Changeable conditions make for super Saturday at Silverstone09 July 2023
The start of the weekend at Silverstone brought with it changeable conditions, which kept drivers and teams on their toes in Formula 1 and its various support races. As the British Grand Prix gathered pace, the throngs of trackside crowds were treated to Formula 1 qualifying – where the grid for Sunday’s 52-lap race was decided – whilst Formula 3 and Formula 2’s Sprint Races served up plenty of racing action throughout the day.
Formula 1 FP3As was the case in the first two practice sessions, Max Verstappen went quickest straight out of the box, but Charles Leclerc was just over a tenth and a half behind as he recovered from his lack of running in Friday’s FP2 session. Lewis Hamilton showed Mercedes had improved its pace overnight, as the seven-time champion jumped into second, just over a tenth down on Verstappen. Then the Ferrari cars upped the ante, with a 1:27.964 for Carlos Sainz and Leclerc a tenth behind.
With 15 minutes of the session in the books, the majority of teams broke out the soft tyres to start their qualifying simulations. A table-topping time from Hamilton was met with applause from the adoring crowd all the way round the circuit. Shortly after, Leclerc went fastest by half a second followed by Albon just under two tenths behind, confirming Williams’ extraordinary Friday pace. Fernando Alonso then slotted into third ahead of Pierre Gasly. That’s how the top three would stay; when the session reached its halfway point, the heavens opened, and drivers quickly filed into the pits.
Lando Norris was the first of the 20 drivers to brave the conditions on intermediates. George Russell and Leclerc followed and all three were undeterred by the conditions. As rain continued to fall for the remainder of the session, track running was limited and so, the Red Bull drivers finished the session eighth and P14 for Verstappen and Perez respectively, having missed the window for soft tyre running. Hamilton was fifth-fastest with Russell in ninth and Norris P12.
QualifyingEver-changing conditions and a sprinkling of surprise results made for one of the most memorable qualifying sessions of the 2023 season. With an almost-dry track, but rain continuing to fall, it was up for debate which tyre to use at the start of Q1. Ultimately, it was the slicks that proved to be the superior option, but it remained treacherous off the racing line as Hamilton found out when he spun into the gravel at Stowe. Another unlikely driver to come unstuck was Max Verstappen, who had a brush with the pit wall and damaged his front wing. Following a red flag period to recover Magnussen’s stationary Haas, a number of drivers starred in a frenetic final few minutes including the two Williams’ of Albon and Logan Sargeant as well as Lando Norris in the McLaren. Sergio Perez endured another torrid qualifying, exiting Q1 in P16 – his fifth successive qualification outside of the top ten.
Rain still threatened to curtail Q2, and so a queue of all 15 remaining cars formed at the end of the pit lane. Norris once again highlighted the McLaren’s potential by topping the pile, followed by Pierre Gasly then Verstappen. After the first laps were in the books, the top six were covered by a solitary tenth of a second. The final five minutes would see both Hamilton and Norris at the top of the times, to the delight of the British fans, but ultimately it was Verstappen and Red Bull Racing who performed when it mattered most, finishing the session first followed by Piastri, Norris, Albon and Sainz.
By the time cars hit the track in Q3, the sun had broken through the clouds, providing optimal conditions for the first time during all of the qualifying sessions. Once again, Verstappen hit the top of the times after the first runs, with Hamilton seven tenths behind followed by Piastri, Leclerc and Sainz. The huge home crowds were sent into rapture as Norris went fastest in the closing minutes, but in the end Verstappen would deny the Brit a home pole by two tenths. Piastri completed the top three and Russell finished sixth with Hamilton just behind in seventh.
Formula 2Sprint RaceChampionship leader Frederik Vesti started the race from reverse grid pole position with Isack Hadjar joining him on the front row, whilst home favourite Oliver Bearman lined up fifth. The most sodden conditions of the day meant that several formation laps under the Safety Car were required before a rolling start got things underway. On the first racing lap, Bearman made a sensational move round the outside of Maggots to take fourth from Enzo Fittipaldi before another Safety Car was deployed. On the restart, Bearman was ready to pounce once again, this time passing Theo Pourchaire with a dive down the inside at Village and quickly followed it up with a bold move on Hadjar into Stowe.
Feeling the pressure from his team mate behind, Vesti put in the fastest lap of the race to extend the gap to two seconds. On Lap 6, Bearman pushed up to, and over the limit, spinning at Club and conceding a position back to Hadjar. A lap later, Pourchaire also got past Bearman at Club and went on to pass Hadjar a few laps later. By Lap 10, Bearman was coming under increasing pressure from Jack Doohan, and would defend relentlessly until he spied an opportunity when Hadjar went wide at Luffield on Lap 15. Bearman dived up the inside at Copse, giving him some much-needed breathing space from Doohan, it didn’t last long though, and before long the Australian was pressuring him once again. Eventually Doohan got a run round the outside of Stowe giving him the inside line at Vale, Bearman tried to outbreak him but ended up in the gravel dropping further places to Fittipaldi and Hadjar. Ultimately, Vesti was in imperious form, winning the race by over 13 seconds with Pourchaire in second, and Doohan finally finishing a hard-fought third. Bearman ended his home Sprint Race in sixth.
Formula 3 Sprint RaceAlthough It was Sebasastian Montoya on pole, all eyes were on the British contingent behind with Jonny Edgar starting second, Taylor Barnard third, Luke Browning fifth, and Christian Mansell ninth. The highest placed Brit in the standings, Zak Osullivan started down in P15. With moments to go before the start, rain began to fall and the ART Grand Prix car of Gregoire Saucy gambled with wet tyres. At Turn 1, it was Barnard who went round the outside of Edgar whilst Browning also moved up to fourth on the opening lap. Unfortunately for Edgar, he struggled to find a rhythm, and continued dropping down the order to P15.
On Lap 6, Browning began pressuring Franco Colapinto for third but as the rain intensified, the Safety Car was deployed. Among those who opted to pit for wets were championship leader Dino Beganovic and Browning, rejoining in P11 and P13 respectively. On the restart, Barnard ran into the back of Montoya at Turn 1, sending them both tumbling down the order and elevating Christian Mansell to third. Initially, it appeared the wet tyre runners held the advantage as Beganovic and Barnard made progress through the field, but as the slicks came up to temperature, they failed to make any further impression. Mansell held off a late charge from Caio Collet to claim his maiden Formula 3 podium whilst Colapinto claimed the victory ahead of Gabriel Bortoleto.
Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup QualifyingQualifying for the Porsche Supercup was the last of Saturday’s on-track sessions and as a result, the drivers enjoyed the first completely dry session of the day. Early on, British driver Harry King recorded the second-fastest time and rose to the top of the times with 25 minutes remaining. Compatriot Gustav Burton’s times placed him in and around the top ten for much of the session.
At the haflway point, the field pitted for fresh tyres with King in second and Burton P12. With five minutes to go, tyre temperature was the top priority, as drivers weaved across the track in anticipation of the all-important final runs. King went third with two minutes remaining, a position he would hold until the end whilst Burton rose from P21 to P19 with his final attempt.