World championship leader Max Verstappen won Formula One’s inaugural sprint race on Saturday to take pole position for the British Grand Prix.
The Red Bull driver finished the 100km dash around Silverstone ahead of defending world champion Lewis Hamilton with Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes in third place.
Verstappen went into the weekend with a 32-point lead over seven-time champion Hamilton who is hoping to capture an eighth British Grand Prix triumph on Sunday.
“We were pushing each other hard as the tyres were blistering a lot,” said Verstappen who collected three points for his win.
Hamilton took two and Bottas one.
“I am happy to have scored the three points and it is funny to say I have scored the pole position too, but we’ll take it,” added the Dutchman.
Hamilton started the 17-lap sprint at the front of the grid having topped qualifying on Friday but was immediately passed by Verstappen.
He admitted he will face a battle to secure a 99th career win in front of around 90,000 fans on Sunday with the main event raced over 52 laps.
“First of all, let me say thank you to the fans, their energy is amazing,” he said.
“I gave it everything today, I’m just sorry I couldn’t win it for them. Tomorrow we will fight again, but Red Bull are just so strong.”
He added: “Verstappen was pulling away and there was nothing I could do to hold on to him. Their starts have been great this year and we’ve lost a bit on our starts and losing position is never a good thing—I wish we could do the start again.”
Bottas shared Hamilton’s lack of optimism for Sunday.
“We tried to do something different and the target was to try and get Verstappen in the first lap. It didn’t happen,” said the Finn.
“Today shows that tomorrow is not going to be easy. If it’s going to be a bit warmer, then we might see more issues.
The rest of the top 10 was made up of Charles Leclerc in a Ferrari in fourth, Britain’s Lando Norris, in a McLaren, in fifth, and teammate Daniel Ricciardo just behind.
Two-time champion Fernando Alonso, behind the wheel of an Alpine, shrugged off his 39 years to climb to seventh on the grid.
Behind him are four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel in the Aston Martin, Williams’ George Russell and Esteban Ocon in the second Alpine.
Saturday’s sprint qualifying race was the first of three planned for this year.
Another will follow at the Italian Grand Prix in September with the third venue still to be confirmed.