The 2023 British Grand Prix is set for a battle between McLaren and Ferrari around the top of the order just like old times – if you ignore Max Verstappen gunning for his sixth Formula 1 victory in a row.
Verstappen is the odds-on favourite for race victory but Ferrari and McLaren should be evenly matched in the battle for the podium as Lando Norris lines up in second, Oscar Piastri leads Charles Leclerc on the second row with Carlos Sainz in fifth.
It’s more than a year since Verstappen failed to win a grand prix from pole position – Austria 2022 – and before that the last race he finished and failed to win from pole was the 2021 Bahrain GP.
With Sergio Perez – the only driver able to beat Verstappen so far in 2023 – starting in 15th then it’ll be a tall order for anyone to better the Dutchman but the race is set for an exciting battle behind.
Ferrari‘s tyre degradation issues have been well-documented across 2022 and 2023 but Carlos Sainz said he expects McLaren to suffer similarly at Silverstone.
The grand prix is expected to be around five degrees colder than FP2 when teams did their race simulations, which should help, but Sainz was still worried about the threat posed by the Mercedes starting sixth and seventh led by George Russell.
McLaren vs Ferrari: who wins?
The jumbled nature of free practice means it’s difficult to compare race pace projections, as Leclerc didn’t get any running in FP2 and Sainz didn’t run on the hard tyres. While Piastri‘s race pace looked alright, there’s little to compare it to.
None of the frontrunners have new soft tyres remaining, and a medium-hard one-stop strategy looks just about like the better option over a two-stop. That’d see a pit window around lap 20-25.
However, both teams could choose to mix it up with one driver. Pirelli have said a soft-medium-soft two-stop is also viable, or a medium-hard-soft to give an ultra-aggressive stint at the end.
Whether McLaren will give both drivers their optimal plan, opt to give Piastri a more aggressive strategy or pit Norris early to cover off Ferrari and leave the Australian out for track position, having those two cards to play will be invaluable.
It’d be a surprise to see Ferrari double-down on the same strategy for both cars though. Assuming they hold position at the start, Sainz could pit early to force McLaren‘s hand.
Meanwhile Lewis Hamilton said he expects to find it tough against the top five and Mercedes could both one-stop and try to consolidate a strong points haul against Aston Martin who start ninth and twelfth with Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll.
Will it rain at Silverstone?
The big question, Norris will likely be the big winner if so – he was sublime in drying conditions in qualifying and even topped Q1.
There’s been early raceday rain at Silverstone and there’s a 33% chance of more at the 3pm local time start to the grand prix.
“In the last free practice session, we saw drivers mainly doing laps with a low fuel load,” Pirelli motorsports director Mario Isola said. “But this did allow them to learn more about the intermediate tyre and to calculate the crossover time to slicks (112%) on a demanding track like Silverstone.
“From the comments we have received from the teams and drivers, everything seems to be in line with expectations, both in terms of warm-up and car balance.”