F1 – British GP – Qualifying

Hello, MiniFans! We’re back to our regularly scheduled weekends in Silverstone, leaving sprint weekends to the side for the moment. The weather is as unpredictable as always in the British countryside, leading to the Q3 contestants not being quite clear, specially after the fight for being the second team in the championship has been tightened.

The weather forecast set the chance of rain at 100% during the session, which added to the already wet track from an earlier shower, made it so the cars piled up in a queue as the clock ticked down to the start of Q1. No one truly knew the state of the surface, so both softs and intermediates were fixed on the cars. However, those few on inters didn’t need a whole lap to ask for a set of slicks that would need some time to warm up and everyone was pushing since the very beginning.

Using dry tyres doesn’t necessarily translate to a track that’s fully dry and Hamilton was the first to taste this, as a small spin prompted a quick yellow flag until he got himself out of the gravel. Some spots of rain were reported as Alonso shot straight to the top, his first try having been interrupted by the yellow flag, but nothing of importance was expected to come down at least until this first session was done and dusted. The track improvement was very clear on the times that drivers posted on the timing tower, which kept getting lower.

Raindrops kept getting reported over the radio by drivers and teams alike, setting panic in the Red Bull garage. Pérez was barely safe and a fresh set of softs got fitted onto his car as a yellow flag came out in the third sector. It soon changed to a red flag, as Magnussen’s Haas was stopped in the middle of the track, barely a handful of metres away from the pit entry. Without even a notice of when the pitlane would reopen, Pérez got settled at the end of it, preferring colder tyres but not risking traffic. In an unexpected turn of events, Verstappen had a mixture of understeer and lack of grip that caused him to clip the wall, the light tap being enough to grant a front wing change.

With only over three minutes to go, the current championship leader didn’t leave the pitlane until barely two were left, cutting it very close to the checkered flag. Fights for position broke out among rivals, but also teammates breaking team orders and the unwritten gentleman agreement. The track improvement was such that even the backtrackers shot to the top, proving that a mistake would prove to be extremely costly. The laps came in one after the other, very quickly and continually shifting the order. In what has sadly become a tradition for him, Pérez was dropped into the elimination zone in the last second, two hundredths of a second away from salvation, a position held by Alonso, who barely saved himself, a bit aided by Bottas stopping on track. The eliminated drivers in Q1 were Pérez (P16), Tsunoda (P17), Zhou (P18), De Vries (P19) and Magnussen (P20).

Q2 started in the same fashion as Q1, only that this time everyone had soft tyres on. Light rain was expected at any point, as the circuit was fully surrounded by it, so everyone was ready to clock a lap in just in case. Alonso set the first references, but the sun peeking out further dried the track, which meant the times got closer and faster, so drivers couldn’t rest. The final stint mimicked that of Q1, but in a calmer fashion, as the time constraint was the usual one, rather than one set by a restarted session, and the result also tended towards a more expected outcome after the times seen during the free practices. The eliminated drivers in Q2 were Hulkenberg (P11), Stroll (P12), Ocon (P13), Sargeant (P14) and Bottas (P15, no time set).

With the radar promising a dry spell for the length of Q3 and the DRS enabled again, no one was in a rush to get out, so cars were more staggered and allowed for space between them. AS expected, Verstappen was at the top, but the most interesting bit was seeing who’d accompany the Dutchman, as the contenders were very close and Piastri was the McLaren who managed to slot himself into third after the first stint, only losing four hundredths to Hamilton. In his last attempt, Norris managed to steal pole position away from Verstappen for a few seconds, but the current world champion was not going to let it slide and got it back as he crossed the line under the checkered flag. However, both McLarens pulled through and got second and third, something completely unexpected after their terrible start of the year.

The unpredictability of weather is one of the few predictable things in Formula 1. Interruptions are one of the others. The red flag caused by a Haas shutting down shifted the pitlane into a war zone for positions in the tail end of Q1, once again causing mayhem and irascibility to arise among drivers and teams. After this, tempers calmed down just a bit, as the threat of rain still kept them on their toes, but Q3 went back to the usual method, including yet another Verstappen pole. However, the fight for the other two steps of the podium is open to a whole bunch of different drivers, who will need to prove their worth on Sunday.

MiniDrivers – F1
2023 British GP