10 things we learned from the 2023 F1 British Grand Prix
Max Verstappen scored Red Bull's record-equalling 11th Formula 1 victory in succession to put the team level with McLaren's legendary 1988 success. But it was McLaren that stole the headlines at Silverstone, with Lando Norris starting from the front row and finishing second. Here's more on that and the other big topics from last weekend
Silverstone almost always serves up something special. And the 2023 edition again thrust itself into race-of-the-year contention as Formula 1 fans were treated to a thrilling encounter.
While Red Bull matching McLaren's consecutive race win record should have been the main headline of the weekend, McLaren ensured the headlines went its way with Lando Norris wowing the Silverstone grandstands with a charge to the podium.
Oscar Piastri can count himself unfortunate not to have joined his team-mate on the rostrum after a safety car intervention pushed him behind Lewis Hamilton - not that the home fans were too upset to see two British drivers stand together on the British GP podium for the first time since 1999.
Here are our customary 10 things that we've learned from this year's British Grand Prix.
1. Verstappen and Perez continue their respective brilliant and bad runs
Verstappen scored his sixth win in succession as Perez failed to reach Q3 for the fifth weekend in a row
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
Verstappen’s win at Silverstone extended Red Bull’s victory streak to 11 – all of the 2023 events so far plus Abu Dhabi last year. This equals the record set by McLaren in 1988, while Verstappen’s current run extends to six, which means he can equal Sebastian Vettel’s nine in a row drivers’ record (also for Red Bull in 2013) at his home race at Zandvoort if he keeps this up.
Norris’s brilliant start imperilled things for a while, but Verstappen’s straight-line speed prowess, even up against a very slippery McLaren, gave the Dutchman a decisive edge and he was untroubled from lap five of 52. Only the safety car restart put the win at risk again, but Verstappen dropped Norris heading into Stowe nicely and had snapped the DRS threat by the start/finish line as green-flag racing officially returned.
In the other Red Bull, Sergio Perez finished sixth – not what the RB19’s pedigree deserves. The Mexican blamed his long wait in the pitlane for Q1’s resumption as the reason for his exit in that qualifying segment and latest recovery drive. He climbed the order well in the race, and wasn't at fault for the contact that broke Hulkenberg’s front wing. But it was still lacklustre overall.
Perez’s latest shocker, combined with his team-mate’s excellence, means Verstappen heads to Hungary and the season’s halfway point (after that event) with a 99-point lead. The title is all over bar the maths. AK
2. Norris stars as McLaren turns the corner on its 2023 car
Norris scored McLaren's first podium of the season with Piastri agonisingly close to joining him
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
The crowd absolutely roared when Norris steamed into Abbey in the lead having qualified an excellent second. Verstappen hadn’t reacted badly, but post-launch wheelspin slowed his progress and quick as a flash the McLaren was by. It didn’t stay in front, but there’s no shame in that versus Verstappen’s Red Bull.
What was seriously impressive was how the McLaren genuinely was Red Bull’s closest threat here – dropping the Ferraris in the first stint and Norris repelling Hamilton post-safety car. Only the unfortunate pre-safety car stop for Piastri prevented a double podium.
McLaren had added a new front wing and nose cone (only on Norris’s car) to the big upgrade package it had introduced in Austria. So, has the Woking crew finally turned a corner with the MCL60 package? It seems so, but the team isn’t getting carried away.
“Clearly the indications from the race are quite encouraging,” McLaren team principal Andrea Stella said on Sunday night. “We were ourselves surprised in the first stint to be able to keep our competitors like Ferrari and Mercedes behind. We thought they would be a problem for us in terms of pace.
“So, I think yeah, we have to acknowledge that the improvement seems to be genuine even in terms of race pace. However, as I keep reminding [everyone], we are at a circuit with high-speed corners, and actually here at Silverstone some of the high-speed corners appear [slower] in the race while they are flat in qualifying. So again, it gives a bit of a premium this track if you are competitive in high speed - in the race, possibly more than in qualifying.
“And at the same time, it was cold conditions. I keep being prudent that [the situation flattered us] a bit thanks to these conditions, but I think it's fair to acknowledge that the car seems to be more competitive in the race as well.” AK
3. Piastri proves McLaren was right to fight for his services
Piastri arguably missed out on a maiden podium only because of an unfortunately timed safety car intervention
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
In the race, he missed out on a podium through sheer bad luck due to stopping pre-safety car, but Oscar Piastri had already produced a starring drive with his third place in qualifying. It may not have produced the home-crowd cheers that accompanied team-mate Norris crossing the line just ahead, but Piastri’s Q3 finale was sublime.
The Australian had already shown he could push Norris close in 2023’s opening rounds – particularly over one lap – but since the MCL60 has been improved it has been the Briton shining most regularly. Not so here, where Piastri put in a Q3 time just 0.131s slower. Joining Norris in the top three gave McLaren its best grid showing since Monza 2021 – the race won by the driver Piastri replaced, Daniel Ricciardo.
