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  • Reese Mautone

Race Preview: British Grand Prix

Updated: Sep 7, 2021

After a weekend of testing a new format, Formula 1 is set to return to normality in today's British Grand Prix, or so we think. Here's 5 key takeaways to acknowledge before lights out at Silverstone.

1. Hamilton Eyes Off Verstappen

The championship fight was hotter than ever in Friday's qualifying session at Silverstone. Mercedes' speed over Red Bull put defending champion Lewis Hamilton in heavy contention over Max Verstappen, and Red Bull alike, with the Briton qualifying P1 over the Dutchman.

Sprint Qualifying on Saturday, the first of its kind in F1, saw Hamilton's slow start prove costly, yet despite this error, the speed of the silver arrows is undeniable, and in that, a strong threat to the likes of Verstappen and Red Bull's lead in the Driver's and Constructor's Championship.

Regardless of a position being lost to his closest competitor in the sprint race, Hamilton gained knowledge about Red Bull's capabilities through caution in a situation that could have ended very differently for the two championship contenders.

At Hamilton's home race, the passion of the 140,000-strong crowd at the circuit and millions more around the globe are only more motivation for the 7-time world champion, and if the past is a reliable indicator, starting in P2, Hamilton's A-game can be more than enough to bring home P1.

"I need everyone to bring their energy again tomorrow and I'll come with my A-game"

2. Podium Potential for Leclerc

The looming fear of French déjà vu at Silverstone's front-limiting layout, a characteristic that has seen the SF21 struggle in the past, was diminished with Leclerc pushing the expectations of his Ferrari in both Friday's qualifying session and Saturday's sprint race, to land his prancing horse in an excellent P4 to start Sunday's race.

Determined to go that extra mile, the Monegasque driver has his cautiously optimistic sights set on fighting for a podium after finishing an impressive 4 seconds behind the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas. Despite Leclerc making it clear that the Ferrari duo's fight is not with the likes of Red Bull and Mercedes, it would be uncharacteristically like the Ferrari driver to shy away from a podium scrap, having boasted strong results at Silverstone in the past, even a P3.

Leclerc will start on his own in the top 5 with teammate Carlos Sainz down in P10 after a collision with Williams' George Russell on Lap 1 of the sprint race which saw the Spaniard drop down to P18, recovering to P11. The young Briton was sanctioned with a 3-place grid penalty, dropping Russell to start in P12.

“I don’t see any reason why we’ll struggle more tomorrow than today, apart from maybe if conditions change”

3. McLaren's On The Charge

Lando Norris' outstanding form continued for him, and his team's home crowd, whilst old school Ricciardo returned to the race track. The McLaren pairing came home in P5 and P6 respectively, a strong result for their fight for P3 in the Constructor's Championship with the Scuderia Ferrari.

James Key, McLaren's Technical Director, made it clear that the team was happy with their drivers' performance in the sprint race, despite being entangled with Alpine's Fernando Alonso for a large portion of the 17-lap race.

“The sprint race itself went well for us, with a great performance from our drivers, whom both regained a position after getting past the fast-starting Alonso," Key said, "We’re placed fifth and sixth on the grid for the race tomorrow and this gives us a good opportunity for some decent points."

Based on Ferrari's performance - Leclerc maintaining a healthy gap from the Papayas and Sainz's quick recovery - Ricciardo sees tomorrow's race to involve "a little bit of work [...if they] want to get in the Ferrari fight", and it's strongly assumed they do. In Sunday's race, McLaren fans and Tifosi can expect a few tense battles between their chargers as their P3 fight heats up.

"I would say we’ve still got a little bit of work to do if we want to get in the Ferrari fight”

4. Russell's Top 10 Woes Continue

The man regularly coined 'Mr Saturday' proved that he is not only limited to one day of impressive driving, becoming Mr Friday during this weekend's new sprint qualifying format. Williams' George Russell broke into Q3 for the second time this season, starting the sprint race in P8.

However, the Englishman's luck quickly ran out just as it did previously for his last top 10 outing in Austria, yet this time it was a Lap 1 collision with Ferrari's Carlos Sainz which resulted in a 3-place grid penalty, dropping him down to P12.

“So I think it's one of those things; when you're coming from the outside, you can't really see what's on the inside, so I guess for him, he just didn't know where I was." Russell acknowledged, " Just one of those first lap things really.”

The mere fact that Russell, in a Williams, was able to hold his own against seemingly stronger competitors not only highlights his strength as a driver but the potential that the pairing of him and his car have to score his first haul of points for Williams in Sunday's race. On a fitting stage to score his first set of points this season, Russell heads out with the backing of a home crowd to do some damage - hopefully not literally.

“Typical – our first top 10 and we don't get points for it!”

5. Pain for Perez

It'll be a race of recovery for the Red Bull driver who lost out significantly in Saturday's sprint race which required a late retirement for Sergio Perez, leading to the Mexican driver starting last in the race.

Perez, likely not won over by the weekend's new format, spun out of Chapel Curve on lap 5, narrowly avoiding the barriers but at a loss with his heavily flat-spotted tyres. Instructed to finish the race safety and retire, Perez will be is facing a back-of-the-grid start

"We’re at the back of the grid tomorrow and it’s not easy to overtake here," Perez said, "but we look like we have a lot of pace in the car so you can be sure I will be pushing hard to score as many points as possible. It’s a low point for me, but tomorrow is a new day and I look forward to seeing what we can do.”

Originally qualifying P5 behind the Ferrari of Leclerc, Perez showed enough pace to secure at least P4, eyeing off the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas in P3. Given the pace of his teammate, Max Verstappen, who will be starting in pole position, the Mexican can be expected to storm through the field hoping for at least a top 10 finish, making an exciting viewing for the 140,000 fans at the track and those watching home on their screens.

“I became a passenger very early on."

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