Formula 1 is heading into the new season with a different set of regulations, introducing ground-effect cars with the aim of getting more action on track by letting cars race more closely to one another.
“I’ve been following a few cars and it seems like it’s a little bit easier to stay behind, you don’t have this weird loss of downforce whereas sometimes you have a lot of understeer or massive oversteer,” said Verstappen during the second day of testing in Barcelona.
The impression is that the dirty air effect is having a much lighter impact on these cars.
“Of course I don’t expect it to be fully gone and that you can follow on the rear diffuser, because of the speeds we’re still doing in an F1 car. But it all seems a bit more under control.”
Something that can be felt quite clearly on track is the increased weight of the new single-seaters, as the minimum weight has been increased – by 43kg – to 793kg.
“The car is quite enjoyable to drive. It’s just a bit different, as we are still in the learning phase,” explained Verstappen.
“The weight is going up and up, whereas the cars become a little bit less agile in the lower speed corners, but the balance through the high-speed corners is quite nice.”
Added weight that is “the only downside,” agrees Sebastian Vettel, as it inevitably makes cars slower.
“We are probably a couple of seconds slower than last year, in some circuits at least. That’s never a fun thing from a driver’s point of view you always want to be faster and faster and lighter cars,” commented Alonso.
Another new entry for this year are the 18 inches tyres, which impact visibility.
“They are quite a bit bigger so visibility is a bit different. I think on a track like this it’s less of a problem, when you go to street circuits it’s gonna be a little more challenging,” said the Dutchman.
“This visibility in some of the street circuits is maybe a challenge because we don’t have the same vision from the cockpit and the front tyres are bigger and you have that thing on top of them,” agreed Alonso.
A bit of adapting will be needed for braking as well.
“The brakings are quite different. The distance in itself is not so different, but the way you are braking is different, still trying to find the perfect spot and the perfect way of braking for this car,” explained Charles Leclerc.
Running on such different cars, however, has been quite exciting and enjoyable for the drivers.
“Apart from the weight, I actually really enjoy this winter testing. It’s new, the whole car is completely new so you have to really change your driving style and it’s very interesting for us drivers to just try different things,” he said.
“In the last three years it was more or less the same driving style. Ok, you adapt a little bit from one car to the other, but it’s not a big difference. But this year it is, so it makes it very very interesting for the drivers.”