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Verstappen denies Norris for British Grand Prix pole

Max Verstappen (centre) poses with McLaren duo Lando Norris (left) and Oscar Piastri. Photo: AFP

Max Verstappen demonstrated his and Red Bull’s supremacy with dramatic effect on Saturday when he claimed a fifth consecutive pole position by topping qualifying for the British Grand Prix.

The double world champion and runaway series leader clocked a late best lap time to outpace McLaren’s British driver Lando Norris by two-tenths of a second.

Australian rookie Oscar Piastri was third fastest in the second McLaren ahead of the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz and the Mercedes of George Russell and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton.

“It has been a bit of a crazy qualifying and pretty hectic,” said Verstappen of the wet and dry session run in changeable conditions. “But we stuck to our plans and I am very happy to have pole position.”

As he celebrated, his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, who trails him by 81 points in the drivers’ title race, suffered a fifth early exit this season in Q1.  

Norris who briefly held provisional pole position claimed his third front row career start.

“This makes up for everything,” he said. “But it’s always Max – he ruins everything for everyone too!”

Williams’ Alex Albon was eighth ahead of two-time champion Fernando Alonso and Pierre Gasly of Alpine.

After heavy rain, the track was damp as the first qualifying session began with Russell and Hamilton, on slicks, leading the way.

The Ferraris were both on intermediates along with the Haas drivers and Logan Sargeant as Russell set the first time before Hamilton spun into gravel at Stowe and recovered.

As he did, Verstappen went top only to have his lap deleted for exceeding track limits, Alonso taking over as fastest while those on ‘inters’ switched to slicks.

With 10 minutes to go, rain fell again, but not sufficiently to persuade a switch from slicks as Verstappen regained the ascendancy in 1:30.719 ahead of Alonso and Leclerc.

Wild finish

“Rain everywhere,” reported Russell, while Albon had a fast lap deleted for track limits, leaving him 20th and last in his Williams, after dazzling in dry conditions in practice.

Team-mate American rookie Sargeant was 18th in a car that had the potential to qualify in the top ten. 

With three minutes remaining, the action was red-flagged when Kevin Magnussen parked his Haas on track, close to the pits entry.

This led to a delay before, with Perez and Albon at the head of a queue, a re-start was scheduled – during which Verstappen pulled out, but hit the pit wall and damaged his car’s front wing.

After repairs, he was back out in a congested exit queue before a wild finish on a rapidly drying track saw Norris go top ahead of Leclerc and Russell.

Valtteri Bottas lost power, but survived – leaving Perez, Yuki Tsunoda, Zhou Guanyou, the under-pressure Nyck de Vries and Magnussen all missing out.

Q2 began with Alonso leading out in sunshine before Norris, Sainz, Ocon, Russell and Leclerc outpaced him, only for the Spaniard to respond as the track dried again.

In a flurry of improved laps, Hamilton went top to be dislodged by Norris, both on fresh tyres, but when the flag waved, it was Verstappen ahead of Piastri and Norris.

Nico Hulkenberg, Lance Stroll, Esteban Ocon, Sargeant and Bottas were eliminated and Drag Reduction System (DRS) was enabled for the top-ten shootout as the track was declared dry.

Hamilton topped in 1:27.717, but the Dutchman beat that by more than six-tenths in 1:27.084 to retain his supremacy, with Piastri third ahead of Leclerc and Sainz after the initial laps.

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