Formula One

2023 British GP Practice Analysis – Top conclusions from Friday at Silverstone

Alex Albon exits the pitlane at Silverstone
Photo by XPB / Icon Sport

The first day of action at Silverstone has concluded, with the teams and drivers having two hours of practice in their disposal to test upgrades and finetune the setups of their cars ahead of the British Grand Prix.

Plenty of teams ran different programs, so it is tough to come to conclusions, but here is what drew our conclusion on Friday, as we look forward to qualifying tomorrow and the Grand Prix on Sunday.  

Verstappen looks a step above the rest, but can Perez recover?

Max Verstappen looked very strong on both sessions and obviously is looking for another pole-to-victory performance. Red Bull is one of the few teams that did not bring any upgrades to Silverstone, but its advantage over the field should be enough for the RB19 to secure its tenth successive victory.

For Sergio Perez the race is a pivotal one. Having missed Q3 in the past four qualifying sessions (excluding the Sprint Shootout in Austria), a decent qualifying position is needed for the Mexican. He was unable to challenge his teammate during practice and finished FP2 in second, but with good long-run pace. With the Ferrari drivers showing they are capable of good one-lap pace, Perez will have to fight for a spot on the front row. The race should be a different story though and he is expected to step on the podium.

Ferrari looks to be second best, but not a perfect day

Throughout the season, the battle for top spot behind the Red Bulls has been one of the most interesting talking points. Aston Martin, Mercedes and Ferrari have been in contention for that and often the outcome depends on the circuit layout. The Scuderia, currently fourth in the standings, dominated the battle in Austria. Charles Leclerc came within half a tenth off pole position and held on to second place in the Grand Prix, while Carlos Sainz had a very good race in the sprint.

Things are looking good for Ferrari at Silverstone too and it is the favorite for a spot on the podium. Sainz was only 22 thousandths of a second behind Verstappen in his qualifying simulation during FP2. Leclerc did not head out at all in that practice session, as electrical issues kept him out of action. With a further practice session tomorrow, the Monegasque should make up some of the lost time.

Charles Leclerc and Logan Sargeant in the pitlane during free practice at Silverstone
Photo by XPB / Icon Sport

Mercedes not looking good

While the races at Barcelona and Montreal showed that Mercedes has done a step forward with its significant upgrade package, at Austria things did not go as well. George Russell and Lewis Hamilton could only achieve seventh and eighth respectively, with the latter complaining a lot about the performance of his car. The bad result was attributed to lack of practice and big adjustments to compensate for a loose rear end.

The issues seemed to persist in Friday practice at Silverstone. Plenty of mistakes for both drivers, as they ran wide on multiple occasions. Things were not better in terms of one-lap pace, as neither was able to get into the top ten in either session. Russell was twelfth in the second free practice session, 1.2 seconds behind the top time set by Verstappen, with Hamilton recording a similar lap time.

One of the biggest worries for Mercedes has to be its straight line speed, as it was at the bottom of the speed trap speeds along with McLaren. Long-run pace was more encouraging though, and the team has a whole night to analyse how to balance its car better and suggest adjustments that will be tested in FP3 though, so don’t count them out.

Williams impresses at Silverstone

It was a brilliant day for Williams and both its drivers. Alexander Albon finished seventh in Canada and displayed good pace in Austria, despite being unable to score. Today he stunned the paddock though, as he finished third in both sessions, with his gap to Verstappen and the top time of FP2 down to just two tenths. Whether the team has more pace in hand is questionable though.

Meanwhile, Logan Sargeant has not impressed this season and his seat is already rumoured to be under danger. He performed well in Austria and finished thirteenth, but today has probably been his best day in Formula 1 so far. Fifth in the second free practice session is a good omen for the American. A first points-scoring finish is not out of the question and Williams in general has shown great promise, ahead of the team’s 800th Grand Prix and home race.

Piastri looks to rebound after tough start

Oscar Piastri has had a difficult start to his Formula 1 career. After finishing eighth amidst the chaos in the closing stages of his home Grand Prix at Melbourne, he has only scored one point. His total of five points is underwhelming compared to the 24 points his teammate, Lando Norris, has scored so far this season.

Oscar Piastri on Friday at Silverstone
Photo by XPB / Icon Sport

Half of the Brit’s points came last time out, when McLaren introduced a new upgrade package at the Red Bull Ring. He qualified third for the Sprint but did not score after a mistake in the opening lap. But on Sunday he did, as he finished fourth in the Grand Prix after a very impressive drive. He pressured the Ferrari of Sainz towards the end of the race, while beating all the cars of Aston Martin and Mercedes.

The package was only used by Norris in the last race, but at Silverstone it will be available to both drivers. The rookie showed he is capable of taking the next step, as he demonstrated good pace in both sessions. A points-scoring finish has to be the goal for Piastri, who has enjoyed success at the venue in the past.

Worries for Pirelli?

Pirelli have brought a new construction of slick tyres in Silverstone, to compensate for the increased loads the 2023 F1 cars are producing as they are getting developed. However, a worrying sign occurred at the end of Free Practice 2. Nyck de Vries was running with the hard tyres as the session drew to a close, when he stopped on track with a punctured front right tyre.

Silverstone is a circuit we have seen tyre issues in the past, most memorably in 2013 and 2020. In the latter case in particular, the front tyres were the issue as well, as Valtteri Bottas, Carlos Sainz and -eventual race winner- Lewis Hamilton all suffered punctures in the closing laps. Interestingly though, the Alpha Tauri driver had his puncture on the front right tyre and not on the left, which is the one sustaining the biggest loads in Silverstone.

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