► What to expect on race day
► Is McLaren back?
► Mercedes, Ferrari and Aston Martin evenly matched
All eyes are on Silverstone for the British GP this weekend because it’s shaping up to be one of the most interesting races of the season. That’s not particularly hard to be fair, but changeable weather, well-timed upgrades and human error all means the grid is as shuffled as we’ve ever seen it.
Silverstone is always a thriller, but if Friday and Saturday are anything to go by, there should be a good amount of action on track. Here are eight reasons to tune into the British Grand Prix tomorrow.
1. Verstappen is on pole
He was always going to be on pole, but what’s unusual this time is the margin by which the Dutchman claimed it. Rather than the chunks of a second we’ve seen throughout the year, after Saturday’s qualifying, Verstappen’s Red Bull was a mere 0.241 seconds faster than the second place driver – a relative sliver compared to his winning margins throughout the year.
What does this mean for tomorrow? Who knows. Equally interesting was the way in which the Red Bull’s advantage seemed to melt away when DRS wasn’t enabled.
2. McLaren is second
15 years ago Lewis Hamilton won a thriller at Silverstone, underlining his talents in the wet and seriously boosting his (ultimately successful) championship charge. Fast-forward a decade and a half and Woking is looking the best it has in a while: the car that qualified less than a quarter of a second behind Verstappen’s Red Bull was a McLaren, and the car behind that was a McLaren too.
Lando Norris urged for caution at the last race – since he’s particularly good in Austria – but it seems McLaren’s recent step up isn’t just down to him. As you’d expect, both drivers played down the performance, adding that this track has always suited their car – but it’s a seriously impressive result from the Woking team. Starting second and third, the papaya (and chrome for this race) cars will have a chance to attack Verstappen but will also be defending against the Mercedes and Ferrari cars.
3. Perez’s routine comeback
Perez starts fifteenth after another disappointing qualifying session. Despite being in comfortably the fastest car, this was the 5th straight time the Mexican has failed to make the top-ten shootout. Still, Sergio’s loss is the crowd’s gain, as we should be treated to a proper fightback for Sunday’s race.
A podium could well be on the cards if Perez scythes through the field as efficiently as his teammate would, but Sergio has a habit of making things a little more complex. Just look at his dramatic dice towards the end of last year’s race, for example.
4. The pack is super competitive
Before we get into the possibilities for Mercedes and Ferrari, it’s worth zooming out and looking at the rest of the qualifying times. The difference between Lando Norris in 2nd place and Lewis Hamilton in 7th was just 0.194 seconds: that’s one of the most compact fields F1 has had in a while. Factor in race pace and a charging Perez and it’s impossible to guess the top eight – or second to eight at least…
5. Ferrari on a surge of form
This time last year, the Maranello-based team was mounting a serious charge on Red Bull – but a lot can change in 12 months. At least Ferrari look to have found some form in the short term: both cars were quick on Saturday and race day in Austria and some newfound long pace could come in handy on Sunday. Will it be enough, and will Sainz and Leclerc battle amongst themselves as they did at the Red Bull Ring? We shall find out tomorrow.
6. Mercedes in the hunt on Sunday
The Mercedes cars arrived in Silverstone with a new front wing – but it doesn’t look to have given the team the overall pace it needs. On Saturday at least, the Mercedes didn’t look to be a match for Ferrari or McLaren – but that could change tomorrow.
In its current form, the W14 has a habit of performing best on Sundays, so throw in the miniscule gap to the cars in front, and we could well see Russell and Hamilton challenging throughout the race.
7. The Great British Weather
There’s one thing I’ve not mentioned yet: the great British weather. The forecast this weekend has been relatively volatile, and that was most obvious on Saturday: qualifying was overcast, warm, sunny, and rainy – with the latter two happening simultaneously at points. The forecast for tomorrow suggest a possible thunderstorm and shower at 16:00 – in the last third of the race. A final plot twist in addition to all the above.
8. 800 for Williams
Williams’ 800th race comes at a time when the team is on the up. The Groves-based team has changed its livery to a Union Jack-inspired affair to mark the occasion at Silverstone – and both cars are well up the field, too. Alex Albon made his third successive appearance in Q3 on qualifying day, and Logan Sergeant starts not far behind in 14th place. Remember when Williams would struggle to score ay points at all?