BRITISH GP – Max Verstappen beats Lando Norris to pole by two tenths in action-packed and surprising qualifying
Max Verstappen has beaten Lando Norris by two tenths of a second to take his fifth pole in a row at the British Grand Prix. The Red Bull driver beat the Englishmen in changeable conditions to secure pole with the second McLaren of Oscar Piastri two tenths behind Norris.
Qualifying was set to be close throughout the weekend it has appeared to be about the finest of margins, one of the most dramatic of 2023, the conditions also meant it was about maximising conditions. But it looked difficult to stop the Verstappen express, on his final attempt the Dutchman improved by two tenths.
Verstappen, who leads the world championship by eighty-one points, claimed a fifth successive pole for the first time in his career, and will attempt to add a sixth successive race victory on Sunday. Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez, failed to get out of Q1 the fifth race in a row.
However Saturday despite claiming pole, looked to be one of his weaker days, Verstappen broke his front wing leaving the pits, catching it on the wall opposite the garage, something he was able to make a joke out of later. But bounced back to top Q2 and then set his fastest time on his first run in Q3.
Verstappen said, “It’s been quite a crazy qualifying. It was quite hectic and slippery in some places. We did our laps and then Q3, I was quite surprised to see them two there. It’s great for McLaren to be here and very happy from our side to be on pole.”
Victory for Verstappen would allow Red Bull to equal eleven Grand Prix wins the record currently held by McLaren. The team winning every race expect Sao Paulo since Carlos Sainz won at Silverstone last year.
McLaren first front-row start at their home Grand Prix since 2008, a race won by Lewis Hamilton. Their upgrades this weekend have delivered the team a step forwards, coupled by Norris’s abilities in the wet gave the team a huge step forward.
In Sochi in 2021, Norris took a shock pole in similar conditions, but a repeat was always unlikely. Piastri was still over a tenth behind Norris, but his performance shows midway through his debut season he starting to deliver the strong results he had in F2 and F3. Also, his best performance in his debut season, gave McLaren what they expected when they signed him last August.
McLaren had always hoped the upgrade would turn around their season, but Silverstone seems to have confirmed they have made a significant step forwards. They started the year having admitted they had missed their development targets and needed to change their design philosophy.
Norris said: “Pretty insane. My last lap was a good lap. I could hear Zak [Brown] on the radio on the in-lap which was the best thing ever. It’s always Max. He always ruins everything for everyone.”
Piastri added, “What a qualifying session. Almost out in Q1 but the car was a rocket ship in Q2 and Q3. And I felt like I put a decent lap together. Massive result for the team, to have both of us up there is great.”
The team were cautious following Norris’s fourth in Spielberg given he has always been strong their, but Silverstone suggests the upgrades delivered a significant step forwards. Brief disappointment quickly turned to satisfaction for a McLaren team that has endured a poor start to the 2023 campaign.
However following a messy lap early on in Q1, Piastri looking like the stronger McLaren, having topped Q2 and slotted in third behind Hamilton on those first runs. Norris giving the British fans, momentarily, a fairy tale pole in what has been a poor season for the McLaren.
Charles Leclerc was fourth going just over a hundredth faster than teammate Carlos Sainz, Ferrari looking unable to capitalise on Aston Martin’s slip from the front. Ferrari’s lack of pace this weekend was expected as they have struggled in high speed corners.
They did briefly go second and third, but then the McLaren’s put in really strong performances.
George Russell was sixth half a tenth ahead of Lewis Hamilton, and Alex Albon made sure all four Brits made it through to Q3 going eighth. Hamilton recovering from a spin in Q1 despite the session being about being on track at the right time, the eight time winner at Silverstone looked to be close on his first run.
Albon born in London and racing under the Thai flag, has been the star of the weekend. Williams looking normally to struggling to get into Q3, a good result getting through to Q2.
Aston Martin have looked to be Red Bull’s main challenger however their headline-grabbing performances looking maybe harder to get as Mercedes and Ferrari close the gap. Fernando Alonso ninth four hundredths ahead of the Alpine of Pierre Gasly, the Frenchman rounding out the top ten.
Earlier in the session Alonso had looked to join Perez as the surprise early casualty, but at end of Q1 he was out missing the cut by two hundredths.
Nico Hulkenberg was the fastest of those knocked out in Q2, a session which was defined by rapid track evolution as the circuit dried out. At one stage nearly all the midfield runners were at risk, but the Haas driver failed to improve by enough to get out of the drop zone. That left Hulkenberg four hundredths ahead of Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon.
Logan Sargeant unlined the progress by Williams, having lost two times for breaching track limits he had been ninth. But as the track improved so did those in the drop zone, the American dropping to fourteenth three-quarters of a tenth behind Ocon. Valtteri Bottas made it into Q2, however, was unable to take part after stopping on track at Luffield in Q1.
Things for Haas were difficult as well as missing out on Q3, Hulkenberg’s teammate Kevin Magnussen had no chance of getting out of Q1 when his Haas stopped at Stowe bringing out the red flag.
Perez was fastest of those knocked out in Q1, piling of the pressure on the Mexican. Going into Monaco seven weeks ago he had tied Verstappen on two wins from four races and won the sprint in Baku, but since Monaco he has been on a downwards spiral.
Yuki Tsunoda was seventeenth nearly a tenth faster than Guanyu Zhou, the Alfa Romeo splitting the Alpha Tauri’s with Nyck De Vries four tenths behind.
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