The British GP could be set for a genuine three-team fight for victory after Silverstone produced the closest qualifying session of F1 2019 so far.
Mercedes may start with their seventh front-row lockout of the season but fine margins separated the leading contenders on Saturday and Sunday’s big race, which starts at 2.10pm, is set to offer more strategic options than usual.
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Valtteri Bottas won pole from Lewis Hamilton by just 0.006s, but Charles Leclerc was 0.079s adrift for Ferrari while Red Bull and Max Verstappen qualified within 0.4s of the front for the first time this year in fourth.
“I’m sure Lewis is not going to give up on the win and Ferraris are going to be in the mix,” said Bottas, who has failed to convert his last two poles into wins.
“It should be a fun race, I’m here to win, not come second or third.”
The same is certainly true of Bottas’ championship-leading team-mate Hamilton, who described his own qualifying performance as “average” despite narrowly missing out on a fifth Silverstone pole in a row.
Hamilton, who leads Bottas by 31 points in the championship, is chasing a record sixth British GP victory.
“Having a pole position is a great thing but from days like this you learn,” said the world champion.
“I’m going to try and bring myself together in a positive way and come back tomorrow with some strength.”
Whose strategy will be the stronger?
As in Austria, it is Ferrari who have chosen the more aggressive starting tyre strategy for the race with Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel, who struggled to sixth on the grid, to complete the first stint on the fast but fragile soft compound.
Mercedes and Red Bull’s drivers are on the slower but more durable mediums, meaning they will be expected to pit later at the first round of stops.
For Leclerc in particular, the opening moments of the grand prix are likely to be crucial.
“Ferrari can be a threat, especially at the beginning of the race when they’re starting on the softer tyre. Hopefully after that we’ll have the upper hand but you never know,” said Bottas.
Leclerc is aware of the importance of this phase of the race too, saying: “Seeing the race simulations I don’t think there’s much difference between the two tyres – I don’t think it’s night and day to be honest.
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