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Russell leads Mercedes front-row lockout at Silverstone

Mercedes secured a shock front-row sweep for the British Grand Prix, with George Russell beating Lewis Hamilton to pole position.

The battle for first on the grid unexpectedly boiled down to a straight fight between the Mercedes teammates after their fellow front-runners succumbed to errors and damage. Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc failed to make it as far as Q3 at all.

Russell was on provisional pole after the first runs with a 0.006s margin over Lando Norris and 0.172s in hand of Hamilton. They exited pit lane in reverse order for their final runs, with Hamilton leading the McLaren and his teammate around for a final attempt.

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Norris abandoned his lap early, making a mistake in the first sector that put paid to his attempt, but Hamilton flew to the top spot with a purple final split. Russell, however, wasn’t to be deterred. Despite a failure to improve in the first sector, he was fastest of all in the final two split to almost exactly restore his margin over Hamilton, pinching pole by 0.171s.

“What a feeling,” he said. “At the start of this year I don’t think we could’ve event dreamed of being on pole here.

“The car at the moment is feeling so, so good. It really came alive in quali. What a joy to drive around this circuit. We’re riding this wave at the moment, absolutely buzzing, but eyes on tomorrow. We’ve got a race to win. I’m so excited right now.”

Hamilton paid credit to the team for the car’s enormous improvement since May, dragging it from the lower reaches of the top 10 into pole and victory contention.

“We definitely didn’t expect to be front row this weekend,” he said. “But this is huge for our team.

“The car felt fantastic out there. Everyone in the garage here, all our team that have come here, really deserve this.”

Norris lamented the error that cost him his final lap but was optimistic about his chances on Sunday.

“A little mistake on my part at the end, but P3 is still good,” he said. “I’m excited. It’s going to be a good race. We’re quick. I can bring the fight to George and I can bring the fight to Lewis. I hope we’re going to have some good battles.”

Title leader Max Verstappen was never in the fight on his way to fourth and 0.384s off the pace. The Dutchman made a mistake in the slippery mixed conditions of Q1 at Copse that sent him off the track and over the stones, where he sustained floor damage that hampered him for the rest of the afternoon.

Oscar Piastri was fifth in the second McLaren, the Australian also unable to improve on his second lap after being released from pit lane too close to Carlos Sainz ahead of him, hampering his effort.

Nico Hulkenberg was an excellent sixth for Haas and just 0.519s off pole. More remarkable still was that the Ferrari customer beat Sainz in the lead works car by 0.171s on a day the Scuderia rolled back recent upgrades in pursuit of better form.

Lance Stroll qualified eighth but will see the stewards after the session for exiting the pit lane during a red flag in Q1.

Alex Albon qualified ninth ahead of Fernando Alonso, completing the top 10.

Leclerc missed the Q3 cutoff by 0.159s and will line up 11th ahead of Logan Sargeant, Yuki Tsunoda, Zhou Guanyu and Daniel Ricciardo.

The final five places on the grid were decided by a frenetic dash of little more than seven minutes after a red flag interruption to collect Perez’s stuck Red Bull Racing car. The Mexican had been attempting his first lap on slicks in mixed conditions when he suffered a snap at Copse. He collected the car but sailed wide over the curbs and into the gravel, where he ended up beached. The delay allowed the track to dry considerably, with every lap set to the checkered flag improving on the last. 

Timing was everything with those last on the track the quickest. Caught out when time expired was Valtteri Bottas in 16th — whose 0.502s margin to 15th demonstrated how rapidly the track was improving — ahead of Kevin Magnussen and Esteban Ocon, the Frenchman furious with Alpine’s timing to miss the fastest seconds of the session.

The increasingly under-pressure Perez will line up 19th ahead of Pierre Gasly in 20th, who was set to start last anyway with a penalty for an unscheduled power unit change ahead of this weekend.

Story originally appeared on Racer