Carlos Sainz and Ferrari drove the most laps in the first pre-season test in Barcelona while Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell set the two fastest laps – who has the most reason to be satisfied after the first three days of testing the new generation F1 cars?
The new Formula 1 season has officially started with the presentation of new cars, and the first collective test has ended at the traditional venue for pre-season testing in Barcelona.
In addition to the big change in technical regulations that is responsible for the completely new look and characteristics of the new cars, there is also a big change with 18-inch tires that replaced the 13-inch, which increased the tyre diameter from 660 to 720 millimeters.
Barcelona is one of the favorite destinations for pre-season testing due to the mild climate and track characteristics that test all aspects of the F1 car, so teams know they have a competitive car if they are happy with its behavior at the Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya.
The track temperature ranged from 7 to 31 degrees Celsius while the air temperature was between six and 21 Celsius – this is nowhere near what the teams expect in the second pre-season test and the first race of the season in Bahrain, but served as a good initial indicator of reliability and speed of their cars.
In the afternoon of the third day of the test, Pirelli artificially soaked the track to give drivers a chance to try out both types of wet weather tyres, green marked intermediate tyres for little water on the track and blue marked wet tyres for plenty of water on the track.
NUMBER OF LAPS – DRIVERS
Sainz drove the most laps of all drivers (236), averaging 79 per day, which is quite impressive for a new generation of cars that inherited almost nothing from the previous one, including a completely redesigned power unit whose development is frozen from this year.
In second, third and fourth place in the number of laps among drivers are drivers who use Mercedes engines – Ricciardo (McLaren), Russell (Mercedes) and Albon (Williams) while Verstappen in Red Bull, which still uses rebranded Honda powertrains, didn’t lag far behind with 206 laps.
|1||Carlos Sainz Jr.||236|
NUMBER OF LAPS – TEAMS
Ferrari is the best in the number of laps (439) with an average of 146 laps per day, but Mercedes can also be satisfied with 89.52% of the number of Ferrari laps while McLaren drove nine laps more than Red Bull in third place.
The first four teams in last year’s constructors’ standings (although not in that order) took the first four places in terms of the number of laps, which is the first indication of their readiness for the new season.
The similarities with last year’s ranking of constructors do not end there because AlphaTauri, Aston Martin, Alfa Romeo and Haas are also in the same place as in last year’s ranking, and the intruders are Williams, who drove the fifth highest number of laps, three positions above their 2021 finishing position, and Alpine, which is three positions below last year’s ranking.
NUMBER OF LAPS – ENGINE MANUFACTURERS
Mercedes is the absolute winner of the number of laps when it comes to power units with as many as 1403 laps, but it should be noted that they collected them with four teams. Ferrari’s power units are used by three teams, Red Bull’s (Honda’s) two, and Renault’s only one.
If we recalculate the number of laps driven by each engine per team, Mercedes is at 351 laps, Ferrari at 258, Red Bull at 333 and Renault at 266 laps per team.
Ferrari’s average lap count was significantly knocked down by Alfa Romeo and Haas who drove the fewest laps of all the teams while Red Bull and AlphaTauri drove a similar number of laps over three days.
Renault opted for the biggest changes in the architecture of its powertrain in the ninth year of the current rules, as they decided to separate the turbine and compressor for aerodynamic reasons, leaving Ferrari the only engine manufacturer to keep the turbine and compressor at the rear of their V6 engine.
Since in the era of frozen engine development that will last until the end of 2025 only reliability work can be done with the permission of the FIA, Renault’s focus on performance is understandable due to the power gap they had in the last two seasons.
Ferrari has also made big changes to its power unit, which has not been at the level of the strongest in the last two seasons, and Mercedes and Red Bull continue to look for small details that would keep them at the top when it comes to power units.
A change for this season is the E10 fuel, which contains 10% ethanol, unlike last year’s fuel which had 5.75% of the biological component, although it was not specified exactly which component it has to be.
The final specifications of the V6 engine, turbine, MGU-H, exhaust system, fuel and lubricant must be approved by March 1 and MGU-K, control electronics and energy storage must be homologated by September 1 which leaves manufacturers enough time to redesign those components if needed after the first few races.
BEST LAPTIMES PER TYRE COMPOUND
Initial estimates when designing the new technical regulations were that the new generation of cars would be slower by a few seconds per lap due to 18-inch tyres and a significant reduction in downforce.
Cars are 43 kg heavier this year, of which 11 kg is due to heavier wheels, and the rest on numerous safety improvements, especially on the side of the chassis next to the driver, where F1 cars are most vulnerable because there are no significant structures for energy absorption except for two pipes on each side of Zylon, a material 60% stronger than Kevlar.
Ten kilograms more weight brings about three tenths of a second per lap of slower time, which means that 43 kg more cars will be about 1.2 seconds slower than last year, but estimates from Pirelli and the team say that new cars should be only about half a second slower than in 2021.
The technical development of cars in the new era of rules is always very steep and intense, so during the season we should expect significant improvements in laptimes so at the end of the season we could see record fast laps on some tracks.
Last year’s pole position in Barcelona was set by Hamilton on C3 Pirelli tyres, which was the softest component available that weekend, and in his best lap in this year’s tests, the Briton drove 2,397 seconds slower lap on two levels softer tyres C5.
But two factors should be taken into account – the first is that these were only the first kilometers in new cars that teams still do not fully understand or try to get the maximum performance in one lap, and the second is that there is a three month period until the Spanish GP on May 22 and the cars will get significant improvements that will speed them up significantly.
Given that already now the teams could probably go below 1:18 if they wanted to, by the time of the Spanish Grand Prix they could be very close to the pole position time from 2021.
Also, the new generation of cars has less aerodynamic drag than the previous one because the downforce generated from the floor, on which the new cars rely more than before, is much more aerodynamically efficient and for the same amount of downforce causes less drag.
With equal engine power, this means that on fast tracks like Monza, new cars will shine and reach higher speeds than last year and it is possible that they will break track records if the conditions are good enough.