Motor racing-Verstappen fastest in final British GP practice

Formula One F1 - British Grand Prix - Silverstone Circuit, Silverstone, Britain - July 17, 2021 Red Bull's Max Verstappen during practice REUTERS/Peter Cziborra

SILVERSTONE, England (Reuters) - Red Bull's Formula One championship leader Max Verstappen was fastest in final practice for the British Grand Prix although lap times were largely meaningless as teams focused on preparations for Saturday's first ever sprint qualifying.

Formula One is trialling a new format at Silverstone, with a 17-lap race deciding the starting grid for Sunday's headline grand prix.

The grid for the sprint was decided on Friday, with Mercedes' seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton taking the top slot and Verstappen alongside on the front row.

Verstappen's lap of one minute 29.902 seconds, set early on a sunny afternoon with a big crowd in attendance, was 0.375 quicker than Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, whose Spanish team mate Carlos Sainz was third fastest.

Hamilton was eighth, with team mate Valtteri Bottas ninth, but the focus was on long runs with more fuel on board. McLaren's Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo were sixth and seventh respectively.

Verstappen is 32 points clear of Hamilton after nine races but that could change on Saturday, with three points awarded to the sprint winner, two for second and one for the third finisher.

Sunday's race is as normal, with 25 points for the winner plus one for the fastest lap.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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