Wed. Aug 10th, 2022

Good things come to those who wait, but Carlos Sainz probably did not expect to have to wait 150 grands prix to take his first pole position.

Indeed it took so long that he hardly believed it when it finally arrived.

It’s the latest sign of Sainz forcing himself back into the frontrunning conversation after being dominated by teammate Charles Leclerc on Saturdays and Sundays all season. There’s been a small but important step forward made in the last few rounds, and in treacherous conditions at Silverstone he was able to make the progress work for him.

Unfortunately Mercedes can not say the same about its pre-weekend optimism for a validating grand prix. Fifth and eighth on the grid underwhelmed compared to the team’s extremely promising practice pace even considering the wet weather.

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And Lewis Hamilton had more to be unhappy about than just his lackluster car. The Briton has called on his home crowd to show former title rival Max Verstappen more respect after the Dutchman was loudly and roundly booed after qualifying in a sign that old habits die hard after last season’s intense title battle.

CARLOS SAINZ SHEDS SOME UNWANTED RECORDS

Ferrari had started from pole in six of nine grands prix before the British Grand Prix, but none of them were piloted by Carlos Sainz.

Now finally the Spaniard has got one for himself.

Sainz has been overshadowed by teammate Charles Leclerc in every respect this season, a frustrating step backwards from his impressive Ferrari debut last year, when he took virtually no time at all to get up to speed with his new machinery.

But the car the Scuderia has designed this season is too snap happy at the rear to gel perfectly with Sainz’s driving style, and he’s taken far longer than expected to get comfortable, something he said after the Canadian Grand Prix he was finally starting to feel.

He put that new-found feeling to excellent use at Silverstone.

And this was the kind of pole you take when you’re feeling comfortable and secure in the car. It was not a pole borne of pure pace – even the Spaniard was surprised to hear his “nothing special” lap was quick enough for top spot – but rather one based on good, clean, tidy laps.

When Leclerc and Verstappen made mistakes on their final runs, Sainz was flawless and was rewarded with pole position.

It’s a timely achievement too, because this year in particular he’s been rocketing up a number of unenviable record lists.

Prior to this weekend, his 150th grand prix start, he was sixth on the list of drivers with most starts without a pole position, a table led by Romain Grosjean on 179 starts. He’s now happily cleared his name of that potential indignity.

But he’s still without a victory, putting him seventh among winless drivers for races started, albeit well shy of record holder Andrea de Cesaris, and he’s an alarming equal third on the list of most prolific podium-getters not to mount the top step, 33 behind leader Nick Heidfeld.

With what has been for most of this season the fastest car on the track, it’s surely only a matter of time before Sainz gets that first win – but by that same token, the longer he goes without it, the more the pressure will build, particularly in the context of Ferrari’s tumultuous title campaign.

Can he expunge his name from some of F1’s other unhappy records on Sunday?

MERCEDES UNDERWHELMS ON CRUCIAL AFTERNOON

What happened to Mercedes?

The Silver Arrows were up and about on Friday night after practice. The W13’s speed at this track and with its latest upgrades was clearly a step forward on precious weeks, even if its status as a frontrunner could not be definitive.

Instead it could not get to within a second of pole position, and that was only in Lewis Hamilton’s hands, who qualified fifth. George Russell was almost 0.2 seconds further back in eighth behind a McLaren and an Alpine car.

Suddenly this isn’t the homecoming either driver expected.

“To be honest, I think we were hoping for better,” Mercedes technical director Mike Elliott told Sky Sports. “In some ways for me it would’ve been nice to see how quick we were in the dry. A wet session is always a bit of a mix up.

Photo by Clive Mason / Getty Images
Photo by Clive Mason / Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

“We did the right job, got both cars to Q3, and then it was all about being in the right place at the right time at the end with the tires in the right position.

“I think what you saw was you had to build the temperature up in the tires. Just trying to get that right, being on the right place on the right bit of the track at the right time, is challenging.

“I think fifth and eighth, compered to where we’ve been, is not too bad, but we’d hoped for a little bit better.”

Tire warm-up has been a bugbear of the team all season and indeed last season too, and it’s a problem only exaggerated in the cool and wet conditions of Saturday.

Hamilton’s shot at the front row was accidentally thrown away when he abandoned a flying lap in order to recharge his battery and set one final time with maximum power, but that preparation lap cooled his tires too much to be switched on for his ultimate flyer, leaving him down the order.

