Verstappen quickest ahead of historic sprint qualifying race


SILVERSTONE, England — Max Verstappen was quickest in practice for the British Grand Prix on a sunny Saturday at Silverstone ahead of the historic debut of the eagerly anticipated sprint qualifying race.

Ferrari duo Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were just behind Verstappen with Lewis Hamilton only eighth fastest, just ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

That will be of little concern to the defending champion, however, as it was a largely meaningless practice session other than to test tires.

The grid was already set for Formula One’s first-ever sprint race later Saturday and no improvements or tweaks could be made to any of the cars.

Hamilton will start at the top of the grid after he was fastest in a qualifying session at Silverstone on Friday, ahead of Verstappen and Bottas.

The sprint race is designed to bring more entertainment to the race weekend. It will be over 100 kilometers — or 17 laps at Silverstone — and the top three finishers will also receive points toward the championship as well as top the grid for Sunday’s main race. First place will receive three points, second place two points, and third place one point.

Verstappen has a 32-point advantage over Hamilton in the championship.

Hamilton has not won a race since May 9 at the Spanish GP but Silverstone has long been a Mercedes stronghold with the team winning seven of the past eight British GP. Hamilton has won six of those.

Hamilton will again be cheered on by a passionate home support later and on Sunday. Around 140,000 fans are expected in what will be the biggest crowd at a sporting event in Britain since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The crowd had to provide proof of full vaccination or a negative lateral flow test taken within 48 hours of arrival.

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