Francesco Bagnaia claimed the first pole position of his Grand Prix career after coping best with the treacherous conditions at Silverstone. The Italian edged out compatriot Enea Bastianini to take Mahindra’s first pole since Assen 2013 while championship leader Brad Binder took fifth spot, thirteen places clear of title rival and 2015 pole-man Jorge Navarro.
The stage was set for a dramatic qualifying session after a heavy downpour during the lunch break left the circuit sodden. This didn’t appear to both the Aspar Mahindras though as Jorge Martin and Bagnaia engaged in a private inter-team battle over pole in the early stages.
Navarro briefly interrupted the all-Aspar pole fight but within seconds of clocking a 2:36.338, the Spaniard crashed out at Club as his Estrella Galicia Honda swapped ends on him. Bagnaia and Martin promptly resumed their head-to-head with the Italian lowering the target time to a 2:34.271 but a surprise challenger emerged in the form of Dutch rookie Bo Bendsneyder who outpaced the pair of them fifteen minutes from time.
Bagnaia soon re-emerged from his garage though and with conditions appearing to get worse, he popped in a 2:33.642 at the ideal moment to secure pole position. Bastianini also timed his run to perfection to snatch second from Bendsneyder but a five-place grid penalty will deny the Red Bull Rookies champion a front row start, promoting Niccolo Antonelli to third despite a nasty crash at Woodcote.
After a quiet session, Brad Binder will line up fourth thanks to his teammate’s penalty while Joan Mir and Jules Danilo complete the second row, just ahead of Martin and Bendsneyder. Martin had actually been in contention to demote his teammate four minutes from the end but the Spaniard outbraked himself into Vale, ruining his lap, and almost sending him into a collision with Nicolo Bulega who had crashed metres ahead of him. Bulega will actually line up just behind Martin on tomorrow’s grid after qualifying ninth.
The superb work of his mechanics allowed Jorge Navarro to re-join the fray in the last ten minutes but with conditions no longer at their best, he could only salvage eighteenth, one spot behind British hope John McPhee who also crashed out.