Lewis Hamilton fears his tyres could explode during 70th Anniversary Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton fears his tyres could explode during Sunday’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone.
The world champion will start from second on the grid after Valtteri Bottas sprung a surprise by snatching pole position from his Mercedes team-mate by just 0.063 seconds.
Hamilton’s British Grand Prix victory last weekend was almost derailed after he suffered a dramatic last-lap puncture.
He limped over the line of three wheels and the Mercedes driver believes he could be forced to nurse his rubber to the chequered flag at the same venue in Sunday’s 52-lap race.
“I have not looked at the different race scenarios with the tyres but I imagine we will have to manage them,” said Hamilton. “We don’t want to push these things or they might explode.”
Pirelli, Formula One’s sole tyre supplier, determined that high tyre wear following a one-stop strategy led to Hamilton’s puncture last Sunday. Bottas and McLaren’s Carlos Sainz were also subjected to tyre failures late on.
Pirelli have brought a softer tyre compound to the fifth round of the championship here, and it is expected that the change in rubber will make a one-stop strategy almost impossible.
Hamilton will head into the race with a 30-point championship lead over Bottas – but the Finn denied his team-mate a 92nd career pole and fourth on the spin by saving his best lap until last.
Behind the dominant black machines, Nico Hulkenberg took an impressive third in his role as Sergio Perez’s Racing Point replacement.
Perez remains sidelined with coronavirus and Hulkenberg was the only driver within one second of the all-conquering Mercedes team.
Max Verstappen finished fourth ahead of Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo with Lance Stroll sixth for Racing Point. Sebastian Vettel’s worrying poor form for Ferrari left him a concerning 12th.
Bottas, whose 2021 stay at Mercedes was confirmed earlier this week, celebrated on the radio after claiming his first pole since the opening round of the season in Austria.
“It was a good lap, no doubt, so it is a good feeling,” he said. “When you are starting from pole you can only aim to win the race.”
Hamilton, targeting an eighth win at Silverstone, added: “Valtteri did a better job and deserved pole. For me, it wasn’t perfect and I didn’t do a good enough job. It was relatively close though, so it is not the end of the world.”
Hulkenberg was dropped by Renault at the end of last year, but finds himself back in the sport following Perez’s absence which extends into a second race.
He qualified 13th last week but failed to start the race following a mechanical failure.
The German, 32, has the unwanted record of most career starts (177) without a podium finish, but he is in a strong position to end that run on Sunday.
“It has been a crazy seven or eight days,” said Hulkenberg. “Obviously it was a big high to come back and then there was the low on Sunday.
“This weekend I felt much better in the car and much more prepared. I’m a bit surprised to qualify third but I have a big smile on my face.”