This year’s cars feature not only heavily evolved aerodynamics (with more than 20% extra downforce compared to last year) but also tyres that are 25% wider. The result of these changes was instant: lap times plummeted. During pre-season testing in early March we were seeing lap times around two or three seconds faster than last year, and that theme continued throughout the first four races of the current season, in Australia, China, Bahrain and Russia. These are very different races and circuits, with weather conditions that are also massively diverse.
Yet the consistent performance improvement clearly demonstrates how these 2017 cars are a lot quicker than their predecessors. The objective of this new technical revolution was to create cars that are around five seconds per lap quicker than 2015, which was used as the reference point. That goal has already been reached. But only now is it getting serious…
Why serious? Because the fifth round of the 2017 F1® championship kicks off the European season. In other words, the part of the year that carries the most significance, using traditional circuits that offer many obvious and trusted points of comparison between the cars. In Spain during May, with a few notable exceptions, there’s a strong chance of summer heat, which is set to become the rule between now and at least the end of September.
This factor, in combination with other circumstances such as the notoriously abrasive asphalt on the Montmelò circuit, provides a real challenge for the tyres, which are required to deliver maximum performance on a track that traditionally features high wear and degradation.