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Analysis
Formula 1 British GP

What F1 GPS data reveals about McLaren’s shining Silverstone qualifying

The last time McLaren sported a part-chrome livery for its home race was 2014. Back then, Jenson Button ran to third in qualifying.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

That was the team’s best Saturday result at Silverstone before this weekend, when Lando Norris shone and went one better in his metal-effect machine.

He was met by cheers from the grandstands as he crossed the line to complete a final flying lap in Q3. Norris shot to provisional pole courtesy of a 1m29.861s effort.

While he was knocked off top spot in the dying moments by Max Verstappen – who extracted another 0.241s – a third-placed return for Oscar Piastri proved that this was no fluke result from the McLaren camp.

Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, McLaren, celebrate after qualifying

Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, McLaren, celebrate after qualifying

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Where Norris just lost out on a famous home pole

A fifth pole in succession for Verstappen might not make for a surprise headline. But the GPS data reveals Norris could boast the upper hand during the first sector in a comparison of their final flying laps in Q3.

The Briton pulls 0.094s on his RB19 rival through the newer Village corner – the tight right-hander that begins the fiddly sequence which leads onto the Wellington Straight. 

Verstappen soon claws that back through the next left and then there’s almost nothing to split the pair as they charge their way down the back straight. But the powerful DRS of the Red Bull gives it a 3mph edge to take Verstappen up to 196mph.

Norris then loses a tenth in the braking zone to Brooklands and for the rest of the lap will not again, even momentarily, nip ahead of Verstappen.

The cars of Lando Norris, McLaren, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, Oscar Piastri, McLaren

The cars of Lando Norris, McLaren, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, Oscar Piastri, McLaren

Photo by: James Sutton / Motorsport Images

The gap remains around the 0.1s mark as the pair pass the National pits, round Copse and then tackle the revered Maggotts-Becketts complex. But Verstappen enjoys the marginally superior run onto the Hangar Straight and, equipped with that Red Bull straight line efficiency, is able to extend his advantage. 

The delta hovers at 0.2s through the downhill right-hander of Stowe before Norris bleeds another 0.1s through Vale. Then, in the left-right chicane, Verstappen takes a marked step forward.

His cushion peaks at 0.433s before, aboard what Lewis Hamilton made out to be the ‘Red Bull-lookalike’ McLaren for its newer sidepod bodywork, Norris enjoys a small revival through the last Club corner for the run to the flag.

Lando Norris, McLaren

Lando Norris, McLaren

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

The value of an extra third of a McLaren update

Norris has received the full complement of upgrades for Silverstone. Between Austria and Hungary, team principal Andrea Stella reckons virtually every aerodynamic part on the MCL60 will change.

For stage one at the Red Bull Ring, this came in the form of an updated sidepod inlet design and bodywork, a fully revised floor, engine cover and halo fairing and tweaked cooling louvres.

Rookie Piastri had to wait a race to gain the new parts but finally has them fitted this weekend.

But he must make do without the completely new front wing, which works in conjunction with an updated nose cone to boost downforce, plus the revised rear suspension set-up and brake duct aerodynamic layout. All of these have been introduced for the British GP but only for Norris.

McLaren MCL60 Front Wing

McLaren MCL60 Front Wing

Photo by: Uncredited

The difference between the two McLarens makes itself known most of all through slower corners. There’s barely a mile per hour in it across the timing line to start the lap but whereas Piastri has only fallen back by a hundredth or two through Turn 1, he ships 0.169s on the exit of Village.

The Australian is able to bring that gap back down to 0.058s with a quicker entry into the long Luffield right and then matches Norris before beginning to drop back through Maggotts and Becketts.

The gap increases notably to 0.177s through the low-speed final chicane, with Norris appearing to gain most of all at the transition of the tight left-right. 0.131s splits the MCL60s at the line.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR23, in the pit lane

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR23, in the pit lane

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

How McLaren jumped to second-fastest

It’s often been said that without Red Bull, this would be a championship fight for the ages. That’s primarily due to the fluctuating form of Mercedes, Aston Martin and Ferrari that has them trading places for the unofficial title of ‘best of the rest’. For Silverstone, however, and for the first time in 2023, it was McLaren that emerged as the second force.

That put paid to any hope Charles Leclerc harboured of a front-row start. The Monegasque would qualify fourth ahead of team-mate Carlos Sainz. Leclerc delivered a 1m27.136s, which left him 0.175s adrift of Norris.

In terms of track dominance, there is not necessarily one area where the McLaren definitively has the upper hand. Ferrari appears very slightly stronger towards higher speed but through slower corners and in acceleration zones, it’s nip and tuck. 

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

The lap time delta between Leclerc and Norris supports this. They are nigh on level-pegging until the exit of Village. Here, Leclerc cedes 0.122s. Yet he reclaims this almost immediately with the quick burst of throttle before the slow Loop turn that kinks onto the Wellington Straight. Arriving at the entry phase of the corner, he’s fractionally ahead by 0.036s.

He falls back to a tenth behind under braking for Brooklands but again the pair are almost a perfect match for the run to Copse. From the exit of the fast right through to Maggotts and Becketts, Norris gradually inches ahead before Leclerc closes back down the Hangar Straight.

Leclerc effectively nips ahead through Stowe and at this point in the lap is 0.107s ahead of Norris. But it’s the SF-23’s scruffy exit from the final chicane that settles the battle in McLaren’s favour as Leclerc gifts 0.15s to Norris. 

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