Charles Leclerc bounced back after missing all of second practice to go quickest of all in a rain-affected final hour of running ahead of qualifying for the British Grand Prix.Alexander Albon continuing to show promise for Williams by setting the second-quickest time ahead of Fernando Alonso in third.
After the earlier Formula 3 race had been affected by rain, race control said there was a 90% risk of rain falling at some point during the final practice hour of the weekend. McLaren were naturally eager to make the most of their time available, but in their rush to send Lando Norris out they appeared to leave a cooling bung in his car, forcing him to stop before exiting the pit lane. The stewards announced they would investigate the incident after the session.
An electrical problem prevented Leclerc participating in Friday practice, but fortunately for him and Ferrari, he had no such problems on Saturday and managed to take to the track soon after the session began. There was no rain for the early phase of the hour, allowing drivers to complete runs on slick tyres and giving Leclerc the chance to make up for lost time.
Verstappen used medium tyres to set the early pace with a 1’28.226, but that was easily beaten by Carlos Sainz Jnr, who became the first driver under the 1’28 mark of the weekend with the soft tyres. His team mate Leclerc then used softs to go half a second quicker than Sainz and set a new quickest time with a 1’27.419.
Heading towards the mid-point of the session, drivers were warned that rain was finally approaching the circuit. Drivers tried to get in some final push laps in dry conditions before the rain arrived, with Albon posting the second-fastest time. Fernando Alonso moved into third place with Pierre Gasly and Lewis Hamilton both moving ahead of Sainz in the timings.
The expected change in the weather arrived on schedule, with the vast majority of cars returning to the safety of their garages. However, Leclerc chose to remain out on the increasing soaked circuit on his slick soft tyres, the Ferrari driver having admitted before the weekend that he had struggled in changeable conditions over recent rounds and was keen to take the opportunity to examine why.
After a couple of laps, Leclerc retired to the pits and the track fell silent. But the Silverstone crowd were only deprived of action for a couple of minutes before Norris, Sainz, Leclerc, Oscar Piastri and the two Williams of Albon and Logan Sargeant were sent out on intermediate tyres.
Around five minutes later Norris returned to the pits to switch back onto soft slick tyres, even as drizzle continued to fall over parts of the track. After a handful of laps fighting to keep his car on-track on the slippery surface, Norris returned to the pits and the track feel quiet again.
With just over ten minutes remaining, Verstappen headed out on the intermediate tyres, soon joined by team mate Sergio Perez as well as the two Ferraris and Mercedes, all on intermediate tyres. The track gradually got wetter in the final minutes with only the two Alfa Romeo drivers opting not to get some further wet running in.
The chequered flag flew with all drivers having successfully kept their cars on the track in the damp conditions, except for Leclerc who had a harmless spin at Club. He ended the hour as fastest overall, with Albon continuing his run inside the top three having set a best time just 0.173s slower than the Ferrari.
Alonso set the third-fastest time of the session, with Gasly fourth and Hamilton giving Mercedes more reason for optimism after a difficult Friday in fifth. Sainz was sixth in the second Ferrari, ahead of Sargeant, Verstappen and Russell, with Yuki Tsunoda completing the top ten positions just ahead of AlphaTauri team mate Nyck de Vries.
2023 British Grand Prix third practice result
|3||14||Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin-Mercedes||AMR23||1’27.784||0.365||17|
|6||55||Carlos Sainz Jnr||Ferrari||SF-23||1’27.964||0.545||20|
|8||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull-Honda RBPT||RB19||1’28.266||0.847||19|
|10||22||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT||AT04||1’28.337||0.918||21|
|11||21||Nyck de Vries||AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT||AT04||1’28.504||1.085||20|
|13||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin-Mercedes||AMR23||1’28.620||1.201||15|
|14||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull-Honda RBPT||RB19||1’28.904||1.485||19|
|18||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||C43||1’29.586||2.167||15|
|20||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||C43||No time||2|
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2023 British Grand Prix
- Norris is “growing” closer to the champion who inspired him to race
- Second supplier part failure ‘a frustrating issue we must solve’ – Alpine
- Albon ‘surprised’ to be quicker than Alonso at end of British GP
- Bottas admits Alfa Romeo ‘were expecting to be better than this’ in 2023
- McLaren now “finding performance quicker” after emulating Red Bull’s design