With each race of the 2023 season, it becomes increasingly difficult to look for at least some intrigue, given Max Verstappen’s massive lead over the rest of the field. However, qualifying for the British Grand Prix has managed to give us some unexpected results. And no, it’s not about Max: the Dutchman is still the leader. He’s more about fighting behind the future three-time world champion.
Perhaps the main intrigue of the Silverstone stage was how well the McLaren cars could perform at race pace: for the first time since 2012, the Woking team managed to place two cars in the top 3 following qualifying results, so the team is in papaya colors that could well please the local fans.
Of course, there were some failures, however, there were no surprises here: Sergio Pérez failed qualifying for the fifth time in a row, so it was worth waiting for the Mexican’s advance to the top positions in the race.
McLaren gives hope
The start of the race was fierce: Norris reacted better to the starting lights and managed to get ahead of Verstappen into the first corner. Max tried to attack and Oscar Piastri, however the Australian could not cope with Verstappen.
By lap five, Max was able to get into attacking distance with the help of the DRS and regain the lead in the race. The first trinity, formed by Verstappen and two McLarens, separated from the group of Leclerc and Russell for three seconds, after which the differences between the leaders stabilized. Soon the peloton lost the first car: Esteban Okon retired due to technical problems.
On lap 15, Max Verstappen reported that a light rain had begun on the track. At this point, the Dutchman was able to break away from Norris for three seconds, while the McLaren drivers took complete cover from the attacks of Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari.
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The rain also gave me hope
Leclerc was the first of the leading pack to pit for his pit stop, which was surprising as Charles started on the ‘medium’, as opposed to Russell on the ‘soft’ behind him. Then, curiously, Sainz went to the pits. Otherwise, tire degradation was less than expected, so even Russell, who started on the soft tyres, was comfortable on them until halfway through the race.
Russell was given a new “half”, thus opening the main wave of pit stops. On lap 33, for the second time in recent years, the Haas car’s engine burned out: Kevin Magnussen retired, causing a safety car to appear on track. Ferrari took advantage of this to call a second time: Leclerc switched from hard to medium. At McLaren they decided to switch to hard, while the main rivals switched their kits to soft. The field lined up behind Bernd Maylander in anticipation of a 14-lap sprint.
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McLaren gave hope for the second time, this time to Hamilton
Hamilton, at the expense of the safety car, was able to get ahead of Piastri: Oscar stopped a few laps before Magnussen’s fire. At the same time, Hamilton behind Norris ended up in the “software”. Lewis pushes back and the second “McLaren”?
With 14 laps to go, the safety car left the track. Verstappen won the restart, while Norris was under fire from Hamilton. From the first attempts, Lewis failed to get past Lando: Norris, despite the difference in kits, was able to repel the attacks of the seven-time world champion, and then slightly slipped away. As for the Ferraris, their tactical attempts meant that with eight laps to go, Leclerc and Sainz were bottom of the top ten.
Soon the peloton lost another car – Gasly broke the suspension in the fight against Stroll. The Frenchman was able to reach the pits, but he was unable to continue the race.
Surprisingly, McLaren’s tactics paid off
As a result, Norris managed to stay in second place, despite a two-step difference in tire composition to Hamilton. Verstappen confidently carried the race to victory, which was the eighth of the season and the 43rd of his career. Norris finished second, Hamilton third, and Piastri fourth. George Russell rounded out the top five.
In addition, Pérez, Alonso, Albon, Leclerc and Sainz managed to score points in the United Kingdom.
The race in the UK turned out to be quite exciting. McLaren adopted a seemingly losing strategy, but it ultimately paid off. As for championship intrigue, with each race we are getting closer to Max Verstappen’s third title.
Formula 1, for its part, is taking a short break and will return in two weeks, when the Hungarian Grand Prix is held.
Just one Grand Prix ago, Lewis was terribly unhappy:
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