The seven-time world champion delighted a raucous 86,000-strong Silverstone crowd by pipping main rival Max Verstappen to the fastest time in a thrilling Friday evening qualifying session on F1’s new-format weekend.

Hamilton edged out Verstappen by just 0.075s to top qualifying for the first time since May’s Spanish Grand Prix and secure first place on the grid for Saturday’s first-ever F1 sprint race.

With just one practice session on Friday to prepare for qualifying, Hamilton said he took advantage of having the “morning free” to sneak in some extra work on the simulator at Mercedes’ factory, which is situated not far from Silverstone.

“I was in the sim this morning, just using it as a practice session because it’s the first time we’ve ever had a morning free,” Hamilton said.

“Just putting in the time, trying to give absolutely everything and leave no stone unturned.

"That first lap was great, the second one was looking even better but just lost the back-end in that last corner so my heart was in my mouth as I crossed the line.

“But I could see the crowd - it was really reminiscent of my first pole here in 2007 and as I said, I couldn’t have done it without these guys here, so a big, big thank you.”

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Hamilton, who has previously admitted to rarely ever using a simulator in F1, explained why he took the unprecedented step.

“I was in the factory on the sim on Tuesday and we had this morning free, and I was like ‘look, let’s not sit around and waste time, let’s get to it’,” he said.

“So we did a practice session this morning in there and just trying to develop it, trying to give the guys as much information as possible as we’re developing the car.

“We’re squeezing absolutely every ounce of performance from this thing and it was holding together today, so I’m over the moon.”

While Hamilton was thrilled to have ended a streak of qualifying defeats to Red Bull, he warned there is still plenty of work to do in the sprint race, which will determine the grid for Sunday’s British GP.

“It’s been such a long time, it feels like such a long time since we’ve been able to get anywhere near,” he added.

“So it’s incredibly special and obviously to do it on your home turf, there’s no greater feeling.

“But that’s only one step forward. We’ve got that race tomorrow which is going to be incredibly tough, but I think I’ve got the car in a good place. That’s when the work gets done over these next two days.”