Carlos Sainz captures first Formula One pole; Max Verstappen booed at British Grand Prix

Carlos Sainz F1 pole
Peter J. Fox/Getty Images

SILVERSTONE, England — It took 151 attempts for Carlos Sainz to earn his first F1 pole position, and now the Ferrari driver will chase that elusive first win in Formula One.

But starting alongside Sainz on the front row Sunday at the British Grand Prix will be defending F1 champion Max Verstappen, a year removed from the crash with Lewis Hamilton that turned their title fight into a bitter rivalry.

Verstappen was booed by some in the crowd after Saturday’s action-packed qualifying session in the rain. The Dutchman said he barely could hear his on-track interview questions over the jeers.

“If they want to boo, they do that. For me, it’s not going to change anything,” Verstappen said. “Maybe some of them don’t like me, but that’s fine. They all have their own opinions. I don’t care.”

Sainz set the fastest time late in the third qualifying session to edge Verstappen by just 0.072 seconds. It was the seventh pole in 10 races for Ferrari this season, though Sainz teammate Charles Leclerc had earned the first six poles prior to Sainz’s surprise run.

“First pole position, it’s always special, and especially to do it in Silverstone in the wet,” Sainz said. “Kept it cool through the session and toward the end I decided to push.”

Sainz narrowly missed out on what would have been his first career win two weeks ago at the Canadian Grand Prix, where he finished just behind Verstappen. The Spanish driver has been on the podium 11 times in his career but never on the top step. He’s finished second three times this season.

Leclerc will start third, ahead of Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull.

Sunday’s race is expected to be largely dry after a rainy qualifying session. The improved conditions could favor the two Red Bulls after Verstappen set the fastest lap time of anyone this weekend in the final practice session before the rain began to fall at Silverstone.

Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton qualified fifth for his home race as Mercedes seemed to have made progress with its problems of bouncing at high speed. His teammate George Russell was eighth.

As Verstappen spoke trackside following qualifying, the boos were audible for the Dutchman. Verstappen and Hamilton collided in last year’s race, with Verstappen hitting the wall while Hamilton overcame a penalty to win.

The incident further heightened their often-bitter rivalry in a title race ultimately won by Verstappen, and turned some British fans against Verstappen. He was taken to a hospital for observation following the crash and complained that Hamilton showed poor sportsmanship by celebrating the victory as Verstappen was being medically evaluated.

The build-up to this year’s race has been dominated by three-time F1 champion Nelson Piquet’s use of a racial slur and homophobic language to describe Hamilton in an interview filmed last year after the crash at Silverstone. The interview did not receive wide attention until this week ahead of the return to the track.

Hamilton and other drivers condemned Piquet. Verstappen, who is dating Piquet’s daughter, Kelly, said Piquet had used “very offensive” language but added that the Brazilian was also “a really nice and relaxed guy” who was not a racist.

Leclerc said he felt his Ferrari was “competitive” but a mistake prevented him for challenging for pole position.

“I knew it was the lap where I had to put everything together and I didn’t as a driver, so I didn’t deserve to be on pole,” he said.

Farther back on the grid, there was another surprise in the rain as Nicholas Latifi qualified a career-best 10th for Williams. The Canadian has not finished a race higher than 14th all season and was driving an older version of the car than his teammate Alexander Albon, who was 16th.