British Grand Prix: Norris and Hamilton do the double as Verstappen claims victory09 July 2023
Anticipation of a home podium was high as the drivers lined up for the 2023 Aramco British Grand Prix. An expectant, record-breaking crowd – 480,000 total spectators across the weekend – were cheering for Lando Norris, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell each time the drivers were visible on the circuit. As had been the case for much of the weekend at Silverstone, the threat of rain reared its head as the field lined up on the grid to take the start.
An epic start for Norris!The potential for rain wouldn’t dampen British spirits, however. As they had been 24 hours earlier with Norris’ stellar qualifying performance, the crowds were sent into raptures as the lights went out and the #4 driver aced his getaway, edging out Max Verstappen into the first corner. His team mate, Oscar Piastri almost followed Norris through and past the Red Bull, but had to settle for third. Further back, Russell made up a position to fifth at the expense of Carlos Sainz.
After three laps of Papaya at the head of the field, and incessant cheering from the fans, it became apparent that Verstappen’s pace may prove too much for Norris to fend off. Try as he might, the Brit eventually conceded the lead on the run down to Brooklands on Lap 5. A valiant effort in the race’s opening stages from the 23-year-old, and one that the crowd thoroughly appreciated.
By Lap 6, Russell’s pace looked ominous on the soft tyres as he attempted a pass on Charles Leclerc, but the Ferrari driver defended with all of his might to keep the position. On the next tour, Hamilton made his move on ex-team mate Fernando Alonso to move up to seventh.
Back at the front, Norris was keeping tabs on his good friend Verstappen, maintaining the gap at around a second, until the Red Bull driver began to stretch his legs on Lap 11. Meanwhile Sergio Perez continued his comeback drive at the expense of Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin, then the Williams of Alex Albon five laps later to move into the points.
Box, boxLeclerc and the Scuderia Ferrari strategists were the first to bite the bullet, pitting on Lap 19 and switching from the mediums to the hard tyre, dropping to P12 on the road. The scarlet car re-joined just behind Stroll on Lap 25, then two laps later Sainz pitted and emerged behind the battling pair. Following a truly mammoth stint on the soft tyres, Russell finally made his way into the pits for a fresh set of mediums, crucially re-joining ahead of Stroll and just two seconds behind Leclerc.
Piastri was the first of the front runners to pit and like Ferrari, McLaren opted for the hard compound tyres, bringing him back out in sixth behind Pierre Gasly. Extracting the maximum from his new mediums, Russell gained time on Leclerc hand over fist and on Lap 32, made a sensational move round the outside of Luffield to seize eighth.
Disaster for K-Mag, opportunity elsewhereAfter a flurry of pit stops for much of the remaining pack, flames were spotted spewing from the rear of Kevin Magnussen’s Haas as he pulled to the side of the Wellington Straight. A Virtual Safety Car was subsequently deployed, followed in short order by a full Safety Car on Lap 33.
For those who were yet to pit – namely the top three of Verstappen, Norris and Hamilton – this well-timed interruption presented the ideal strategy; in essence, enabling them to change tyres and not lose any places with a ‘free’ pit stop. The tyre choices were mixed however, as Verstappen and Hamilton opted for softs whilst Norris took on hards.
As has been the case all season, the reigning champion was faultless when the Safety Car came in, judging the restart to perfection and gapping the squabbling pair of Norris and Hamilton even before they had arrived at Abbey. The McLaren and Mercedes stunned those watching trackside, as they went wheel to wheel through Brooklands and Luffield two laps in a row, but ultimately Norris held the seven-time World Champion at bay.
Scrap for points in the closing lapsAs the laps ticked down, the fight for the final points-paying positions intensified. Perez made an opportunistic move at Club, an overtake reminiscent of last year’s ‘through goes Hamilton’ moment. Sainz continued to drop through the pack, losing three places in as many corners as Albon followed Perez through on the Hamilton Straight, and then Leclerc by the time the group reached Village.
Lap 45 would see Gasly and Stroll clash at Club corner, with the Alpine taking on suspension damage during the skirmish. This eventually spelled the end of his race and a double DNF for the local Enstone-based team following Esteban Ocon’s earlier retirement. One lap later, Perez made a move on Alonso at Stowe to take sixth from the Spaniard. On the penultimate lap, a trio of cars were separated by less than a second as Alonso, Albon and Leclerc duked it out for seventh but by the flag, they had all maintained position.
The British crowd were once again brought to their feet at the end of 52 laps, as Norris and Hamilton crossed the line in second and third respectively to take a double British podium behind Verstappen. Piastri just missed out on a podium, but still scored his best result in F1 to date with fourth whilst Russell finished fifth after his earlier pace was neutralised by the Safety Car. A comeback drive from P15 yielded sixth for Perez, followed by Alonso, Albon, Leclerc and Sainz who rounded out the top ten.