Lewis Hamilton lit up a spectator-less Silverstone to put his Mercedes on pole position for the British Grand Prix.
Hamilton delivered a track record at the Northamptonshire circuit to secure the 91st pole of his career and cement his status as the pre-race favourite to win here for a stunning seventh time.
Hamilton saw off team-mate Valtteri Bottas by an impressive 0.313 seconds, with the all-black machines continuing to crush their bewildered opposition.
Career pole No. 9️⃣1️⃣ for Lewis Hamilton 💪— Formula 1 (@F1) August 1, 2020
Mercedes' 8️⃣th consecutive pole at Silverstone - an all-time F1 record for any track! 🔥 #BritishGP 🇬🇧 #F1 pic.twitter.com/O03s9OduNL
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen finished third, but the Dutchman was a full second slower than Hamilton. Charles Leclerc was even further back in fourth for Ferrari. British driver Lando Norris finished fifth for McLaren.
Hamilton headed into the top-10 shootout at a windy Silverstone having failed to finish fastest in either of the three practice sessions, and with Bottas quickest in Q1 and Q2.
There was also the rare sight of a Hamilton spin, after the six-time world champion lost control of his Mercedes on the exit of Luffield.
Oops... Lewis spins on track but car looks ok 👀— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) August 1, 2020
Both guys back in the garage following a red flag 🚩 #BritishGP pic.twitter.com/6aWoNIOSyF
Hamilton made it back to the pits as the session was halted for eight minutes to clear up the mess of gravel and stones he had left behind.
He recovered to ensure he progressed to the final stage of qualifying and then predictably delivered when it mattered most, to claim pole on his seemingly unstoppable march towards a record-equalling seventh world championship. It also marked his seventh pole at his home race.
“It was real struggle out there,” said Hamilton. “We had that spin and qualifying is about confidence.
It was a clean first lap and the second one was even better. It never gets old qualifying on pole.Lewis Hamilton
“I was down in the first sector, too, so I don’t know how but I managed to compose myself for Q3.
“Q3 started off the right way, it was a clean first lap and the second one was even better. It never gets old qualifying on pole.
“Normally you have the sirens going off, the flags, the smoke and the atmosphere is buzzing. We miss the fans here but hopefully they are happy with my turnaround watching at home.”
Mercedes dominant 💪#BritishGP 🇬🇧 #F1 pic.twitter.com/k0koHHNz4O— Formula 1 (@F1) August 1, 2020
Sebastian Vettel finished 10th, an eye-watering two seconds slower than Hamilton while Alexander Albon’s rocky campaign continued as he was unable to get his Red Bull through to Q3.
Red Bull are historically ruthless in axing drivers and the London-born Albon, who qualified only 12th here, faces a precarious future if his one-lap performances fail to improve.
Albon will line up one place ahead of Nico Hulkenberg. The German is deputising for Sergio Perez this weekend after the Mexican became the first Formula One driver to return a positive Covid-19 test result.
91 Lewis Hamilton has now claimed 91 pole positions in his career
In Perez’s absence, Lance Stroll, in the other Racing Point, sneaked through to Q3 before qualifying sixth.
George Russell made it out of the opening phase of qualifying for the third time in as many races, putting his Williams 15th on the grid.
Remarkably, the young British driver has beaten his team-mate over one lap in all 25 of his F1 appearances.
Russell whitewashed Robert Kubica in qualifying last term and is 4-0 up on rookie team-mate Nicholas Latifi this year.
However, he could face a grid penalty with the stewards investigating if he slowed sufficiently under waved yellow flags.