2023 British Grand Prix Roundup
With so many overcast and rain affected races over the past few rounds, Round 11 could have been a complete contrast to expectations where the British Grand Prix would have been the most reliable for warm and dry weather. However, as is the way with British summertime, completely dry running was a bit optimistic.
It wasn’t just the weather that was unpredictable too, there was optimism for a number of teams following a strong showing last time out. McLaren had finished with their highest position of the season so far, a 4th for Lando Norris, Ferrari were back on the podium with P2 for Leclerc and Mercedes were keen to show how much they’d improved after their recent upgrades.
After a wet start to the day, Qualifying began with a damp track, however after a few drivers dabbled with Intermediate tyres to begin with, it soon became clear that Slicks were to be the preferred choice. Track conditions remained treacherous in places though, as Hamilton found out with a spin and slide mid-corner to end up in the gravel and thankfully able to drive himself back out.
With conditions improving all the time, yet the threat of rain not fully eradicated, drivers had to post more times than usual in order to ensure they were recording a time when the track was at its optimum conditions for each session. Alonso and Verstappen traded a number of quickest times in Q1 whilst Ferrari and Mercedes looked to follow suit. Russell reported rain drops on his visor just in time for close calls for De Vries, Magnussen and Sargeant due to the slippery conditions, whilst Magnussen’s car came to a compete stop on the track causing Red Flags and a stop to the session with 3 minutes remaining.
This meant a 3-minute shootout for those still not posting quick enough times, and a dash to avoid the dreaded drop zone after Q1. Verstappen’s eagerness to get going saw him damage his front wing on the pit wall and immediately return to the garage for a new front wing.
Back on track, Norris set the pace in a very quick looking McLaren, ahead of Leclerc, Russell, Hamilton and Verstappen, finding himself in unusual territory in P6, whilst it was another Qualifying nightmare for teammate Perez. Despite not making Q3 for the past 4 races in a row, he went one better, or worse, this time round not making it past Q1 at the expense of a relieved Alonso who just made the cut. Tsunoda, Zhou De Vries and the unlucky Magnussen were to join him.
Q2 came with reports that the rain was no more and that the brightening conditions meant track conditions would be improving all the time. Norris again setting the early pace showing how good the McLaren’s are on the faster circuits, with teammate Piastri not far behind in P4. A drying track meant that P1 was changing all the time with Verstappen eventually coming out on top with the McLaren drivers closely following along with Albon joining in for a resurgent Williams. Bottas’ power failure in Q1 meant he hadn’t posted a time in Q2 and joined Hulkenberg, Stroll, Ocon and Sargeant in elimination at the end of Q2.
Verstappen understandably started Q3 very strong and posted a time almost two-thirds quicker than anyone else had managed early on. Hamilton was the next best followed by Piastri, both Ferraris and Alonso. The second part of the session was more exciting with the whole filed on fresh Soft tyres and the driest the track had been all day. Norris had the capacity crowd on their feet posting the quickest time of the day so far, an outstanding result for a team who’s P4 last time out is their best result of 2023 so far.
Verstappen had the last laugh however, taking pole from the McLaren driver by just 0.2 of a second. Piastri took an impressive third ahead of Leclerc and Sainz for Ferrari, Russell and Hamilton for Mercedes and Albon taking a fantastic P8 in his Williams. Alonso will be disappointed with his P9 and Gasly secured P10 in his Alpine.
Unusually in this 2023 Formula 1 season, there were no penalties to affect the majority of the starting grid, other than Bottas’ Alfa Romeo having to start from P20 instead of P15 following his inability to provide a fuel sample at the end of Qualifying. Not quite the clean slate but after last weeks’ multiple penalty / track limit debacle it’s definitely a positive result.
Ironically, should Red Bull win the race then they would equal the record for most consecutive wins in Formula 1 and be tied with . . . McLaren, who would be chasing him down in P2 and P3 from the off. An unheard-of possibility just a few races ago, but McLaren’s improvements have been staggering in that time and are more than capable of challenging Max’s dominance.
Race day saw brighter skies and a dry track, however the grey outlook meant that there could at least be the possibility of a shower at some point. Adding to the mix was blustery conditions, which in the fast twists and turns of the iconic Silverstone track could prove tricky for the heavily downforce affected cars.
As the lights went out and away they went, Norris had the better start and breezed past Verstappen to the first corner, with the Dutchman having to do his very best to fend off the other McLaren of Piastri before losing two places from the off. But defend he had to and not just into the first corner, with Piastri more than matching the pace of the Red Bull for the first few corners at least.
Behind the front three scrapping, Russell used his soft tyres to his advantage and was on the heels of Leclerc for P4, whilst Hamilton lost a place after running wide and slotted in behind Gasly into P9. Norris for the first few laps was holding his own and refused to let Verstappen have a chance of taking P1 back, that is, until the DRS window was open.
With the McLaren only just within that crucial 1 second each DRS zone enabled the Red Bull to get that bit closer until on Lap 5 Norris could hold off Verstappen no longer and didn’t put up too much of a fight to the quicker car. Further back, Russell and Sainz almost touched as they entered Stowe side-by-side with the Ferrari managing to hold off the Mercedes for now, with Hamilton taking a leaf out of Verstappen’s book with the same move on Alonso to take P8.
Verstappen held on to P1 and although remained just out of DRS range, was by no means pulling away as he has done for many of the previous races. Piastri also holding his own in P3 remaining within a few seconds of his teammate as the front three remained unchallenged by the chasing pack. There was uncertainty between the teams as conflicting weather reports suggested the rain could be approaching, or may miss them altogether, with the latter being the case, but with a few spots felt around the circuit it seems not by much.
