As we know, Hamilton starts from pole – if nothing else, the new format requires a whole host of inverted commas – ahead of Verstappen, Bottas, Leclerc and Perez.
The whole Sprint format has been sold to fans on the premise that it will shake up the order, hopefully by causing a few surprises for Sunday’s grid, though thus far that hasn’t been the case, with the usual suspects filling their customary positions.
However, the sport’s powers that be remain confident that with the possibility of securing a better grid position on Sunday – especially if they lost out in qualifying for one reason or another – drivers and their teams will take risks they wouldn’t usually take.
And that, dear friend, is where it begins to fall apart, for in these corporate, hard-nosed times nobody likes taking risks, especially when the big prizes are given out tomorrow.
While we fully expect those old familiar names to fill the few rows tomorrow, the surprises could come in the midfield, we certainly hope so.
This morning nobody was giving anything away, especially in terms of tyre strategy, though all should soon become very clear.
To recap, unlike tomorrow there is no mandatory need to use two compounds, furthermore drivers are free to use any compound they wish. As witnessed this morning, the drivers are torn between the pace yet fragility of the softs, or the durability and lack of pace of the hards, with the mediums hopefully taking the middle ground.
The race is 17 laps, roughly 100 kilometres, which appears to favour the mediums and hards, but with an eye on the possibility of a safety car might someone opt for softs and a late pit stop?
Soon all will be revealed.
Despite not wishing to take anything away from the Grand Prix or the championship, in their infinite wisdom the powers that be have opted to award points to the first three finishers, in our humble opinion a wrong move.
The pitlane opens and the drivers head out, Verstappen and Russell the very last to appear.
As the cars take their place on the grid, Russell warns that his front brakes are on the hot side.
Speaking on the grid, Toto Wolff insists that his drivers will not work together and that it’s effectively “every man for himself”.
“You don’t want to be half-hearted,” says Christian Horner, “if you’re going to commit, you commit fully. These tyres, in this temperature are massively sensitive so you also need to be patient and see how things pan out.”
All are on mediums bar Bottas, Alonso, Ocon and Raikkonen who are on softs. Nobody has gambled on the hards, Mercedes clearly opting for a split strategy. Bottas on used softs and Hamilton on fresh mediums.
The temperature has risen to 28 degrees C (air) and 49 degrees (track).
They head off on the formation lap, all getting away cleanly.
The grid forms.
They’re away! A strong start from Verstappen – whose brakes were on fire in the moments before the start – as Hamilton edges out his Mercedes teammate. Further back there’s almost contact between Ricciardo and Perez.
Mazepin spins following what appeared to be a(nother) close encounter with his Haas teammate
A storming start from Alonso who is up to 6th, having passed 2 cars on the run to Turn 1 and a further 3 by Turn 4. Elsewhere, Perez passes Ricciardo for 7th.
Unseen by the cameras, Sainz has gone off following an incident involving Russell at Turn 7, the Spaniard losing a heap of positions in the process.
At the end of lap1, it’s: Verstappen, Hamilton, Bottas, Leclerc, Alonso, Norris, Perez, Ricciardo, Vettel and Russell.
Lap 2 sees Hamilton post fastest lap (30.609) as he maintains a 1.1s gap to the leader.
The stewards say no further investigation necessary of the Haas incident. However, they have noted the Russell/Sainz incident at Turn 6.
A train is forming behind Alonso, who has dropped 5.3s behind Leclerc.
Further back, Raikkonen is up to 13th.
Lap 4 sees Verstappen go quickest (30.357) as he extends his lead to 1.46s.
“We’ve reported the weaving to the race director,” Norris is told.
Perez spins off and is lucky not to hit the barriers, the Mexican rejoining in 19th place after losing it at Becketts.
Meanwhile, Norris has passed Alonso under braking at Village and is up to 5th.
Hamilton goes quickest on lap 5 but next time around Verstappen posts a 30.199.
The stewards will investigate the Russell/Sainz incident – causing a collision – after the race.
Ricciardo closes on Alonso who is clearly struggling on those softs. Behind the Australian, Vettel and Russell keep a watching eye.
After 7 laps the leading four are 10s clear of fifth placed Norris.
Gasly and Raikkonen are the first to have times deleted.
Sainz passes Raikkonen for 12th.
Struggling on his softs, Alonso is now under attack from Vettel.
“I can’t give any more, I’m giving it everything, I need more power,” complains Hamilton as he falls 1.8s behind his title rival.
Told that Verstappen has blisters on his front-right, Hamilton replies: “Same here, man!”
Lap 13 sees another fastest lap from Verstappen (30.049) as he extends his lead to 2.3s.
Sainz has passed Gasly at Luffield and is now hunting down Ocon.
Alonso is warned about weaving under braking.