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Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands leads teammate Sergio Perez of Mexico, right, into a curve during the first free practice session ahead of Sunday's British Formula One Grand Prix, at the Silverstone circuit, in Silverstone, England, Friday. Image Credit: AP

Silverstone: Championship leader Max Verstappen dominated the opening practice session at Silverstone todayas the teams prepare for the inaugural ‘Sprint’ which will decide who starts in pole position for Sunday’s British Grand Prix.

Red Bull driver Verstappen, who has won the last three races and holds a 32-point lead at the top of the drivers’ standings, chose soft tyres and produced a lap that was 0.779secs quicker than the McLaren of Lando Norris, who was on mediums.

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, also on softs, was third-quickest in his Mercedes, and palpably unsettled by the pace of Verstappen.

“Seven tenths? Where has that come from?” Hamilton asked his team when informed of the gap.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was fourth fastest on soft tyres while Valtteri Bottas was fifth in the second Mercedes on mediums.

Pole position

Friday’s second practice session (1700 GMT) will decide starting positions for Saturday’s ‘Sprint’ which will sort out pole position and also offer championship points with three for the winner, two for second and one for third.

The ‘Sprint’ is an experiment that will be repeated, at most, at two more races this season.

It will last 25-30 minutes and be run over 100km, which at Silverstone means 17 laps. That compares with 52 laps and just over 306km for the race itself on Sunday.

F1 describes it as “a short and fast-paced racing spectacle - similar to a Twenty20 cricket match - with drivers racing flat-out from start to finish without the need to pit.”

With UK coronavirus restrictions relaxing, Silverstone can host a capacity crowd of 140,000 on all three days.