McLaren Looks to Make a Race of It at Silverstone

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McLaren Looks to Make a Race of It at Silverstone


SILVERSTONE, England — Lando Norris sailed across the finish line, posted the day’s fastest time and set off a roar from the British crowd delighted at the return of what used to be a familiar sight: a British driver on pole position at the British Grand Prix. And then Max Verstappen screamed across the line close behind Norris and took the top spot away.

“It’s always Max,” Norris joked. “He always ruins everything for everyone.”

Will the smiles of Norris and his teammate Oscar Piastri, who qualified third, last through Sunday afternoon? Verstappen will have a lot to say about that. He will start on pole for the fifth race in a row, and has his sights firmly set on his sixth straight victory, and eighth of the season. If he gets it, Red Bull will extend its unbeaten start to 10 wins in 10 races.

Time: The British Grand Prix starts at 10 a.m. Eastern time. (Global start times are here.)

TV: The race will air on ESPN2 in the United States. Streaming is available on ESPN+. Prerace coverage starts at 8:30 a.m. Not in the United States? A full list of Formula 1 broadcasters can be found here.

Not even surrendering the pole to Verstappen could spoil what was unquestionably the best day of McLaren’s season. Norris will start second, one row ahead of his teammate Piastri.

The Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz and the two Mercedes drivers, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, are right behind the two McLarens. So expect the relatively inexperienced Norris, 23, and Piastri, 22, to be playing defense almost immediately.

The most intriguing driver at Silverstone this weekend, the one teams and fans alike wanted to get a look at, was a fictional one: Sonny Hayes.

That’s the name of the character the actor Brad Pitt will play in a new Formula 1 film that has been shooting scenes and meeting people as part of an effort at gathering intelligence, advice and race footage.

Teams have been eager to get close to the project. Lewis Hamilton is part of the production team, Red Bull’s Christian Horner met with the filmmakers on Friday, and Mercedes has even helped with the design of the cars of the fictional Apex racing team.

“We’ve been involved pretty early,” Toto Wolff of Mercedes told reporters this week. “When we had the first discussions, we sent Brad to a driving school in France, going through the Formula cars from Formula 4 all the way up, and we tried to be helpful with the narrative. Lewis is an executive producer, so he wanted to make sure when the movie comes out, it’s as realistic as possible.”

Pitt and his co-star, Damson Idris, were around the grid all week, and several windows were carved out of the tight racing schedule to allow for filming on the track itself. To immerse the fake team fully in the real race, Silverstone officials even let the producers set up an 11th team garage next to Ferrari.

Can anyone catch Verstappen? There is currently no reliable evidence for this theory.

Can McLaren cash in? Not even surrendering the pole to Verstappen could spoil what was a banner day for McLaren on Saturday. But even Norris admitted he didn’t expect to stay on pole even after he set the fastest time. “There’s a lot of TV screens around the circuit,” he said. “I was trying to watch every single one possible. I was surprised how long I stayed in the top four. It just kind of depended on when Max was going to cross the line. I guess I’m a little bit surprised, I wasn’t expecting for us to be here, or myself to be here anyway.”

Climate protests? Lewis Hamilton said he would support “peaceful” protests by climate activists who have already disrupted matches at Wimbledon and the Ashes cricket series this summer. But a repeat of last year’s British Grand Prix, when protesters ran onto the track and sat down while cars were still running, is not acceptable, he said. “We believe in what people are fighting for and we are making those changes as a sport,” Hamilton said Thursday. “But safety is key. We don’t want to be put in harm’s way and we don’t want to put anyone else in harm’s way.”

  • “It was more if Max made a mistake rather than if we were quicker than him.” — Norris, on how he posted the fastest time in qualifying and then waited for what he assumed was the inevitable moment Verstappen would beat it.

  • “I think it was quite a good day for us.” — Verstappen, every day.

  • “Nobody’s stopping the other teams from being better.” — Mohamed Bin Sulayem, the president of auto racing’s governing body, when asked about suggestions that rules should be changed to bring Red Bull’s dominant team back to the pack.

  • “We were almost out in Q1 and Q2, but the car was like a rocket ship in Q3.” — Oscar Piastri, after driving his McLaren onto the second row.

Max Verstappen won his fifth straight race at the Austrian Grand Prix on July 2. Pretend to be surprised by this revelation.

At this point, Verstappen will carry his points lead into September even if he stops showing up at races.





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