The build-up to Qualifying for the British Grand Prix was marked by a drying Silverstone circuit. Scuderia Ferrari were very strong in the dry running in Final Practice as Charles Leclerc set the fastest time of the weekend from Alex Albon, who continued to impress for Williams. Championship leader Max Verstappen was down in eighth but didn’t run the soft tyres. Mercedes were more competitive in fifth and ninth but it would take something special for either Lewis Hamilton or George Russell to get onto the front row.
The rain stopped at Silverstone and the F2 Sprint race dried up the track. It was torrential rain when the F2 Sprint began, but the rain stopped and the 20 cars hoovered up the water. And in case you’ve missed it this weekend, filming for the F1-inspired movie starring Brad Pitt has been taking place at Silverstone alongside the other track action.
There was still two minutes to go until Qualifying got under way and we already had a queue at the end of the pit lane with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton at the front.
There was a real mix of tyres on the cars heading out for the first laps. Mercedes were on the soft tyres, in fact the majority of the field were. Ferrari though opted for the interest along with the two Haas cars and Logan Sargeant. But soon Charles Leclerc already said he was coming straight back in for dry tyres. The drivers were able to do multiple laps on the soft tyre in practice and the drying conditions probably meant they would be fuelled up to at least do two flying laps straight away.
Lewis Hamilton spun at Stowe corner on his first flying lap: he ended up in the gravel but fortunately for him, the Mercedes didn’t get beached and he could carry on his way. George Russell was ahead of Lewis Hamilton so didn’t get affected by the yellow flags. He set a 1:35.257. But, Verstappen, Ocon, Piastri and Perez all went faster and it was the Dutchman on top at the moment. Fernando Alonso went fastest on a 1:31.437. The drivers were around four seconds slower than practice, so they were not feeling all the grip of a dry track yet. Verstappen had his first lap deleted but was second after setting another flying lap. Sergio Perez hadn’t reached Q3 since the Miami GP and he was struggling here again. He could only go 12th fastest with his latest lap which put him in real threat in these closing minutes. Max Verstappen meanwhile went fastest in the Red Bull.
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Williams were impressing in the dry in practice but they were not liking these damp conditions. The car looked a real handful and Alex Albon had his latest lap deleted for track limits while Logan Sargeant went over the grass as well. Sargeant is P17 and Albon is P19 with just a few minutes until the end of Q1. Kevin Magnussen stopped on track just before the entry to the pit lane. The Dane said everything just shut off on his Haas.
Sergio Perez and Alex Albon were already waiting for the green light at the end of the pit lane. The Mexican was only 14th and was desperate to avoid another early Qualifying elimination, as Magnussen’s Haas was still being cleared at the exit of Stowe.
Max Verstappen hit the pit wall as he came out of his garage: he broke his front wing and had to be pushed back into the garage. “I just understeered and had no grip,” Verstappen said over the team radio. The Dutchman had a new front wing on his car and Q1 was back under way. This was going to be a frantic few minutes. Verstappen and Hamilton did make it across the line to start a lap and there were so many personal best sectors.
Sergio Perez was out of Q1 and for the fifth straight race he made an early exit from qualifying. The track clearly dried out during the red flag and everybody improved their best times: the Mexican had gone P2 with his first lap after the red flag but tumbled down the order. And when Valtteri Bottas stopped on track, Sergio Perez could not finish his final flying lap he was out in P16! Everyone improved on that final lap and it ended up being Norris fastest from Charles Leclerc, with George Russell third, Lewis Hamilton fourth and Max Verstappen fifth.
Q2 was under way and the sun was out. However, Fernando Alonso was told to expect light rain “any minute now”. British weather for you right there. Ted Kravitz reported that a lot of drivers were starting this segment of qualifying on used soft tyres. Plenty of new sets had already been burned through after that chaotic end to Q1. Max Verstappen’s engineer Gianpiero Lambiase said there were “light drops about” for the next five minutes. The track looked very dry and the opening sector times were not too far off the best dry pace from this weekend.
Fernando Alonso posted the first time for people to chase in this session – a 1:30.660. The Spaniard had to do a lot of work on the Aston Martin though through the lap. Lance Stroll and Alex Albon were unable to better Alonso’s first effort.
Charles Leclerc couldn’t beat Lando Norris’ benchmark as was three tenths of a second slower and went into P2. Carlos Sainz bettered his Ferrari teammate but again couldn’t beat Norris and then Alex Albon went P2 himself. In the final stages of Q2, Max Verstappen went fastest by 0.340s from Lando Norris. Fernando Alonso could only go seventh with more drivers on hot laps. That was close for Mercedes as George Russell squeaked through in 10th place, 0.114 ahead of Nico Hulkenberg who was the first driver out in Q2. Lewis Hamilton finished the session in eighth.
The Mercedes set their laps a few minutes before most drivers, so track evolution might explain some of their deficit to the front. They needed to find more performance for Q3 though. Nico Hulkenberg, Lance Stroll, Esteban Ocon, Logan Sargeant and Valtteri Bottas were out in Q2.
We were green for Q3 and DRS was enabled. It has been disabled so far in Qualifying and that could make a difference for the cars that are quicker in a straight line with their DRS flap open. In addition to his DRS advantage, Max Verstappen was the only driver in this segment who had two sets of new soft tyres available to him. The Dutchman on those new soft tyres pumped in a 1:27.084 to go quickest by six tenths of a second and be on provisional pole. But Lewis Hamilton was currently on the front row with the Red Bull. Oscar Piastri was third for McLaren behind the two old title rivals Verstappen and Hamilton. But he told McLaren to check his floor after running over the kerbing at Turn 13. The two Ferrari cars then followed behind the Australian after the first runs in Q3.
Everyone ran new soft tyres and the track evolution was huge this afternoon due to the rain. It was all going to be about this final lap. George Russell and Carlos Sainz had a mini battle for track position on the out lap. The Ferrari man prevailed as Qualifying came to a climax.
Charles Leclerc went purple through the first sector to be up on Max Verstappen’s best time and he was still 0.001s ahead through the second sector, but lost time in the final sector and was 0.052s off Max Verstappen’s effort. Carlos Sainz went behind his teammate. For a few moments Lando Norris was on provisional pole position. A stunning 1:26.961 from the young Briton got him ahead of Verstappen, but the world champion set a 1:26.720 to claim his fifth consecutive pole position.
Results from qualifying at the British Grand Prix, Round 10 of the F1 2023 world championship.
|1||Max Verstappen||NED||Red Bull||1m29.428s||1m27.702s||1m26.720s|
|9||Fernando Alonso||ESP||Aston Martin||1m29.949s||1m28.368s||1m27.659s|
|12||Lance Stroll||CAN||Aston Martin||1m29.448s||1m28.935s|
|15||Valtteri Bottas||FIN||Alfa Romeo||1m29.798s||No Time Set|
|16||Sergio Perez||MEX||Bull Racing||1m29.968s|
|18||Zhou Guanyu||CHN||Alfa Romeo||1m30.123s|
|19||Nyck de Vries||NED||AlphaTauri||1m30.513s|