5 things we learned from Friday practice at the British Grand Prix
The British fans were out in force on Friday at Silverstone, with 106,000 braving the rain and enjoying the following sunshine at the home of motorsport. So after two practice sessions – of which only one was dry – who’s looking hot, and who has work to do overnight?
1. Ferrari at home on Silverstone’s sweeping turns
There's just something about this place that has brought out the very best of Charles Leclerc, the Ferrari driver having finished third, third and second in the last three runnings of this event – but it was his team mate Carlos Sainz who shone the brightest on Friday.
The Spaniard was impressive in FP2 and our ideal lap data shows he could have had an even bigger advantage had he got all his best mini sectors together. Leclerc would move into second in this metric, with Ferrari emerging as the strongest of all in qualifying trim.
Their race pace wasn't as promising, but they remain second overall, a couple of tenths off Red Bull, and lead the way in terms of pace in slow corners. If they can qualify well, they are very much in contention for a first win since the Australian Grand Prix.
2. A long night ahead for Red Bull after tricky day
Red Bull were the favourites heading into Silverstone, not just because they have won the last six races on the bounce but rather because they have a car that boasts a straight-line speed advantage over their immediate rivals.
But Friday practice wasn’t so smooth. Max Verstappen was unhappy with how the car felt throughout, the Dutchman referencing a strange noise on team radio. His team mate Sergio Perez struggled even more, saying the car was “miles off” what they anticipated based on simulation data.
Despite the struggles – and lack of correlation – Perez remained positive about the weekend ahead, saying Ferrari look strong “but nothing too special” and he anticipates the championship leaders will be able to match the red cars come qualifying.
3. Upgraded Mercedes seems like a step forward
The good news for Lewis Hamilton and George Russell is that the W13 wasn’t bouncing on the straights. The bad news was that it was bouncing quite a bit through the sweeping turns.
Overall, though, this was a positive day for the reigning world champions – and the early signs are that their updated car is a step forward, hauling them closer to Ferrari and Red Bull, and they are fastest of all in the high speed corners.
Both drivers feel like there’s work to do over a single lap, but their race pace was very encouraging. “Normally we see the sort of gap, half a second, maybe even seven, eight-tenths to the faster teams on a long run – and that didn't look like it was there,” said Mercedes trackside chief Andrew Shovlin.
“It is probably a bit the circuit, the circuit suiting the car. There's definitely a lot to work on, there's a lot of bouncing around and it's tricky in the high-speed at the moment, but hopefully the updates have sort of pushed us in the right direction.”
Our data suggests that they are third best on the long runs, around 0.67s off the pace – but the word inside the paddock is that the Silver Arrows are ultimately a fair bit closer than that.
4. McLaren look handy on home soil
Lando Norris finished the British Grand Prix fifth in 2020 and fourth in 2021 but coming into his home race, it didn't look like McLaren had the pace to continue that pattern and secure a podium.
The top three might still be a stretch, but Norris was in fine form on Friday, showing such strong pace he even surprised himself with how quick he was on the way to the third fastest time. On the straights, only Williams had the better performance.
Our data shows that they are around fourth quickest in terms of one-lap pace, making Q3 the minimum target and while they drop back to fifth in the race pace rankings, they can take hope from the steps they have made from Friday to Saturday this year that have helped them turn out a better performance than expected.
5. Alpine could be dark horses
Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso were keen to play down Alpine's strong pace on Friday, but the data suggests the heavily upgraded package has delivered in a big way.
Their qualifying pace puts them fifth, but that improves to fourth and best of the rest when looking at high fuel running, just three tenths of a second per lap adrift of Mercedes – that's the closest they've been all year. Their straight-line speed remains strong, and that is a huge asset around the fast and flowing Silverstone.
The caveat is they have struggled to carry impressive speed on Friday, in terms of short and long runs, into the weekend in recent events – particularly on Sunday when the points are handed out. But they can take heart from the early signs that their upgrade is working as expected, and with some good homework overnight, a good step is possible on Saturday.
And with wet weather predicted, possibly even striking in qualifying, Alonso might be feeling quite excited, having excelled in those conditions on his way to second on the grid last time out in Canada.