Feature F1 Unlocked
PRACTICE DEBRIEF: A Williams threat at Silverstone? Friday’s intriguing performance picture for the British Grand Prix
Formula 1 teams faced a more conventional Friday at Silverstone after Austria’s Sprint weekend, with teams using two hours of dry running to test a flurry of development parts and upgrades before turning their attention to nailing their set-up for the weekend. Here’s what we learned on the Friday of the British Grand Prix weekend.
Red Bull lead the way once again
Red Bull’s RB19 is such an impressive machine, it’s a favourite everywhere it goes. With oodles of downforce, it proved to be a menace around Silverstone’s high-speed turns.
Max Verstappen looked mighty, the two-time world champion declaring himself happy with the car on both one-lap and high-fuel pace. His team mate Sergio Perez was right there with him – and after a difficult few races too – which only serves to increase the chances of a Red Bull one-two.
They have an advantage of around 0.25s over Ferrari and close to a second on Mercedes in the slow corners – but are only a fraction clear of Ferrari in the high-speed stuff.
It’s the straights where they are exposed, with Ferrari clawing back some of that 0.25s deficit in the few slow-speed turns. But if they are out in front on Sunday – and break the one-second DRS, they will be very difficult to beat.
Ferrari in contention for pole, but race pace less certain
It was a day of mixed fortunes for Ferrari as while Carlos Sainz – last year’s British Grand Prix winner – enjoying a smooth day behind the wheel, his team mate Charles Leclerc suffered an electrical issue that kept him out of FP2.
While Ferrari are hopeful they have got to the bottom of the problem, losing one hour of track time has severely dented their chances of challenging Red Bull, as it meant they lack long run data across the compounds.
They can take heart from two successive strong race day performances, and they rank second in our race simulations. But Sainz admitted the team know tyre management remains their main weakness this weekend, and added he reckons Mercedes are stronger than them in race trim.
Qualifying has been their strength all year and their pace on the soft on Friday suggests that if they get everything right, the front row is very much on the cards.
Mercedes encouraged by race pace but puzzled by one-lap speed
It was a mixed day for Mercedes, as Lewis Hamilton and in particular George Russell struggled for grip as they battled windy conditions with a car that retains the issues that have plagued them all season.
They couldn’t get lap time out of the soft tyre in qualifying trim, however they looked reasonable when running low fuel on mediums and hards – so there’s work for them to do to understand why that is.
They are only fourth in the race simulations according to our data, but rivals were very impressed by Hamilton’s 11-lap stint on the soft tyres – the Briton able to clock consistently quick lap times – and the team were pleased with what they saw too, trackside chief Andrew Shovlin reckoning they had the speed to challenge for the podium in race trim.
Hope for the British fans, then, that a British podium could be on the cards.
Williams shock rivals with impressive pace
Alex Albon admitted he was surprised at Williams’ performance on Friday, the Thai driver ending up third in both one-hour sessions as the FW45, which has become known as a ‘slippery’ car, excelled on Silverstone’s straights.
Our data puts the British team – celebrating their 800th Grand Prix with a special livery at their home race – third on one-lap pace, a fraction ahead of Aston Martin and Alpine.
Their race pace isn’t so good, according to our data, as they rank seventh, but talk to those in the team and they have a quiet confidence that they are quicker than they look with fuel in the car.
Neither Albon or team mate Logan Sargeant – who had his best practice session of the year as he ended up fifth fastest – wanted to get carried away but if it remains dry tomorrow, Q3 is a genuine aim for both of them.