Red Bull wanted to set the record straight: Max Verstappen was the fastest in the first (and only) free practice session of the British GP before today’s qualifying in the late afternoon. The Dutchman was able to get a 1’27 “035 on soft tires despite an annoying wind that blew often changing direction.
Behind the world leader, who managed to do three runs with the three compounds, was Lando Norris with McLaren: the Englishman conquered his performance of 1’27 “814 using the medium compound, a sign that the gap of 779 thousandths from the top can easily be demolished, confirming that the exploit in the Red Bull Ring qualification was not accidental.
Something more was expected from Mercedes, third with Lewis Hamilton and fifth with Valtteri Bottas. Brackley’s team introduced a new aerodynamic package and they corrected the bottom design that gave up the “waves”. It is said that the technicians have solved a problem with the balance of the car and that the drivers were satisfied with the new set up tested in the simulator.
The track result was less convincing, because Hamilton is 780 thousandths behind Verstappen. It is true that Mercedes has been working on mini long runs and, therefore, the black arrows should have run with more fuel than the RB16Bs. The fact that Charles Leclerc with Ferrari arrived within 13 thousandths of the car of the world champion must make James Allison’s engineers reflect. Once again the McLaren was the best single-seater powered by the Mercedes power unit, a sign that the W12 struggles to hear the changes. It must be said that this is the only good round before qualifying and the teams may have diversified their activities according to the programs they have decided at the table.
It should be added that also Valtteri Bottas, with the same red tire, came within a few thousandths of his captain, a sign that the two drivers were close to the limit of the car in that configuration. If Norris can no longer be considered a surprise, the good performance of Ferrari must be recorded. The Monegasque is just 14 thousandths behind the Briton of the Woking team, albeit with a compound gap in Lando’s favor.
At the beginning of the round, the Cavallino team dedicated itself to a mini long run with the hard bikes with both riders, trying to find out what the SF21’s attitude is to a track like the English one that on paper is difficult for the Reds. Carlos Sainz finished sixth immediately behind Bottas, although the Spaniard did not avoid a harmless spin at low speed in which he did no damage.
Not bad the seventh place of Sebastian Vettel with Aston Martin, while Sergio Perez did not thrill only eighth with the second RB16B more than a second behind his teammate: the Mexican did something wrong in the flying lap.
Daniel Ricciardo is ninth with the other McLaren (he leaves half a second to Norris), while Esteban Ocon closes the top 10 with the Alpine equipped with a new A521 chassis. The Frenchman returned to do better than Fernando Alonso who is 14th.
The two AlphaTauri travel with Pierre Gasly 11th and Yuki Tsunoda 12th. Antonio Giovinazzi is 12th with Alfa Romeo confirming the supremacy of Hinwil as Kimi Raikkonen is only 15th.
In evidence Nicholas Latifi who put Williams in 16th place (with George Russell strangely last), while Lance Stroll appeared in difficulty with Aston Martin who remained trapped in the grip of the two Haas of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin.
The debut of the new Pirelli tires with a more rigid construction was positive: on the asphalt there were 47 degrees as a peak and there were no particular problems with grip.