A decisive weekend for the rest of the season. Formula 1 is packing its bags in Barcelona this weekend for the Catalunya Grand Prix, the sixth of the season, and the luggage of several teams will weigh a little heavier than during the previous race, in Miami.
After several Grand Prix far from Europe, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Miami, and one in Italy, at Imola, but with the format of the sprint race which offers very few free practices, the right time for bring these evolutions finally seems to arrive. And with a capped budget this year, make no mistake.
“When you make evolutions throughout the season, you have to take into account a wide variety of parameters and circumstances. The budget cap and the limited time in the digital and wind tunnel on the one hand, and the question of when exactly to make big changes on the other. This makes a difference between the time before and after the budget limit. This year, you have to bet everything and look in different directions. And when you realize that a certain direction brings a certain level of performance, then you continue in that direction,” said Andréa Seidl, McLaren Team Principal.
It was in Barcelona that these new generations of Formula 1 rolled for the first time last February during the first winter tests, nothing better to compare. And so to bring about these changes.
“One tenth caught up per lap”
They are essential to remain competitive throughout the season, at the risk of seeing competitors escape in the event that a team does not provide them. “We have a rate of development, in general, of the order of two seconds per lap in the year, not far away. If the first does not develop, the second will catch up with it by the order of a tenth per second per lap, ”confides to 20 Minutes Frédéric Vasseur, the Team Principal of Alfa Romeo.
This is also what is happening to Ferrari, leading the drivers’ championship with Charles Leclerc, and manufacturers. But losing ground against Redbull, which has already upgraded its RB 18, unlike the F1-75. The reason why the Maranello team will bring new features: the sidepods should be reviewed, the suspensions evolved, as well as a possible new flat bottom. The paint should also undergo modifications, for a total weight loss of nearly three kg.
The Mercedes revolution?
Evolutions at Ferrari, and perhaps a revolution at Mercedes. After coming with pontoons during winter testing in Barcelona, the German team had almost made them disappear completely in Bahrain, to everyone’s surprise. Except that since then, the results have not lived up to the hopes placed in this philosophy.
“A huge amount of work has been done in the factories to extract data from Miami and turn it into improvements for Barcelona. Having driven there in winter testing, but with a car that has evolved a lot since then, it will be a good place to correlate the information we have on the current car and hopefully we will take another step forward,” warned Toto Wolff, boss of Mercedes. To the point of returning to the car seen in Barcelona, rather than that of the start of the season?
In any case, this is the turn made by Aston Martin. The British team does not hesitate to speak of a “half new” single-seater for this Barcelona Grand Prix, or rather “half” RedBull, given the photos. It remains to be seen whether these developments will upset the hierarchy at the start of the season, while teams like Alpha Tauri or Hass have chosen not to bring any upheaval.