The first Formula One pre-season test provided large heaps of data in regards to the progress made by Formula 1 ahead of a new era in F1 racing, with the cars not far from the proposed target of being ‘5 seconds a lap faster’.
The fastest time came on the third day of F1 Testing — which was the final day of dry running during the first test — with Valtteri Bottas clocking a 1.19.705s which was the fastest ever time with the new layout at the Circuit de Catalunya. The astounding time was set on the ultra-soft tyres, however the Finn’s delta from super-soft to ultra-soft was marginally low, suggesting that there is still more to come from the cars during the second F1 test next week.
When the new 2017 regulations were proposed during the 2015 Formula 1 season, the stated target was cars going ‘5 seconds a lap faster’. When compared to the 2015 Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix qualifying session, the pole time, which was set by Nico Rosberg with full commitment and the highest level of fuel mix, was a 1.24.681, and this compares to Valtteri Bottas’s 1.19.705, set on the third day of the test, with data showing that the Finn wasn’t giving it everything – lower fuel mix as well as a low tyre delta. If this data is put into context, F1 has achieved a 4.9 second gain, however it is worth noting that the run of Bottas was done in testing, and should it be in a real Grand Prix context, the times would be even faster, with the prospect of a higher fuel mix and more commitment by the driver.
Formula 1 tyre supplier Pirelli, who have played a major role in the performance gain this season, predicts that the pole position time for the Spanish Grand Prix will be under the 1 minute-17 second mark, given that times in testing are already faster than the 2016 pole time.
“We’re a long way off the performance levels we envisage when we come here in May,” Pirelli’s Hembery said.
“We’re lapping now under the pole of last year,” He said.
“We believe we’ll be close to 1’17 for pole this year when we come here. That’ll be close to five-and-a-half, six seconds [improvement].
“There was a description of how the car world be in terms of performance and what was being requested from us to provide in terms of the tyre aspect involved in the package they wanted
“It’s always a combination, you’re given a lot of data and you come up with some simulations and go back and say for that type of application this is what we suggest.”
According to data from the last years first Formula One test, the delta from the fastest time in the first test to the pole time was 2.867 seconds by Mercedes Formula 1 team.
From testing to the outright lap, which will be qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix, there are various changes; the first change, inevitably, is development on the car from February to May. In addition, the next change will be the engine modes, it is understood that most teams — particularly Mercedes — run a very low engine mode during testing, however during qualifying crank the engine up to 11, giving them a radical power boost; setting them well clear of their F1 rivals.
If this data is put into context, the expected pole time for the 2017 Spanish Grand Prix is a 1.16.838, which is just over a tenth faster of Pirelli’s projection. However, there are several obstacles that could allow teams to reach lap-times further below this mark, and the first is development of the cars. This year, the development race is expected to be immense, the new rules mean teams are put into the unknown, and will be developing their challengers throughout the year. In contrast, the 2016 regulations were fairly similar to 2015 and 2014, which meant teams had already heavily researched and developed their cars — particularly the headline-dominating Mercedes team — which meant there was less scope for aerodynamic improvement from the first F1 winter test to qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix.