F1 2019 cars expected to be faster despite new rules
Formula 1 technical chiefs are now predicting that 2019 cars will be faster than last year – despite the new rules having originally been expected to slow them down.
A major revamp of the aero regulations for this season aimed at helping overtaking was supposed to have stripped back levels of downforce.
F1 teams had been initially predicting that the cars would be up to two seconds per lap slower than 2018.
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said at the launch of his team’s 2019 car earlier this month: "We predicted an impact of 1.5s per lap when we [first tested] in the wind tunnel [and] it’s what we got.”
But the expectations of a step back in form did not materialise at the test this week when the 2019 cars quickly delivered laptimes that were comparable to 12 months ago.
By the end of the week, Nico Hulkenberg’s table-topping time of 1m17.393s was pretty close to the winter testing record from last year – which was Sebastian Vettel’s 1m17.182s from the final test when teams started to wind things up a bit.
The difference looks especially dramatic if you compare first test to first test though. By the end of week one at Barcelona in 2018, Lewis Hamilton had only got down to a 1m19.333s.
Although improved weather conditions and a faster track surface played their part in the improvement, there is little doubt that teams have managed to recover the lost downforce brought about by the 2019 rules.
Renault technical director Nick Chester reckoned that F1 was on course to be quicker than 2018 – as he expected next week’s times to improve.
"The cars by the end of testing are going to be a chunk quicker than they were this time last year, and I think they're going to be probably a bit quicker than the end of '18 already," he said.
"So by the end of '19 they are going to be quite quick."
Toro Rosso deputy technical director Jody Eggington said that while initial estimates had been pessimistic, the brilliance of F1 engineers to recover losses should never have been underestimated.
"F1 engineers are fantastically good at overcoming challenges,” he said. "I think the key point is that when people were talking about the laptime delta, I think its got a little bit lost in translation.
"The first moment we put the car in. the wind tunnel that was configured to the new regulations, we lost a chink of load, we lost a chunk of aero balance and the shape of our aero map was not what we wanted. That would have been similar for a number of teams.
"So then you get to work on recovering that as soon as you can. In our case, we're learning all the time to find opportunities.
"We're exploiting it, and history has proven teams are fantastically good at recovering big losses rapidly and finding opportunity even within what is potentially more restricted regulation. So in that respect it is a good engineering challenge. Let's see how it pans out at the first races."
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