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Lewis Hamilton takes 91st F1 pole position for British GP

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SILVERSTONE, England — Lewis Hamilton set a new track record at the British Grand Prix and clinched a record-extending 91st pole position Saturday.

He needs five more wins to equal Michael Schumacher’s Formula One record of 91 GP wins. The defending champion is also odds-on to equal the F1 great’s record of seven world titles.

He clocked a time of 1 minute 24.303 seconds at the Silverstone circuit where he was won a record six times.

“This track is just awesome,” Hamilton, 35, said. “It’s like juggling balls when you’re on a moving plate.”

The six-time series champion was 0.313 seconds ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas and about 1 second faster than Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

“They were just way too fast,” Verstappen said of Mercedes. “You just have to accept that and do the best you can.”

Charles Leclerc gave Ferrari a small boost with fourth ahead of Lando Norris, who could face a grid penalty after failing to slow down under a yellow flag in the second part of qualifying when Hamilton made a rare mistake. He spun and sent gravel spraying, bringing the session to a brief halt after Bottas had set the quickest time.

Vettel, who had problems with understeering and almost went off the track toward the end of Q3, was only 10th fastest in qualifying.

Red Bull’s Alexander Albon finished 12th ahead of Racing Point’s last-minute replacement Nico Hulkenberg. After losing his seat in F1 this year, Hulkenberg is driving because Sergio Perez tested positive for the coronavirus following a trip back to his native Mexico after his mother had an accident.

Nicolas Latifi’s Williams span off the track near the end of Q1, the latest incident in the Canadian driver’s difficult start in F1.

“It’s just a driver error, no excuses,” he said.

Kimi Raikkonen and Kevin Magnussen were also among the five drivers eliminated from Q1.

Earlier, Bottas posted the fastest time in third and final practice ahead of Hamilton and Verstappen in somewhat cooler conditions following Friday’s stifling heat.

Vettel was a miserable 14th, once again coming into the garage for repairs after a similar problem with the car’s pedals on Friday.

The fourth race of the season again is being held without fans because of virus restrictions.

“It doesn’t feel like a British Grand Prix in that respect,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said. “The atmosphere obviously isn’t here.”

Mercedes won the first three races, Bottas clinching the season-opener in Austria and Hamilton winning the next two in Austria and Hungary.

Like Austria, Britain is hosting back-to-back races at Silverstone.

Sergio Perez still has coronavirus; will miss second consecutive F1 race

F1 Sergio Perez out
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SILVERSTONE, England — Sergio Perez will be out for a second F1 race at Silverstone this week after again testing positive for the coronavirus.

The Mexican driver had hoped to return to Formula One after spending seven days in quarantine, but his Racing Point team said this morning he had tested positive.

“He is physically well and recovering,” the team said. “The whole team wishes Sergio and his family well and we look forward to his return.”

That means German veteran Nico Hulkenberg again fills in for Sunday’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix after having also replaced Sergio Perez when he was out for the F1 British Grand Prix at the same venue last week. Hulkenberg did not start that race because of an engine problem.

There are two consecutive weekends of racing at Silverstone as Formula One tries to pack in races following the pandemic-delayed start to the season.

Perez became the first Formula One driver to test positive for coronavirus, and it had been unclear whether he would be available to drive after the period of quarantine was extended to 10 days.

Racing Point also was in the news Friday after being hit with a 15-point penalty in the Formula One constructors’ championship and fined 400,000 euros ($470,000) Friday for using brake ducts based on those from last year’s Mercedes cars.

The stewards ruled that Mercedes was the “principal designer” of the parts, and that Racing Point made only minor changes to computer design data it received from Mercedes.

Rival team Renault filed protests about the legality of the brake ducts, which were added to the “listed parts” under F1 rules for 2020. That means teams must design their own. Racing Point argued it was merely using information about the Mercedes parts to inform its own design.

Racing Point uses customer engines from Mercedes and has admitted basing its 2020 car design on photographs of last year’s Mercedes car. The similarities led to the Racing Point being nicknamed the “pink Mercedes” when it was first seen in testing ahead of the season.

Racing Point can appeal the ruling. The points deduction drops the team from fifth to sixth in the standings, below Renault. The ruling doesn’t affect the points totals for Racing Point’s drivers.