Perez’s fight back from the back third of the grid saw a slight tangle with Hulkenberg causing the German to pit for a new front wing, and the Mexican being back in a point scoring position by the time the race entered Lap 17. Just 20 seconds separated the Red Bull driver from his teammate in P1 such was the closeness of the race so far.
Leclerc was the first of the front-runners to pit for a set of Hard tyres on Lap 19, something spotted by Verstappen on the big screens causing a radio message to discuss their current tactics. Can’t be easy watching TV whilst driving past at 200mph but the Dutchman seems to find the time. The other Ferrari of Sainz was the next in the mix to pit 8 laps later, again for a set of Hard tyres, closely followed by Russell for Medium tyres and Perez for Soft.
Piastri was the first of the front three to ‘blink’ on Lap 30 whilst Norris and Verstappen held off to see who would go first at the front of the pack. But luck wasn’t with the rookie and Piastri’s decision to go a little bit earlier wasn’t to pay off. Magnussen’s Haas engine gave up the ghost and after briefly spitting flames came to halt on Lap 33 causing a Virtual Safety Car, followed by a full Safety Car for the rest of the drivers. As the majority of the front runners had passed the pit lane entrance, only Albon was in a position to dive into the pits immediately and take advantage of the situation.
The full Safety Car on Lap 34 meant that the rest of the cars could pit and those who waited till now could take advantage of the slower driving meaning less time lost during a pit stop. Verstappen opted for Soft tyres whilst second placed Norris lost out on his preference to the team decision and had Hard tyres fitted to his McLaren. Piastri, who stopped earlier lost out to Hamilton who rejoined in P3 also on Soft tyres, with Russell now P5 and Alonso P6.
The Safety Car meant that the cars became ‘bunched up’ yet again and an intriguing battle would commence upon the race resuming with P1 and P3 on Soft tyres, P2 and P4 on Hard tyres and P5 on Medium.
Lap 38 saw the Safety Car enter the pit lane and Verstappen performing a flawless restart to get away from the rest of the field from the off. Norris, who didn’t get the best of starts, came under immediate pressure from Hamilton on his grippier tyres, not the easiest thing to defend against a 7-time World Champion on a circuit he has won on 7 times in the past. But despite his tyres taking longer to get up to temperature and the performance of the Mercedes in the corners, the straight line speed of the McLaren was more than a match for Hamilton’s car. Despite side-by-side corner action and Hamilton’s best efforts at trying to use his superior grip round the outside of the corners, the Chrome liveried McLaren used its retro looks to channel its inner World Championship memories and pull away from the Mercedes.
Verstappen complained that his tyres weren’t feeling great but it was more than enough to extend his lead against Driver of the Day, Lando Norris. Teammate Perez continued to work his way through the grid by passing Sainz into P7, which then saw the Spaniard then passed by Albon and teammate Leclerc almost immediately after. Perez continued to make the most of his unfortunate starting position by passing Alonso in his Aston Martin to take P6, while Albon took on Sainz and Leclerc evoking the great battles between Ferrari and Williams from decades ago.
Verstappen continued to race flawlessly to the end to take the race victory, eventually just 4 seconds down the road from a jubilant Norris in P2. Hamilton was 3 seconds further back in P3 making it 2 Britons on the podium at the British Grand Prix. In the end, Piastri was unlucky to not take the final podium place thank to Safety Car and Pit Stop timings, but a P4 finish for the rookie driver is an exceptional performance for driver and team.
Russell finished a strong P5, Perez recovered well to end up in P6, Alonso had a quieter race and may feel disappointed to finish P7, whilst Albon had an exceptional race for Williams to finish a fantastic P8. Leclerc and Sainz, or the Ferrari team, will be unhappy with the last of the points in P9 and P10 and rightly so after showing much more promise in Qualifying and Free Practice.
Red Bull continued their exceptional form and equalled McLaren’s record of 11 consecutive race wins which has stood since 1988. Verstappen himself has recorded 6 consecutive wins which makes him just the fifth driver in history to achieve the feat alongside Ascari, Schumacher (who managed it twice), Vettel and Rosberg. Norris and Hamilton became the first Brits to finish on the podium at a British Grand Prix since Coulthard and Irvine achieved a One-Two in 1999.
Williams sort of completed their 800th Grand Prix, it would have worked out perfectly in time for the British team to achieve the feat at their home Grand Prix had the Emilia Romagna race not had been cancelled. So they may have to wait till the next race before they actually take part in race number 800.
The results mean that Max Verstappen unsurprisingly extends his lead at the top of the driver’s championship. Perez remains second with Alonso third and Hamilton in fourth. Sainz is in P5 however he is now just a single point ahead of George Russell, with Leclerc in P7, Stroll in P8 now just two points ahead of Norris after his fantastic weekend. Ocon rounds up the top 10 drivers for Alpine.
In the Constructor’s standings, Red Bull have more than double the points of second placed Mercedes. Aston Martin in third ahead of Ferrari in fourth. McLaren’s 30 point haul means they scored more points in this race than the 29 they achieved all season so far and move up to P5 in the standings. Alpine move down to P6 while Williams move up to P7, joint with Haas on 11 points. Alfa Romeo and AlphaTauri remain in single figures.
Next up is Round 12 at the Hungaroring in Budapest for the Hungarian Grand Prix, that takes place on July 23rd.
Find out more about the race and the calendar for the 2023 season here: F1 – The Official Home of Formula 1