did a great job, but for me, it wasn’t a perfect last lap,” he said. “I don’t think many teams will be doing a one-stop race tomorrow so let’s wait and see how things turn out.”