(Silverstone) Lando Norris nearly thrilled the crowd with a lead in qualifying for the British Formula 1 Grand Prix. But there was a problem: Max Verstappen.

“It’s still Max. He always ruins everything for everyone,” joked Norris after the Dutchman beat his time on Saturday en route to a fifth consecutive pole position.

The British spectators showed their joy when Norris briefly took the lead in the dying moments of the final round of qualifying, before Verstappen drove even faster to finally beat Norris’ time by 241 thousandths of a second.

The result may seem routine in Formula 1 — the Red Bulls have claimed nine top positions in 10 races — but it came after a tense session, after another rout from Sergio Perez, Verstappen’s team-mate, and a moment of danger for the Dutch pilot himself.

Verstappen made contact with the pit wall and snapped his front wing as he left his garage during a red flag pit stop in the first part of qualifying.

“I just understeered and had no grip,” he told the team over radio.

Red Bull replaced the wing and checked for further damage before Verstappen continued. However, he was at the back of a line of cars but managed to force his way through the field to set up a fast lap, riding side-by-side with old rival Lewis Hamilton along the way.

For his part, Perez had to settle for 16th position, finishing outside the top 10 in qualifying for a fifth race in a row, and for the sixth time in 2023.

The Mexican, however, moved up a notch on the starting grid in preparation for the race when Valtteri Bottas, who had set the 15th fastest time, was disqualified because his car did not have enough petrol to provide a sample for analysis. The Alfa Romeo driver will therefore start from 20th and last position.

The McLaren drivers were the stars of the qualifying session as rookie Oscar Piastri, Norris’ teammate, set the third fastest time.

Despite missing out on what would have been McLaren’s first pole position since 2021, Norris and Piastri were full of praise for the team’s much improved car after a lackluster start to the season.

“It’s a big step in the right direction,” said Piastri, who felt the car felt like a “rocket” and the wet conditions suited McLaren.

It was not a very productive day for the Aston Martin cars of Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll. Alonso was the better of the two with a ninth place while the Quebecer finished 12th.

“This was not the qualifying we wanted in what was a difficult session in drying conditions,” Alonso said in Aston Martin’s official statement.

“We still have a long race ahead of us tomorrow and our pace on Sunday is usually one of the strong points of this car. We have again reached the third phase of qualifying, but we must continue to understand our car on different circuits. The weather tomorrow could also change, like today, and we have to keep our focus and see what we can do in race conditions. »

For his part, Stroll believed a better result was achievable in qualifying on Saturday.

“The red flag forced us to use a third set of tires in the first qualifying round, which meant we didn’t have a new set of tires in the second session, which put us in a lesser position. advantageous over others. »

The Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz junior will start from fourth and fifth places, ahead of the Mercedes of George Russell and Hamilton.

Alexander Albon, on Williams, will start from eighth position.

Pierre Gasly (Alpine) will complete the top 10 on the starting grid.