Who’d have thought that Max Verstappen’s smallest winning margin of the 2023 Formula 1 season so far – a behind-the-safety-car Australian Grand Prix finish aside – would come at Silverstone with a McLaren as his closest challenger?
But while that Verstappen-Lando Norris front two might make it easy to predict a couple of the entries in our selection of British GP winners and losers, one of the other standouts of the weekend so far came good on race day as well – while others in contention for best-of-the-rest in 2023 toiled badly.
This was McLaren’s best collective result since its 2020 day-of-days at Monza in 2021, first podium since Imola 2022 (over 14 months ago) and best performance since Norris almost won the 2021 Russian Grand Prix.
He wasn’t a victory contender this time – who is when Verstappen is running trouble free? – but McLaren was suddenly the second-fastest team on merit at Silverstone and would have scored a double podium but for the timing of the safety car, which cost Oscar Piastri crucial track position to Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton was massively impressed by what he called the McLaren “rocketship” – suggesting what he calls its Red Bull-inspired development direction shows the way Mercedes needs to go now.
It’s only one race, one which played to McLaren’s inherent strengths (high speed; cool conditions; harder compound tyres which need working hard) and mitigated its weaknesses (low-speed corners; overworking the tyres in hotter conditions), but it does validate the team’s decision to fast-track the majority of its latest major upgrade to Austria on Norris’s car.
Zak Brown feels this performance and result means McLaren is “back in the game” but the very different challenge of Hungary (lower-speed corners and softer tyres) next time out will be a big test of that. – Ben Anderson
Verstappen and Red Bull looked more beatable here than usual – bad off the line, unhappy with the tyres, less immediate in escaping his pursuers.
But that’s splitting hairs. He was still well clear before the safety car, and under no threat after.
We are still yet to really see a situation – or anywhere near a situation – where Verstappen and Red Bull don’t make for the fastest overall package throughout the weekend, and the march to an F1-record 10 consecutive wins for the Dutchman continues.
And the standings? He doesn’t even have to look at those anymore. – Valentin Khorounzhiy
Williams knew its top-three pace from Friday and early Saturday was unlikely to last come qualifying and the race, but Alex Albon once again made sure it was in the mix both in qualifying and in the race. Four precious points was the least he deserved for another outstanding weekend.
That’s now three races in a row that Williams has executed perfectly with its lead driver (even if there’s a slight blot on Albon’s personal copybook in the form of track limits infringements last weekend), by making sure Albon got out ahead of Charles Leclerc in the virtual safety car pitstops.
The cherry on the cake was still to come, though, with a peach of a pass on Carlos Sainz into Abbey – one Albon lined up opportunistically out of the final part of Club.
His Red Bull replacement Sergio Perez was only spared more attention being spotlighted on his adequate-but-not-stunning recovery to sixth by the fact Albon ran out of laps to effect an overtake on a below-par Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso.
And even when he came under attack from Leclerc on the final lap, Albon was up to the fight and aware of the value of the position – as those four points have moved Williams ahead of Haas for seventh on countback. – Jack Cozens
Logan Sargeant might not have made it two FW45s in the points, but there’s no doubting the impression his 11th-place finish – once Lance Stroll was demoted – made on Williams team principal James Vowles.
“That is an incredible finish, that is your best finish to date,” said Vowles, who was quick to come over the Williams radio to congratulate his rookie driver.
That feedback was based on Sargeant being “within a tenth” per lap of Albon for the majority of the 52-lap grand prix, which Vowles hailed as a “really impressive step”.
And it was, even in an understated way. Sargeant cleared Yuki Tsunoda in the early phase of the race, having fallen behind the soft-shod AlphaTauri, and then ran comfortably in the low teens. While the four-second gap to the struggling Carlos Sainz at the finish was never going to bridged, that decisiveness early on at least meant Sargeant was in a position to benefit if there were any late-race dropouts or penalties – such as Stroll’s.
So while there was no headline result, this was definitely Sargeant’s most impressive race drive yet – comfortably so even compared to an Austrian GP performance one week ago that already looked like a step forward. – JC
The 25-point haul flatters the Mercedes W14 somewhat – more on that later – even if it was predictably a much better Sunday car than a Saturday car.
