x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

F1: Lewis Hamilton adds to local cheer with British Grand Prix pole

Englishman will have support after outpacing teammate Nico Rosberg, reports Gary Meenaghan from Silverstone Circuit.

Lewis Hamilton practises a pit stop with his Mercedes car at the Silverstone race track. Valdrin Xhemaj / EPA
Lewis Hamilton practises a pit stop with his Mercedes car at the Silverstone race track. Valdrin Xhemaj / EPA

When it comes to the British Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton is more familiar with soaking in the rain, but yesterday, in dry conditions and in front of a passionate, patriotic crowd, the Englishman instead took a moment to soak in the atmosphere.

Moments before stepping into his Mercedes GP yesterday, the 2008 world champion stopped to look out across the grandstand at Silverstone and appreciate the swollen, spirited support. An hour later, having clocked the fastest lap and secured his 28th career pole, he dedicated his performance to the fans in the stands.

“It’s incredible. It feels just like it did in 2007,” said Hamilton, who took pole on his debut at Silverstone seven years ago.

“Just to see the crowd here is fantastic – such a great turnout from everyone. So that was a lap for them.”

Hamilton, 28, left it to his final lap before outpacing teammate Nico Rosberg by almost half a second. The result sees Mercedes claim a fifth pole from the past six races and a third front-row lockout.

As every driver is quick to acknowledge though, the points are handed out on a Sunday and it is on the final day of a race weekend where Mercedes have often come up short.

Of their five poles, they have converted just once, on the narrow streets of Monte Carlo where overtaking is near impossible.

Hamilton has Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel starting directly behind him in third and conceded Mercedes’ inability to look after vulnerable tyres makes the task of clinching a 22nd career win all the more difficult.

“Undoubtedly, it’s going to be tough for us to keep Sebastian behind, but our long run pace wasn’t as bad as we’ve seen in the past, so I’m hoping with the temperatures and a bit of care, we can nurture the tyres to get a good result,” said Hamilton.

“I’m going to be pushing, giving it my all, to finish up ahead.”

Vettel has won three of this season’s seven races and holds a 36-point gap at the top of the drivers’ standings and is at risk of running away with a fourth consecutive drivers’ championship. Yet despite having scored more pole positions than all but two drivers in the six-decade history of the sport, the German appreciates his time to shine is increasingly no longer during qualifying.

“They are bloody quick in qualifying, I think that’s what it is,” he said of Mercedes.

“We are not too bad, but obviously they seem to be in a different world on Saturday afternoons. Nico and Lewis are doing a great job, [which] doesn’t help if you want to qualify on pole. But the last couple of races have been pretty good for us.”

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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