Ferrari‘s Carlos Sainz showed impressive pace in the opening practice sessions for the 2023 British Grand Prix, challenging Red Bull‘s Max Verstappen. However, a closer analysis of the data reveals that Verstappen was comfortably ahead in terms of race speed. In contrast, Ferrari‘s Charles Leclerc encountered an electric problem which forced him to miss all of FP2, while Aston Martin experienced minor issues that caused interruptions in the afternoon session. Mercedes also struggled, leaving the home crowd with less to cheer about for Lewis Hamilton and George Russell. Thankfully, Williams surprised with a strong showing in both practice sessions.
The day started with FP1 at 12:30 local time, which had a different feel compared to usual. Teams were not only focused on finding the baseline set-up choices, but many were also testing various items as the development race behind Red Bull intensifies. Red Bull took the lead in FP1, with Verstappen setting the fastest time, followed by his teammate Sergio Perez. Alex Albon surprised by putting his Williams in third place. Fernando Alonso and Charles Leclerc rounded out the top five.
FP2, which began just after 16:00, saw teams focusing on understanding the new Pirelli tyres. Verstappen once again led the way, with Sainz just 0.022s behind. However, it was a less favorable session for Ferrari as Leclerc was unable to participate due to a short circuit. The session was also delayed due to the track needing cleaning after several incidents in the Formula 2 qualifying session.
In FP2, Williams continued to shine, with Albon repeating his third-place finish from FP1 and Logan Sargeant putting the second Williams car in fifth. The team was pleased with their performance, showcasing the high-speed prowess they had previously shown in Canada.
Despite Ferrari‘s strong one-lap pace, the team faced difficulties, while Aston Martin‘s drivers experienced problems during their soft tyre qualifying simulations. Alonso had to pit due to a wheel rim issue, and Stroll needed his wing mirror fixed. Stroll also had an unfortunate incident when a stone struck his finger during a long-running session, causing him considerable pain.
Mercedes also struggled in FP2, with both Hamilton and Russell failing to make it into the top 10. Lando Norris, another British driver, finished in 14th place. The team attributed their struggles to the hot air temperature of 30°C and difficulties hitting apexes in the first sector.
Teams took advantage of the opportunity to gather data on the new tyres during the long-run exercises in FP2. Haas completed nearly half a race distance, with Nico Hulkenberg testing the hard tyres. Red Bull showed a considerable advantage on the soft tyres compared to their rivals, indicating that they were operating with a standardized fuel load and managing their pace to maximize tyre life.
Pirelli believes all three tyre compounds could be viable race options, with many teams evaluating the soft tyres in FP2. Red Bull‘s strong performance on the softs gives them confidence, while Aston Martin and Mercedes also showed promise. However, Mercedes still trails Red Bull by a significant margin.
Various factors affected the teams’ performances. A crosswind presented challenges for the drivers, especially in lower-speed corners where ground-effect cars struggle. This led to increased rear sliding and difficulties in preserving tyre life. The high track temperatures also posed challenges in maintaining the front tyres’ optimal temperature balance.
Ferrari‘s performance on the soft tyres was concerning, and they will need to make adjustments to improve their race pace. Red Bull remains a strong contender, while Mercedes aims to fight for a podium position but struggles to qualify in the top 10. The stage is set for an exciting weekend at Silverstone.