A surprised Carlos Sainz splashed to his first Formula One pole position on Saturday with Red Bull’s championship leader Max Verstappen joining the Ferrari driver on the front row for the British Grand Prix.
The Spaniard, who will be starting his 150th race on Sunday at Silverstone,put in a last-gasp effort of one minute 40.983 seconds with Verstappen ending up 0.072 slower after looking set for pole.
“I didn’t expect that one,” said Sainz over the radio as he slowed down.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc qualified third through the rain and spray.
Seven-times world champion and record eight-times British Grand Prix winner Lewis Hamilton will start his home race in fifth place for Mercedes, with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez lining up fourth.
Sainz, 27, said he had struggled with the standing water on the racing line and feared spinning.
“In the end I put together a lap that I thought was nothing special but I just put it on the board and see how it is, and it was pole position, which came as a bit of a surprise,” he added.
“I had no idea where I was going to qualify because the conditions were so changeable.”
The Spaniard has yet to win a grand prix but, with Ferrari expected to have strong race pace, felt that was also achievable.
World champion Verstappen spun in the final session before going fastest and was booed by some of the crowd during the post-qualifying interviews, a lingering echo of last year’s fierce title battle with Hamilton.
The pair collided at Silverstone in 2021, with the Dutch driver retiring, but Verstappen denied Hamilton a record eighth title in controversial circumstances at the season-ending Abu Dhabi race.
“It was quite a tricky qualifying, with the rain,” said Verstappen, who was fastest in the first two sessions but had to slow in the end due to a yellow flag.
“It was raining, drying, so you had to be in the track at the right time. I think overall the car was working really well… I think still to be on the front row is very good for us and we have a good race car in the dry and in the wet.”
Verstappen is 46 points clear of closest rival Perez after nine of 22 races, with Red Bull chasing their seventh successive victory.
Leclerc, who is three points behind Perez, said he was happy for Sainz.
“He did a great job today. I spun on that last lap, I knew it was the lap where I had to put everything together and I didn’t as a driver, so I didn’t deserve to be on pole,” said the Monegasque.
McLaren’s Lando Norris qualified sixth, with Fernando Alonso seventh for Alpine and Hamilton’s team mate George Russell lining up eighth.
Chinese driver Guanyu Zhou qualified ninth for Alfa Romeo and Canadian Nicholas Latifi was a surprise 10th for tail-enders Williams.
Latifi’s performance equalled his best ever and was all the more eye-catching as team mate Alex Albon, 16th, had a major upgrade package on his car and was expected to be comfortably ahead.
There was disappointment for Aston Martin, whose factory is over the road from the track, with Sebastian Vettel qualifying 18th and Lance Stroll 20th and last.