After qualifying, Stella was asked if Piastri’s effort there was confirmation the team had made the right choice in pushing to replace Ricciardo, even going to court over Piastri’s services in the contract wrangling with Alpine last summer.
“[The] result can be seen also as a confirmation of the exceptional job that Oscar has been doing. Somehow today materialised in him actually being able to complete the lap,” Stella replied. “Because even at Barcelona he was on par with Lando, up until the point where he put his wheels on a wet patch.
“So, the speed was there. We knew it was there.
“Ultimately, when it comes to the decisions of the past, we look at the present. In terms of the present, we have two strong drivers. This puts us in a strong position for the present, like I say, but above all for the future.” AK
4. F1 engine information secrets are heading your way
Mercedes took part in an unusual power unit presentation to media at Silverstone
The F1 press corps got an unusual invitation on Saturday morning of the Silverstone weekend – head to the press conference room for a ‘Power Unit Manufacturer Media Presentation’.
This was the first in a series of annual briefings from the four F1 engine suppliers – Mercedes, Ferrari, Honda and Renault – which are aimed at improving knowledge of the current V6 turbo powerplants, as well as of the plans for the simplified and more sustainable versions coming in 2026. Mercedes was up first, with its AMG High Performance Powertrains managing director, Hywel Thomas, introduced by regular FIA press conference host Tom Clarkson.
Thomas then answered questions for over 30 minutes regarding Mercedes’ famed creation – a 2021 engine placed in the centre of the room. This, Thomas said, had changed very little in layout from the iteration that blew the rest away in 2014. But its material parts were all new as “nothing has changed, but also everything has changed” in terms of overall development.
One wonders how much Ferrari will be willing to divulge around the history of its engine in the coming months, particularly on the topic of its 2019 arrangement and controversial early 2020 engine “settlement” with the FIA… Watch this space. AK
5. F1’s “most authentic film” has all the kit to achieve its aim
The arrival of Brad Pitt and APXGP at Silverstone caused a spike in excitement for the upcoming F1-based film
Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images
A week on from Joseph Kosinski – director of the as-yet-unnamed upcoming F1 film – telling reporters at the Austrian GP that the Apple project would be the “most authentic” film ever made about grand prix racing, things finally broke cover at Silverstone.
The Mercedes-adapted Formula 2 cars were on track capturing moving shots in front of the 480,000-strong crowd. The fictional team for which Brad Pitt and Damson Idris will be ‘racing’ was revealed as ‘APXGP’. And the squad assembled on the pre-race grid then toured down it while the rest pulled away. Its pit set-up was so immaculate and detailed that Ferrari squad boss Fred Vasseur noted it was “even better than some teams” competing for real.
The F1 paddock became part film set as the production company captured shots of Pitt and co moving around. The work was based from the repurposed former FIA motorhome acquired via the company that erects F1’s official track sponsor signs and advertising logos, with which the film is also working closely. Pitt even put in an appearance at the Friday night Silverstone drivers’ briefing, which Russell called “quite surreal” and Hamilton said was “probably the best drivers' briefing we've ever had”, as Pitt and Kosinski explained the project to F1’s biggest stars.
Expect to see APXGP at several more races across the rest of the 2023 season. AK
6. Albon is picking up from where Russell left off at Williams
A frontrunner in practice and points on Sunday: Albon is leading Williams in the right direction
Photo by: Erik Junius
When Alex Albon first signed up to drive for Williams, it was evident that he would need to shake off the difficulties he’d faced in the Red Bull pressure cooker when he was demoted to reserve driver having failed to match Max Verstappen over the 2020 season. Autosport predicted that, all being well, he would be a perfect like-for-like replacement for the Mercedes-bound George Russell and a strong asset to the Grove squad as it looked for a figurehead on the track to lead its Dorilton-funded revival.
It’s only fitting that we toot our own horn and consider that prediction, as Albon has acquitted himself well as team leader over the past season and a half. This season’s heroics are proving as such, and the Anglo-Thai racer is making the most of every opportunity when Williams has the car to potentially score points.
Recent upgrades have made that more possible compared to the early-spec FW45, and Albon once again did his job in racking up the points at Silverstone. He admittedly struggled at the start as he found grip to be at a premium but, when the opportunity presented itself to make up ground during the safety car-instigated pitstops, he grabbed the incentive. This put him in a battle with Fernando Alonso and Charles Leclerc, whom he remained between at the line to punch out with four points in his grasp.
“I have to say that safety car came out at a perfect time. As we boxed in, and obviously had a restart, [I was] kind of licking my lips a little bit,” he reckoned. “I had better pace than Fernando, which was a bit of a surprise. But then Charles was coming quite quickly at the end. So it was a race of forwards and backwards - one eye forward, one eye back. It became a bit of a dogfight. I wouldn't have wanted that race to last one more lap!” JBL
7. Mercedes finds strong race pace in spite of Diva 2.0
A 14th Silverstone podium for Hamilton: Mercedes is on the move
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
After the initial glimmers of hope presented to Mercedes by its heavily revised W14, the upgrades have not proven enough to counter the developments made by the teams around it on the grid. To its surprise, the recent progress made by McLaren has put the Woking team above Mercedes in the most recent pair of races: Austria and Silverstone underlined the papaya cars’ leap forward from the midfield.
