British Grand Prix: Charles Leclerc sets FP3 pace as unsettled weather spices up Silverstone

Michelle Foster
Charles Leclerc leads Logan Sargeant down the pit lane. Britain July 2023

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc leads Logan Sargeant down the pit lane. Britain July 2023

Charles Leclerc topped Saturday’s final practice hour at the British Grand Prix, the Ferrari driver P1 when the rain came lashing down on the Silverstone circuit.

He posted a best time of 1:27.419 during his 13 laps to finish just under two-tenths up on Alex Albon as the Williams driver continued to impress in his upgraded FW45.

Albon had a moment of concern before the session even began with Williams telling PlanetF1.com they’d “found a problem and we’re fixing it as fast as we can.” Minutes later they updated that saying it had been fixed and the driver joined the on-track action.

Charles Leclerc pips Alex Albon before the rain arrives

He, however, wasn’t the only driver in trouble with Lando Norris told to “stop the car, stop the car” as he exited the pits with some confusion as to whether he had crossed the pit exit line preventing his mechanics from touching his MCL60. The mechanic didn’t, at least McLaren will argue that when they see the stewards later, only touching the object he needed to remove from the exhaust.

Further up the pit lane it was good news for Leclerc with Ferrari breaking curfew overnight to fix the electrical problem his SF-23 suffered on Friday which had prevented him from completing a single lap in FP2. He was one of the first out on Saturday, hoping to get in some dry running before the forecast rain arrived.

Leclerc was quickly up to second place on the soft Pirellis, his 1:29 0.164s down on Max Verstappen, who was running the medium tyres. Carlos Sainz, also on the softs, was P3 in the early running.

Following that up with a 1:27.964, Sainz went quickest before the Mercedes drivers swapped over to the softs leading to a brief Ferrari v Lewis Hamilton for the top spot which saw Leclerc come out on top by half a second to Hamilton. “Where’s that half a second?” Hamilton asked with his engineer Pete Bonnington telling him it “looks like it’s straight line.”

In sharp contrast to Friday’s P5 time, Logan Sargeant was having a more difficult time on Saturday which was compounded by an issue with his FW45. “Something just blew off, and I’m getting crazy hot air on my arm,” said the Californian as he stuck his arm out of the cockpit to cool it down.

As light rain began to fall Albon shot up to second place in the Williams, 0.173s down on Leclerc, while Fernando Alonso moved up to third with Pierre Gasly P4. And then the rain came lashing down with the drivers tentatively making their way back to the pits

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Despite the wet track several drivers braved the conditions but not Zhou Guanyu with the Alfa Romeo driver stuck in the pits with an MGU-H issue, it was not charging the battery.

With the circuit quick to dry it wasn’t long before Norris swapped the wet tyres for slicks. But with the conditions not quite wet enough for intermediates but too wet for slicks, it wasn’t long before silence fell over the Northamptonshire track.

Verstappen broke that with a 1:41.1 on the intermediate tyres, Hamilton clocking a 1:42.5 while Sainz posted a 1:40.9 with all the drivers well over 10s down on their dry times.

Times

1 Charles LECLERC Ferrari 1:27.419
2 Alexander ALBON Williams +0.173
3 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +0.365
4 Pierre GASLY Alpine +0.474
5 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.529
6 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +0.545
7 Logan SARGEANT Williams +0.732
8 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing +0.847
9 George RUSSELL Mercedes +0.865
10 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +0.918
11 Nyck DE VRIES AlphaTauri +1.085
12 Lando NORRIS McLaren +1.144
13 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +1.201
14 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +1.485
15 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +1.788
16 Esteban OCON Alpine +1.814
17 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +2.018
18 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +2.167
19 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +6.171
20 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo no time

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