George Russell claims pole as sensational British trio break 56-year streak at Silverstone qualifying

George Russell claims pole as sensational British trio break 56-year streak at Silverstone qualifying

In conditions more reminiscent of the dark days of November than the start of summer in July, the leading trio of British drivers thrived at Silverstone on Saturday afternoon. A qualifying session which started in drizzling rain ended in George Russell, Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris storming to the top of the timesheets in the dry, leaving world championship leader Max Verstappen trailing in their wake.

Needless to say, the 100,000-plus British crowd – ponchos aplenty – were left delighted in the grandstands. It is the first time since 1968 that three British drivers have filled the top three places on the grid.

Russell, a week on from his second F1 win in Austria, sealed top spot with his most prestigious pole position to date, usurping eight-time British Grand Prix winner Hamilton by 0.141 seconds. It represented a Mercedes front-row lockout; a throwback to the glory years before Verstappen and Red Bull dominated the sport.

“At the start of the year, we couldn’t have dreamed of being on pole here,” said a beaming Russell straight afterwards. The boy from King’s Lynn is right – Mercedes were distinctly the fourth-best team a mere month ago.

“The car at the moment is feeling so good. We’re riding this wave and we’ve got to race a win tomorrow. It’s going to be tight with Lando, Max as well, but it’s so exciting. I don’t think Silverstone could have dreamt of three Brits in the top three.”

Norris, the quickest man coming into today having topped the timesheets in both of yesterday’s qualifying sessions, will be deep-down disappointed with starting on the second row. The McLaren driver cut a frustrated and unusually downbeat figure in the press conference afterwards, informing that he made an error towards the end of his final flying lap.

Still, with his car armed with superior race-pace compared to the Mercedes’, a dream first victory at Silverstone could still be on the cards providing he doesn’t tangle with Verstappen again, like Austria last week.

Norris’ collision with close friend Verstappen in the Styrian mountains last Sunday has been the main, at times overwhelming, talking point this weekend. In an intriguing U-turn from his angry stance last Sunday, the British driver insisted on Thursday that Verstappen need not apologise for his part in the incident. An incident which resulted in Norris’ retirement from the race, while the 10-second penalty dished out to Verstappen was ultimately irrelevant as he finished fifth, extending his championship lead to 81 points.

George Russell is on pole position for the British Grand Prix ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris (Getty)
George Russell is on pole position for the British Grand Prix ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris (Getty)

Yet McLaren CEO Zak Brown, backing up the forceful words of team principal Andrea Stella in Spielberg, did not relent. Instead, he raised the temperature extensively with a damning verdict of Red Bull and their team leaders.

“Until someone tells Max that’s against the regulations, he’s not going to know any differently,” said Brown at the team principals’ press conference on Friday. “It is disappointing that such a great team like Red Bull almost encourages it.

“You listen on the radio as to what was said, and we all have a responsibility on the pit wall to tell our drivers the dos and don’ts in the races. We need to have respect for the regulations.”


1. George Russell - 1:25:819

2. Lewis Hamilton - +0.141

3. Lando Norris - +0.211

4. Max Verstappen - +0.384

5. Oscar Piastri - +0.418

6. Nico Hulkenberg - +0.519

7. Carlos Sainz - +0.690

8. Lance Stroll - +0.766

9. Alex Albon - +0.821

10. Fernando Alonso - +1.098

Asked further if he will bring the matter up with Christian Horner, Brown said: “I don’t really have any interest in speaking with Christian.”

It is the sort of vintage needle which the sport has been lacking since Verstappen’s era of domination began in 2022. McLaren – a giant of the past, desperate to return to former glories – are unwilling to allow Horner and Co to control the narrative. Their star man is eager to launch a genuine title challenge and a win here at Silverstone could propel the Bristolian on to bigger and greater things this season.

As for Hamilton, the 39-year-old is searching for his first win in two-and-a-half years. Particularly given his move to Ferrari next year, he will be desperate to claim a victory this season and there would be nowhere better than his favourite Silverstone track, where the start-finish straight has been renamed in his honour.

“We didn’t expect to be on the front row this weekend but this is huge for our team,” he said. “Everyone in the team deserves this. I feel confident about the car tomorrow and with the conditions, we can keep Lando behind.”

With rain on the forecast for tomorrow afternoon, Hamilton will fancy his chances. Yet growing up karting in the rain throughout their junior days, all three Brits will fancy their chances. Keeping Verstappen behind at the start will be critical but, from there, it could be an unprecedented day of home success at the cathedral of British motor racing.