Regardless, Mercedes played the British Grand Prix particularly well. George Russell was given the ammunition to beat Charles Leclerc with the team’s timing of his opening pitstop, having not been able to find his way on soft tyres prior to that call. And Lewis Hamilton benefitted from the safety car to make his own path to a podium.
The points secured at Silverstone will have been a not-insignificant boost to Mercedes, even if faith in its 2023 car continues to plummet.
“I always believe that we can beat Max. We have a good group of people, and the best drivers,” said Toto Wolff. “We just have to give them a car that is more predictable and not the Diva 2.0 and much more complicated than the first one.”
The team is still a well-oiled machine for the most part, even if Sunday’s pitstops were a smidgen more leisurely than it had hoped for. But the car continues to let it down. JBL
8. Ferrari's hero to almost-zero performance
Ferrari endured a simply awful Sunday, scraping three points after qualifying P4/5
Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images
After the Austrian Grand Prix, where Ferrari looked to have turned the corner and staked its claim as having the second-best car in F1, the SF-23's inconsistencies once more began to bite. Practice suggested that the Scuderia would be able to continue its Red Bull Ring form and challenge for a front-row start, but Leclerc couldn’t quite string his final qualifying lap together and had to be content with fourth on the grid. Carlos Sainz followed him in fifth, but the weekend still promised good points.
In the race, however, something went awry. Leclerc was noticeably slower than the chasing Russell but the Mercedes’ top-end performance hindered the possibility of a potential overtake prior to their stops. After they’d collected fresh tyres, Russell breezed past the Monegasque on the outside of Luffield and collected another position.
Although the Ferrari strategy was not miscible with the later safety car period, costing them positions as the other cars around them took cheaper pitstops, poor pace stymied any further progress. Sainz’s missteps in his Perez battle cost him further places, while Leclerc could not mount an assault on Albon either.
“It’s not like we degraded the tyres more than others, it’s just that Mercedes and McLaren were stronger than us,” was Leclerc’s assessment. Maranello’s finest minds don't quite seem to have a handle on shallowing the wave in their car’s fluctuating performance window - and it hit the bottom of that wave in Northamptonshire. JBL
9. Aston Martin form is fading, but Alonso keen not to "stress"
Aston Martin has dropped back as rival teams have introduced upgrade packages
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
With the progress of McLaren, Aston Martin appeared to have at best the fifth-fastest car in the British Grand Prix. Despite efforts in Canada to bring upgrades to widen the working range of its car, the Silverstone squad doesn’t seem to have made quite the same performance gains compared to its rival teams at the sharp end.
The faster corners at the former RAF airfield were never likely to suit the AMR23, which thrives more in lower-speed conditions, but those efforts to grow the envelope do not seem to have borne much in the way of fruit. Perhaps the team flattered in the initial string of races on street circuits, and the return of more traditional tracks has exposed weaknesses in its arsenal.
The Hungaroring should be a much more suitable circuit for this year’s Aston Martin machinery, but still it must find further performance gains to ensure it capitalises on this on-paper advantage. That said, Fernando Alonso said that it was important not to “stress” too much about the recent lack of form, given the gains that the team made over the winter.
“To be honest I'm not too stressed about the development,” he explained after the British Grand Prix. “The car is better than expected this year. We are fighting for things that we could probably never dream of at the beginning of the year. So now if we can stay in the top 10 and keep fighting with the top guys, it's great. But I think we have to focus on the long term picture as well. We cannot get stressed every weekend if we are seventh or if we are fourth or if we are on the podium. We need to be very pragmatic and very relaxed about our performance.” JBL
10. New Pirelli tyre construction up to the task
Pirelli rolled out a new tyre construction at Silverstone
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Owing to the rapidly escalating performance of the 2023 cars and their increased downforce output, tyre supplier Pirelli had two options to respond: either increase the minimum pressures or introduce a more robust construction. Increasing the mandatory pressures is a perfectly workable solution, but often causes consternation with the drivers as the reduced grip on offer makes the cars more difficult to handle. So the Italian tyre manufacturer instead brought a new development to Silverstone, using new materials within the structural layers without any change to the overall compound.
These had been tested previously in practice at the Spanish Grand Prix, making their full debut at Silverstone. Little difference was expected by the teams, other than a minor increase in mass. Added wear to the tyres produced by the increased downforce thankfully appeared to be mitigated, which Pirelli will count as a job well done.
“It was clear that the new construction was transparent,” reckoned Pirelli chief Mario Isola. “It was also transparent during our tyre development tests. It’s an improvement despite the increase in loads, which we measured to be around 15%. That's 15% more load on the tyres compared to last year – [but] we used the same pressures. Thanks to the new construction, we didn’t have to increase the pressures.” JBL
Verstappen, Norris and Hamilton all had something to smile about last Sunday
Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images
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