Formula 1 Racing

McLaren’s double-top in practice disguises clear threat from Red Bull and Mercedes · RaceFans

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Silverstone, 2024

Filing through the entry gates by their thousands, the only thing the fans who flocked to Silverstone on Friday knew for certain they would be getting from the first day of practice was wet.

Beyond that, the question of whether Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari or even Mercedes would have the advantage over their rivals around one of the fastest, naturally flowing circuits of the season was one few could predict with certainty.

But as teams held their debriefs within a rain-lashed paddock, the mood at McLaren was likely to be the best along the pit lane. Not just because of the free ice cream the team was handing out to paddock dwellers to thank the paddock for its support following the fire in their hospitality suite in Barcelona, but because Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri occupied the top two positions at the end of the day’s second hour of practice.

“A good start to the weekend,” admitted Norris as he set the pace in both sessions on the opening day of his home grand prix.

Early soft tyre run masked Verstappen’s pace

“I didn’t feel that comfortable this morning, but through the sessions we made some tweaks and I got into a much nicer window – which is important around here, because it’s quite on the nose, quite sketchy and pretty high speed. But I’m happy. I think we’ve made some good progress.”

Glancing at the times alone would give any McLaren fan reason for confidence. Norris four tenths faster than Sergio Perez, the quicker of the two Red Bull drivers, with Verstappen almost seven tenths off his best. But, as ever, that does not tell the entire story.

Red Bull pursued a novel approach practice, Verstappen running a single flying lap on fresh softs just 10 minutes into the session, far from when the track was at its best. This was likely a strategic move to move onto a long run on mediums early enough to gain data before the expected late rain hit, but even though he had not run the optimum run plan in theory, the championship leader was unimpressed with his ultimate pace.

“On the soft, it didn’t go so well,” Verstappen admitted at the end of Friday. “So a bit of work to do.

“We tried a few things as well on the car from FP1 to FP2 and we just have to analyse a bit what to do better for tomorrow.”

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The telltale signs that Red Bull have much performance still in hand can be seen from Verstappen’s sole push lap on the softs. He was around 10kph slower than Norris on…

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