Mercedes shows signs of life and Red Bull falters at Silverstone – Formula 1 News

Friday (1) at Silverstone was one of those hard to come to a more precise conclusion for the rest of the weekend. There are several factors that account for a chaotic day, the main one being indisputable: the rain. As in Canada, free practice was significantly affected, as FP1 was practically all lost on a wet track and there was little movement.

The great irony, however, is that FP1 would have been a good test for the teams, after all, qualifying tends to take place in similar conditions, with the forecast pointing to rain almost all day at the English track. The empty session, however, indicates something that was also seen in Montreal: the teams’ agreement for Saturday should be a dry track, aiming at the race, generating a considerable chance of defining the half-lottery grid. And that’s where zebras can come in.

This Friday, for example, Valtteri Bottas emerged to lead FP1, while Lando Norris put McLaren in third in FP2, with Fernando Alonso also breaking through the top six with his Alpine. At least in the case of English and Spanish, it is not to be ruled out that they can surprise when the starting positions are valid.

Lando Norris even led FP2 at one point at Silverstone (Photo: AFP)

With the context of potential underdogs looming and the huge chance of a fun qualifying in the rain and with the teams ready for a dry hit, let’s focus on the top teams. And we start with Mercedes, perhaps the only thing that deviates a little from the festival of inconclusions of the first day of activities.

It’s just that Mercedes is a special attraction at Silverstone. It’s the team of Lewis Hamilton, George Russell, current eight consecutive World Cup champions and, of course, is looking for a reaction after a very bad start to the season. Mainly because he has been saying that he solved the chronic problems related to the bounces that plagued the team so much. That is, it is the center of attention at the British GP.

And the start was positive. Hamilton was second in FP2, Russell came in eighth – and could have done more had he not been hindered on fast laps – and, above all, the car bounced less than it had been doing before. It still worries in two corners, yes, but the porpoising itself seems to have been overcome, at least at Silverstone. And that can really put the team in the fray for bigger things.

“It was a good day. It still swings a lot, not so much on the straights, but in the corner it’s quite difficult. Not physically, but inside the car, tires and all. We still have work to do, but it seems like a small step forward. Let’s keep working,” commented a cautious Hamilton. In any case, an infinitely more positive statement than the recent ones that the seven-time champion made after free practice.

Lewis Hamilton at the British GP: 2nd place in FP2 at Silverstone (Photo: Mercedes)

But the statement that best sums up the day for Mercedes – and F1 as a whole – came from Andrew Shovlin. Mercedes’ engineering director was precise: the team improved, appeared at the top of the timesheet, did well in the race simulation, but, yes, it took advantage of the fact that Ferrari and Red Bull were very quiet.

“It really feels like we’ve taken a step forward because we don’t normally come out on top in the Friday sessions. But I suspect we will see more of Ferrari and also a little more of Red Bull, but the work we did on the long stints was encouraging,” he said.

On the Red Bull side, after a Friday in which the team didn’t even have Max Verstappen, let alone Sergio Perez in the top-3, the mood was one of concern. The Dutchman cited difficulties with the tyres, while the Mexican pointed to aerodynamic problems. But the biggest scolding came from the consultant, Helmut Marko.

“We still haven’t found the ideal set-up, we haven’t got the right balance of the car. We’re skidding a lot, no grip in the low-speed corners. We are still not working in the right direction”, evaluated the Austrian, an important figure at the top of the team that has dominated the last stages of the championship.

Max Verstappen: Short track time and some concern in England (Photo: Red Bull Content Pool)

Even with the statements in pessimistic tones, with the atmosphere of apprehension in the air, the few laps completed and the times still not so competitive, Red Bull is far from being a card out of the deck. The team didn’t do badly in the race simulation and, mainly, comes from pole with Verstappen also in the Canadian rain, that is, it wouldn’t be any surprise if it appeared in front this Saturday.

But what about Ferrari, huh? This may be the one who hid the game the most this Friday. Leader of the day, it’s true, but even on Carlos Sainz’s best lap it felt like there was more there. So much so that the Spaniard made a mistake in the turn. A lot of time on medium tyres, a lot of race simulation and, in the end, the Italians came out of free practice very calmly.

Ferrari knows very well that it needs to win the British GP sort of anyway. The recent run over by Verstappen and Red Bull has hurt a team that has lost its grip in title disputes, but which can still meet again if it wants to compete in 2022.

Carlos Sainz ended Friday with an advantage at the Silverstone track. Not that it matters so much (Photo: Ferrari)

With rain forecast at around 80% for qualifying time and very close to that for FP3, Ferrari is not only dependent on its car, but also needs its drivers to be having a great day. In a circumstance that looks like Verstappen, it’s another chance for Charles Leclerc, the pole man, to show what he’s made of.

With Red Bull half-butting heads, the Ferrari discreet and the Mercedes leveling up, the always chaotic Silverstone begins to design what could be the best weekend of F1 2022. In the fight for the title, Leclerc knows well that Verstappen is very difficult to be beaten in the conditions that Saturday must present, but he can steal the rival’s favoritism if he wins another pole. It’s another classification of those crucial ones.

O BIG PRIZE accompanies LIVE and IN REAL TIME all the activities of the British GP weekend. On Saturday, FP3 opens at 8 am (from Brasília, GMT-3), while qualifying starts at 11 am.

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About Abhishek Pratap

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