Lewis Hamilton was bested by Max Verstappen in front of 100,000 fans at Silverstone on Saturday – finishing second in Formula 1’s first-ever sprint race.
It means the 36-year-old – chasing an historic eighth driver’s championship win this season – will start one place and 33 points behind his Dutch rival at Sunday’s British Grand Prix.
Hamilton had spoken before the race of wanting to bring home victory in front of cheering fans at what is the largest spectator event allowed since the UK’s first Covid lockdown, topping the 60,000 England fans at Wembley for the Euros final.
‘We watched the England game the other day and you see how much passion there is in England. I know it was a difficult time for everyone but I was hoping I could do my part in bringing something positive,’ he said.
But, much like England’s game against Italy, victory wasn’t to be – Hamilton started in pole position but a poor start caused by wheel spin saw Verstappen take the lead early and dominate the 17-lap race from the front, finishing in first place.
Lewis Hamilton waves to fans at Silverstone as he celebrates taking pole position for Saturday’s sprint race, though he couldn’t bring home victory in the end
A mistake by Hamilton at the very start of the sprint race saw Dutch rival Verstappen quickly take the lead – which he never looked like surrendering
Verstappen will now start in pole position for Sunday’s British Grand Prix and has extended his lead over Hamilton to 33 points in the driver’s championship
100,000 fans were allowed to watch Saturday’s race in what was the largest crowd allowed at a sporting event since the UK’s first lockdown
Sunday’s Grand Prix will see up to 140,000 people attend, with Hamilton facing an uphill battle to bring home a win in front of the home crowd
Hamilton came second followed by Valtteri Bottas in third.
It means those three drivers will form up at the front of the grid on Sunday for the Grand Prix, marking the first time that grid positions have been decided in a sprint.
There were also points up for grabs during the race,
Designed to bring more unpredictability to race day and make more of a racing weekend, fans were divided on whether it had proved a success.
there were also points up for grabs for the three top finishers in addition to the points to be won on Sunday.
‘We had a good start and a good fight with Lewis on the first lap and then we tried to do our own pace. You could see we were pushing each other hard, because at the end of the race the tyres were blistering a lot,’ said Verstappen.
Hamilton said ruefully after the race that Verstappen was driving the quicker car, giving him little chance of retaking the lead
‘In the end I’m happy of course to have got those three points — it sounds a bit funny to then hear you scored a pole position. But anyway we’ll take it. It should be a really exciting battle tomorrow.’
Hamilton added: ‘Tomorrow we fight again, but they’re just so strong. In the race he was pulling away.
‘There was nothing I could do to hold onto him so we’ve really got to try and be in front somehow,’ added the Briton, who has won his home race a record seven times, as he waved to tens of thousands of cheering fans on a hot afternoon.
That event is set to be even bigger than Saturday’s sprint race, with up to 140,000 petrol-heads being allowed to fill the stands.
Under clear blue skies, Hamilton’s bid for glory on Saturday was all but over within a couple of metres of the 62-mile Sprint – a third distance of a traditional race – as the Brit stuttered away from his marks.
That allowed Verstappen to draw alongside and pass Hamilton before the opening right-handed Abbey bend.
Hamilton crossed the line 1.2 seconds behind Verstappen and then had to share a truck with his Red Bull rival for a final lap of Silverstone as the top three were paraded to the fans.
Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas finished third in the other Mercedes.
‘I wish we could redo the start,’ said Hamilton. ‘I gave it everything today. I am sorry I am not able to get the win but tomorrow we fight again. We will try to turn a negative into a positive.’
Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion, attempted to raise Hamilton’s spirits by reminding his former McLaren team-mate that he had only lost one point to Verstappen. ‘Every point counts, man,’ Hamilton replied.
Verstappen waves to fans following his win at Formula 1’s first ever 17-lap sprint race, which will set positions on the grid for the Grand Prix
Hamilton speaks to reporters after a challenging day on the circuit, despite driving in front of a huge crowd of partisan supporters
Photographers and motor racing fans soak up the atmosphere during the practice run of the F1 Grand Prix of Great Britain
Spectators in the stands during practice day for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone
Some 30 minutes earlier, the home fans were left stunned after Hamilton’s poor start. Moments later, an encouraging roar briefly rippled around the 3.67-mile circuit as Hamilton sensed an opportunity after Verstappen tripped over the gravel on the exit of Luffield.
Hamilton moved into Verstappen’s slipstream before jinking to his left on the 180mph entry to Copse. The two raced wheel-to-wheel but with the Red Bull driver smartly holding the inside line, Hamilton was left with no option but to back out of the move.
Verstappen was suddenly one second clear of Hamilton and soon doubled the gap. Hamilton was quickly running out of laps to catch, and pass, his man.
‘I am giving everything. Have we got any more power?’ he yelled over the radio with half-a-dozen laps remaining.
‘Standby, Lewis, we are looking into that,’ his race engineer, Peter Bonnington replied.
But as the lap clock ticked by, Hamilton could afford no real challenge. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc finished fourth ahead of Lando Norris in his McLaren.
Off the truck and in the press conference room, Hamilton said he was not to blame for his his race-losing start.
‘It was terrible,’ he said. ‘We have a target position that you have to hit with the clutch.
‘I was on target so I did what I was supposed to do. But, for whatever reason, it did not deliver. I don’t know why. I got a lot of wheel spin, and the rest is history.
‘Then it was pretty much the same as the last few races in terms of following Max. He had a lot of pace and he wasn’t having to push too hard but we were pretty much flat-out.
‘Tomorrow will be tough but if I can try and keep up with him we can apply the pressure through strategy. We are not going to be able to overtake them on the track because he is too fast so we will have to play the long game.
‘I will recharge tonight and come back stronger. I hope we can have a closer race than we did today.’
Hamilton then called on Formula One’s executives to adjust the weekend format and scrap Friday running.
‘In my opinion there only needs to be a Saturday and Sunday weekend,’ he added. ‘That is 23 days less driving these cars around the track and that will be better in terms of going more green.’
George Russell started eighth and finished ninth. However, the Briton will start 12th after he was penalised three places for causing a collision with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz on the opening lap.
A mistake at the start of the race by Hamilton, which he blamed on wheel-spin, meant the race finished almost before it started
Verstappen (pictured) is now 33 point ahead of Hamilton in the championship having won five of nine Grand Prix so far