Brad Pitt brings glitz to Silverstone but Brown still cold on Verstappen

Grey clouds loomed over Silverstone on Friday but were no dampener for an audience determined to have a good time at this weekend’s British Grand Prix, where organisers are making every effort to ensure the business of racing goes hand in hand with the business of show.

Formula One wants its meetings to be destination events and Silverstone has embraced this philosophy wholeheartedly. On Sunday before the race, DJ Pete Tong will be revving the crowd up with a set on the grid before the Eurovision queen and Ted Lasso star Hannah Waddingham delivers the national anthem. They will come after a weekend of live music at the circuit which includes Kings of Leon and Stormzy.

Were this not enough, the makers of Brad Pitt’s F1 film, on which Lewis Hamilton serves as a co-producer, chose Friday at Silverstone to announce the title of the movie.

After no little wait and doubtless plenty of focus groups and bouncing ideas around in boardrooms, they opted to go with what it says on the tin. “F1” it is then, set for release in June next year. Filming will continue this weekend here. As the cast rub shoulders with their real-life counterparts, F1 doubtless will be pleased at the Hollywood glamour on the windswept old airfield.

Yet for all that, first and foremost for the crowd set to be sold out to the tune of 160,000 on Sunday, is anticipation for a race that is teed-up to be a showdown between the two title contenders, Max Verstappen and Lando Norris, on a stage that could not offer a better platform on which to demonstrate their talents.

After the pair clashed at the last round in Austria there was bad blood in the air between the two friends, particularly it seemed for an aggrieved Norris. Independent observers rubbed their hands together gleefully at the prospect of a spot of proper needle and a feud between F1’s two young guns, only for the pair to reveal on Thursday that they had met, cleared the air and all was once more spiffy between them.

A shame perhaps for fans of a more dramatic narrative but at least on Friday the McLaren CEO, Zak Brown, was happy to put the boot in again. “Until someone tells Max: ‘That’s against the regulations’ he is not going to know any different,” he said. “There was a missed opportunity for the stewards to make note. I am disappointed in such a great team like Red Bull that the leadership almost encourages it.

Max Verstappen was accused of not respecting regulations by McLaren chief Zak Brown. Photograph: Mario Renzi/Formula 1/Getty Images

“We need to have respect for regulations and we have seen the lack of respect. I don’t think that’s how we go racing.”

There is no guarantee that the rekindled bromance will last. Norris’s McLaren is set to be quick through the fast corners of Silverstone, potentially even quicker than the previously dominant Red Bull of Verstappen, who leads the British driver by 81 points in the world championship.

The resurgence of McLaren this season has revitalised what was in danger of becoming another cakewalk for Verstappen. Since Norris won in Miami he has been vying at the front in almost every race with Verstappen. He knows the way his rival drives and that no quarter will be given and he has taken the lessons from Austria on board.

Behind them Ferrari have lost ground just as Mercedes have moved up a gear, with Hamilton’s team confident they can at least potentially be in the mix for a podium.

In practice Norris was on top in the first session, immediately at ease at Silverstone with his teammate Oscar Piastri in third, behind the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll with Verstappen 0.3sec back in fourth.

In the afternoon, Norris was once more on top with Piastri in second and Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez in third, 0.4sec back. Hamilton was sixth and Verstappen seventh.

The Guardian

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