Analysis of the British Grand Prix, brought to you by Bahrain International Circuit
THE signs were there in Austria last week with a fourth position for Lando Norris, but even the most hardcore McLaren fans could not have wished for more this weekend at Silverstone. Yes, they could have wished for a win, but in the age of total Verstappen dominance that’s not a particularly realistic prospect.
As has been mentioned before in this column, the race behind Verstappen continues to bring surprises and entertainment and Silverstone was no exception. So, whilst we had the inevitable Verstappen win at the British Grand Prix, there was plenty to keep the fans entertained, not least for the home crowd to get behind.
In qualifying, the typical British summer of rain showers and sunshine caused some uncertainty for teams. As each session progressed, the track dried out more and the lap times kept tumbling, so the timing of the fast laps became critical.
Perez was the biggest casualty early on and mistimed his run in Q1. He was knocked out and had to start the race from 15th. His teammate however, showed his continued dominance with a high-class qualifying pole lap right at the end of the session.
But it was McLaren who stole the headlines. Last week in Austria, Norris’ car carried some upgrades which led to his impressive fourth place in the race. This week, his teammate Oscar Piastri also carried the upgrade, whilst Norris had the addition of a new front wing.
The end result? Both cars leapfrogged Aston Martin, Mercedes and even Ferrari to qualify second and third. It was quite some performance by Norris in front of his home crowd. They were followed by the pair of Ferraris in fourth and fifth with Russell and Hamilton just behind.
Of course, qualifying means nothing without conversion into the race and the signs were good from the start for the papaya team as Norris took the lead into turn one with Piastri pressing close behind to Verstappen in second. Norris managed to hold the lead until lap five, but after a Verstappen overtake the Red Bull lead driver was in control.
Despite losing the lead, it became clear that McLaren were the second fastest car on track, as by lap ten both cars were over four seconds ahead of the Ferraris.
With the preferred one pit-stop strategy, most teams began their stops around lap 29, including Piastri, who was sitting pretty in third. However, a safety car on lap 33 as a result of Magnussen stopping on track, meant that those who hadn’t stopped took the advantage.
Whilst Verstappen and Norris came back out in the same order, Hamilton managed to leapfrog Piastri into third, much to the delight of the British fans. There followed a tense battle for the last 12 laps after the safety car came in, with Hamilton pressing on soft tyres, with Norris on the slower hard tyres. Norris held out, however, delivering an incredible second place for McLaren, with his team mate just behind Hamilton in fourth.
As a result, the Silverstone fans were treated to two British drivers on the podium for the first time since 1999 and for McLaren, its first podium at Silverstone since Hamilton in 2010. A mention should also go to Williams, which is slowly creeping up the midfield. Albon finished an impressive eighth, including an overtake of Charles Leclerc in the latter part of the race.
But ultimately, this weekend was all about McLaren. With the level of progress they have made with a series of major upgrades, who knows how close they can get to Red Bull by the end of the season. Maybe that dream of a victory might not be that far-fetched?
The overall race weekend at Silverstone was a clear reminder of F1’s current level of popularity, with a total of 480,000 fans attending over the weekend, including 160,000 on race day. The mix of fans also showed how diverse the fan base of F1 has become, which is a great thing for the sport. The weekend also gave a chance for the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix to be showcased to an international motorsport audience. Working with our colleagues at Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority, the Bahrain stand in the fan zone was busy showcasing the kingdom as an F1 tourist destination and it was great to see an enthusiastic reaction from fans.
If you’ve been inspired by the track action this weekend, remember that you can get 20 per cent off tickets for the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix, as we celebrate our 20th anniversary and what will be our first ever Saturday night race. Hurry though, as the offer will end this Friday!
* Laurence Jones is senior manager, Marketing and Communications, Bahrain International Circuit