But flattering or not, 25 points means Mercedes has taken a big step towards consolidating second place, given its main rivals in the standings scored nine combined points across their four combined cars.
It maybe won’t go down as a major season highlight – it’s not where it wants to be – but Silverstone sure made the championship situation look better for the Silver Arrows. – VK
The flattering element of Mercedes’ haul is, of course, that it was assisted by the virtual safety car that quickly escalated into a full-blown safety car.
Without that, Hamilton wouldn’t have a 14th Silverstone podium finish in F1 to his name. And without that, Mercedes would likely have been staring down the barrel of an even heavier defeat by its customer McLaren, as Piastri looked like he’d have the legs on Russell in conventional circumstances just as he did on hards at the finish.
Russell observed during the race how well the McLaren performed on hards compared to his own on (slightly older) mediums, and Hamilton a day earlier called McLaren’s qualifying pace a “wake-up call”. The grand prix itself suggested there’s still something missing as Mercedes continues its quest to get on top of its W14. – JC
Sainz was just 0.022 seconds off topping Friday. But that then turned into only a fourth and fifth place on Saturday, and a pretty hideous race to ninth and 10th.
The strategy calls looked wrong all throughout, but it might just be scapegoating at this point. The SF-23 was blatantly not good enough to make things work, dropping like a stone away from the McLarens, hanging on for dear life under pressure from the Mercedes duo, and proving of little help to its drivers – who are routinely so close on laptime that it feels like they’re hitting the limit of the package – in fighting a Williams FW45 late on.
The hard looked a terrible tyre when Leclerc fitted it early in the race. It looked great when the two MCL60s got it under them. That’s just where we are now. – VK
Alonso called this one. Amid what has clearly been a hugely impressive start for Aston Martin in 2023, Barcelona – with its huge downforce demands and long corners – was an outlier of disappointment and indicated the team might struggle at Silverstone too.
Alonso will probably reflect on seventh place as a pretty decent damage-limitation job for himself personally, but he was also fortunate that both Ferraris were undone strategically by the safety car while he gained track position from it.
This race stood in stark contrast to Canada (two races prior) where Alonso qualified on the front row, beat Hamilton’s Mercedes on merit and gave Verstappen something to think about in terms of the inherent pace Aston had. Here, Alonso was beaten by Perez (who started 15th).
At least Aston got both cars in the points in Barcelona. At Silverstone, Stroll collided with Pierre Gasly and finished a penalised 14th – which means a massive 19 points dropped to Mercedes in the battle for second in the constructors’ championship. – BA
“Oh boy, if that McLaren Red Bull Ring pace is at all replicable, the 18-point buffer Alpine has over it will not last the rest of the season,” is what I thought after Austrian GP.
I was right, and also very wrong as to the pace of events. One race later, that buffer is thoroughly and completely gone, replaced by a 12-point advantage to McLaren.
Sure, Alpine didn’t maximise the weekend – a familiar refrain this year – with Esteban Ocon’s Stroll divebomb and subsequent traffic encounter in Q2, his early retirement via a supplier part failure in the race, Gasly’s ill-timed pitstop before the safety car and Gasly then being barged into retirement by recurring character Stroll.
But even if a handful of points were probably there for the taking, and even if the A523 is a better car than the standings show, so what? Alpine did not make hay while the sun shone, and now there’s an MCL60-shaped raincloud that risks relegating Alpine to a lonely sixth place for good – which would take its season out of the realm of ‘disappointing’ and into the realm of ‘completely unacceptable’. – VK
Haas (and its reliability)
Given the longevity shown by all three compounds in the race, might Haas’s decision to have started Nico Hulkenberg on hards have kept it in contention in the midfield on this occasion – even if points were likely out of range?
If there was going to be a question mark over any team on that front it’d be Haas, but it was a moot point anyway as a broken front-wing endplate meant he was forced to pit, ruining that strategic punt.
With that in mind, 13th at the flag was an acceptable recovery – but Haas won’t be happy to see Williams showing another impressive turn of pace.
And of more concern is its reliability. Engine failures are a rarity in F1 now it’s 2023, but Kevin Magnussen’s going pop not far past half-distance (having also stopped on track on Saturday when his car switched off) means that’s two grands prix in a row that Haas has suffered one – and three race weekends too, Hulkenberg’s having let go in FP2 in Canada. – JC