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today is Jun 06, 2023

Interpreting the data from Formula 1 testing is always fraught with difficulty. That’s especially true when teams are having their first experiences with cars built to drastically changed regulations, as was the case this week.

The key objective for teams was discovering how accurate their simulations of their new designs had turned out to be, and what real-world problems they might not have foreseen. The widely discussed phenomenon of ‘porpoising’ was the most obvious example.

However in logging over 3,000 laps of the Circuit de Catalunya, the teams have given some early indications into how their development efforts have turned out over the off-season. They still have one more three-day test to go, and for a couple of teams this already looks like a vital chance to get their 2022 programmes back on track.

Lap times

Lewis Hamilton set the quickest time of the test, lapping within two-and-a-half seconds of his pole position effort from last year. Clearly, the new generation of cars, even in these early iterations, have lost relatively little speed.

Indeed, Hamilton’s effort was fractionally quicker than his pole position time at the circuit in 2017, when F1 had its last significant regulations change. At that time it achieved a target of reducing lap times by five seconds at the same venue over a two-year period (note turn 10 was eased in 2021).

For those hoping to see a close competition this year, the spread between the lap times offers some encouragement. The difference between the teams’ fastest and slowest times was 2.747 seconds, which is slightly higher than the 2.5s seen at last year’s race.

That is encouragingly close given the new rules created the potential for one team to gain a significant advantage. The indication so far is that hasn’t happened.

Driver Wednesday Thursday Friday Lewis Hamilton 1’20.929 1’22.562 1’19.138 George Russell 1’20.784 1’20.537 1’19.233 Sergio Perez 1’21.43 1’19.556 Lando Norris 1’19.568 1’20.827 Charles Leclerc 1’20.165 1’19.689 1’19.831 Max Verstappen 1’22.246 1’19.756 Sebastian Vettel 1’21.276 1’20.784 1’19.824 Pierre Gasly 1’19.918 1’22.469 Carlos Sainz Jnr 1’20.416 1’20.546 1’20.072 Daniel Ricciardo 1’20.288 1’20.79 Nicholas Latifi 1’23.379 1’21.894 1’20.699 Fernando Alonso 1’21.746 1’21.242 Nikita Mazepin 1’24.456 1’21.512 1’26.229 Alexander Albon 1’22.76 1’21.531 1’22.652 Yuki Tsunoda 1’21.638 Guanyu Zhou 1’21.885 1’21.939 Lance Stroll 1’23.327 1’21.92 Mick Schumacher 1’22.962 1’21.949 Esteban Ocon 1’22.164 Valtteri Bottas 1’22.572 1’22.288 1’30.433 Robert Kubica 1’25.909

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Lap time comparisons

Who looks quick out of the box? Comparing each team’s quickest lap from this test to the times they set over the course of last year’s grand prix weekend yields some interesting comparisons.

Aston Martin were closest to their 2021 performance level, which befits a team which was looking to correct the step backwards in competitiveness it had last year.

Alpine did not seem to be pursuing performance to the same extent as their rivals, and were almost twice as far away from their 2021 pace as Aston Martin. Alfa Romeo were also some way off.

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The mileage data does not look very encouraging for Alfa Romeo either. This is arguably the most important metric for the first test with new cars: how many kilometres you can cover.

While Ferrari led the way, their two customers ended Friday desperately short of running after various technical problems.

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