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Formula 1

Lewis Hamilton storms to British Grand Prix pole for first ever F1 sprint race in front of adoring fans at Silverstone

LEWIS HAMILTON drew first blood in his battle with Max Verstappen at Silverstone – then revealed he’d been getting in some extra practice.

In an unprecedented first for Formula One, Hamilton went to the Mercedes factory in Brackley to drive on their simulator BEFORE qualifying in an attempt to get ahead of Verstappen.

Lewis Hamilton bagged pole position for Saturday’s inaugural sprint race
The Brit put in a blistering lap to beat Max Verstappen

And it paid off as, despite a slip-up on his final attempt, his first lap was 0.075 seconds quicker than the Red Bull man to start in P1 for F1’s first-ever sprint race.

Hamilton said: “We have tried to stay focused on our job and I have been trying to layer it up in the simulator.

“I went to the factory in the morning to use it as a practice and try and give it everything and not leave any stone unturned.

“I was free and I said to the team that rather than sit around and waste time, I wanted to get to it and had a practice session.

“We are trying to squeeze everything from this car and it was holding together, so I am over the moon.

“It feels like such a long time since we have been able to get near [to Max] and to do it on our home turf is an incredible feeling.

“It is only a little step forward and the real work gets done over the next two days – and I need all the support I can get.”

The relief was obvious as he crossed the line and shouted ‘get in!’ with his first clenched in celebration.

The voice of his race engineer, the usually mild-mannered Pete Bonnington, was also breaking with emotion.

Just moments before, Hamilton had crossed the line and the sound of the cheers lit up the Northamptonshire circuit.

Verstappen, who had topped practice and the early parts of qualifying, will start second in the new sprint race that will decide the grid for Sunday’s British GP.

He added: “It is a bit of a weird feeling to do quali and go flat out and it doesn’t mean anything.

“We have a strong race car. We just need to fix a few issues and we will have a strong race.”

In further good news for the 140,000 capacity crowd coming through the doors tomorrow, fellow Brits George Russell and Lando Norris ensured there will be a trio of home-grown racers starting inside the top 10.

COMPETITION: SPOT THE BALL TO WIN A CAR AND CASH

Hamilton lapped up the triumph in front of the Silverstone crowd

George Russell put his Williams in a very impressive eighth on the grid

The crowd cheered as Russell, 23, from King’s Lynn, completed every lap in Q3 having secured his place in the final qualifying session at the expense of two-time world champion Fernando Alonso.

Russell lapped it up in the evening sunshine where his lap time for the regular backmarkers was good enough to see him qualify in eighth place for the sprint.

And McLaren’s Norris will start in sixth for the 100km race on Saturday, which is expected to take around 25 minutes, with points on offer for the top three.

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