But the trade-off for a car that’s too gentle on its tires on Saturday is one that can manage the rubber better on Sunday, and already so many times this year we’ve seen Mercedes compete close to the front on Sundays that it’s been able to do on Saturdays.

So can the team at least be optimistic for its race?

“I think it’s difficult to know,” Elliott said. “I think if you looked at our long-run on Friday… we looked pretty decent. We felt we made a good step from yesterday to today. If that carries over to our race pace tomorrow, we can have a decent race.

“Let’s wait and see where we are. I think having made the upgrades we’ve made to the car, we just want to find out what the pace is like. ”

Photo by Clive Mason / Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

WALKING MESSAGE AT BRITAIN

Lewis Hamilton called for his home crowd to show greater sportsmanship after Max Verstappen was enthusiastically booed from the grandstands after qualifying.

Booing has waxed and waned among fans of Formula 1 but increased markedly during the tense championship campaign last season. Hamilton found himself on the receiving end more often than not, generally from Verstappen’s enormous ‘orange army’ of traveling Dutch fans, who travel extremely well in Europe.

Britain is often regraded as being home to a F1’s largest rusted-on fan base, but to pretend it isn’t partisan, particularly in favor of Hamilton, would be deeply misleading, and it’s unsurprising to hear the British return the favor dished out to their defeat hero of the previous season at the earliest opportunity.

But Hamilton has called on his home support to be more respectful of his former title rival regardless of the pent-up feeling of the past 12 months.

“I think we’re better than that,” Hamilton said. “I would say we do not need to do booing.

“We’ve got such great fans, our sporting fans. They feel emotions up and down. But I definitely do not agree with booing.

“I do not think we need to do that. We should be here pushing everybody. It does not make any difference when you boo somebody, they’ve already made the mistake or whatever it is.

“But I really do appreciate the support that I have here. And maybe some of them are still feeling the pain from last year. ”

Last year Verstappen said it was not up to him to discourage his Dutch supporters from booing, and although he lamented that the heckling was loud enough to interrupt his post-qualifying interview, he’s largely stuck to the same line this season.

“It was a bit disappointing because I could not really understand Billy [Monger], ”He said. “If they want to boo me, they can do that. For me it is not going to change anything.

“Maybe some of them do not like me. That is fine. They all have their own opinions and I do not care. ”

After the polarization of last year, it’s hard to believe heckling will disappear anytime soon.

Photo by Mark Thompson / Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

GOOD DAY

Lando Norris had a very good day, converting his Friday practice pace into solid qualifying pace to pip Fernando Alonso to best among the midfielders and boost McLaren in its fight with Alpine for fourth in the constructors standings.

Norris was just 0.032 seconds quicker than Alonso. With Alpine having done no meaningful long running on Friday, it’s difficult to know whether this will translate into Sunday performance, whereas the papaya car looked solid in its race simulations.

Zhou Guanyu cracked Q3 for the second time in his F1 career and second race in a row, and for the third grand prix in succession he outqualified teammate Valtteri Bottas in a sign of him finally getting to grips with his full-time promotion to the main game.

The Alfa Romeo driver, whose car demonstrated good race pace on Friday, was not in contention for a higher place, qualifying almost 0.6 seconds behind anyone else ahead of him, but he nabbed ninth – his highest starting position in his short F1 career – ahead of Nicholas Latifi, who could not string together a lap in Q3 at all.

But Latifi’s days were positive nonetheless. It’s the first time in his three-season career – which seems destined to come to an end this season – that he progressed to Q3, and 10th is his equal highest starting place along with last year’s Belgian Grand Prix.

BAD DAY

Daniel Ricciardo could not squeeze Norris levels of performance from his McLaren in the wet, and after just scraping through to Q2 he was knocked out a lowly 14th after not stringing together his first lap before heavier rain arrived and prevented him from improving. It leaves him eight places behind his teammate and with a lot of work to do to score points.

Esteban Ocon was similarly caught out by the rain in Q2 and the same number of places behind Alpine teammate Alonso. Alpine is running a major update package on its cars this weekend that it hopes will boost its chances of overcoming McLaren in the teams standings, but the Frenchman is unlikely to contribute to the points tally this weekend.

WHAT’S NEXT?

The British Grand Prix is ​​live on Kayo.

Pre-race coverage is live from 10:30 pm (AEST) Sunday, with lights out at midnight.

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