Lewis Hamilton thrilled a crowd of 86,000 at Silverstone to take pole position for Saturday’s new sprint race at the British Grand Prix.
The Mercedes driver beat title rival Max Verstappen’s Red Bull by 0.075 seconds to secure top spot for the new 17-lap race introduced this weekend.
Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas was third ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
McLaren’s Lando Norris was sixth and there was an outstanding display by Williams’ George Russell in eighth.
Hamilton set the time that mattered on his first lap in final qualifying. He was on course for a quicker time on his final run but made a mistake, sliding wide at the penultimate corner, Vale, and losing time.
But while Verstappen did improve on his final lap, it was not enough to supplant Hamilton and the seven-time world champion sent the crowd into raptures.
Already this is the biggest crowd at a sporting event in the UK since the start of the pandemic – and there are more to come over the weekend, with 140,000 due to attend the Grand Prix on Sunday in predicted temperatures of close to 30C.
It was a vintage performance from Hamilton, helped by the Mercedes team’s first upgrades since the Spanish Grand Prix in May, but it is not another pole position to add to his tally of 100 – officially the driver who wins Saturday’s ‘sprint’ will be classified as the pole position winner.
And it was an important change in form after four wins in five races by Verstappen, who has opened a 32-point championship lead.
The crowd chanted Hamilton’s name as he did his post-session interview and he basked in their adulation.
Hamilton said: “We have been missing this for a whole years, I have lost my voice a little. I am so grateful to see everyone here. To come to Silverstone and have a full crowd like this. You feel the energy. I was hopeful with the great work we did at the team and the energy of the fans would get us here. This is down to the fans.
“The first lap was great and the second was looking even better but I just lost the back end in the last corner and my heart was in my mouth as I crossed the line.”
More to follow.