autoracing 1 week ago

Certainty amid the commotion for Hamilton: British GP pole

The Associated Press — By ROB HARRIS - AP Sports Writer

SILVERSTONE, England (AP) — Through all of the turbulence in Lewis Hamilton's life, a return to his home circuit provides soothing certainty.

For a fifth successive year, the three-time Formula One champion will start the British Grand Prix from pole on Sunday after a record-setting Silverstone lap qualified him ahead of Ferrari rivals Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel.

Standing on the pit straight after qualifying on Saturday, Hamilton savored the roars of his home fans, and the banners and Union Jack flags pinned to stands.

"I need to make sure I do it for these guys," Hamilton said.

The crowd was repeatedly praised by Hamilton, from the moment he stepped out of his Mercedes after speeding around Silverstone in 1 minute, 26.6 seconds, through the paddock interviews, and the formal news conference.

It seemed Hamilton was pressing home just how much he is adored at Silverstone. Unlike in London on Wednesday.

When F1's new owners staged a flagship showcase for the series in Trafalgar Square, Hamilton was the only driver to skip the event. Boos greeted mentions of Hamilton's name.

Mercedes has been trying to quell the backlash ever since.

Perhaps Hamilton's decision to skip London for a two-day jaunt to recuperate in Greece after finishing fourth in the Austrian Grand Prix last weekend appears to have been justified by his showing in Silverstone qualifying.

Team boss Toto Wolff was more forceful with his media critics: Questioning "how he should prepare himself is an insult."

Wolff accused Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner of trying to create a "bit of mischief out of the situation" by highlighting to the London crowd that only 19 of 20 drivers were there.

"There were three boos out of 10,000 people," Wolff said, with remarkable precision.

"Treating the local superstar in that way is absolutely against how I see things," he added. "I don't see there is a big backlash when the crowds are cheering (at Silverstone). I am hidden in the garage and can hear the crowd applauding and screaming."

Even the stewards were on Hamilton's side at the central England circuit, in forgiving mood when he blocked Romain Grosjean during qualifying. The Haas car was not impeded, the lenient FIA stewards determined.

"I was impeded," Grosjean said. "Maybe if it was another driver there would have been a sanction ... it seems there is a big inconsistency."

Mercedes was in no mood for Grosjean's rebuke.

"There are some that moan all the time," Wolff said.

The favorable decision puts Hamilton one pole away from matching Michael Schumacher's all-time record 68.

Before then, there's a title challenge to re-ignite after failing to make the podium in the last two races. The way Hamilton navigated the wet track in qualifying bodes well for his bid for a fifth Silverstone win in the 10th round of the 20-race season.

"I quite like the conditions when they're tricky," Hamilton said. "These are typical English conditions. This is where I grew up. This is what we grew up racing in, so I felt very comfortable and the team did a fantastic job. And then when it dried up ... the tires were working perfectly."

Hamilton is looking to eradicate Vettel's 20-point lead over him at the top of the drivers' championship. The German, though, is in a fiery mood, expressing his annoyance at finishing third in qualifying over the team radio.

"Not ideal but anyways, it's a decent result," the four-time world champion said later.

Valtteri Bottas was fourth fastest, but he has a five-place grid penalty for the race after being forced to change the gearbox in his Mercedes.

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Rob Harris is at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

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