Beyond Lap Times – Understanding F1 2023 Cars
Pre-season testing for the 2023 season has concluded quickly, and Sergio Perez has topped the times on the third and final day in Bahrain. With a greater emphasis on performance and race simulations, a hierarchy began to surface. Therefore, on the third day in the desert, who performed the best?
In Formula 1 pre-season testing, relying solely on lap times can be deceiving. To avoid this, a more trustworthy indicator is the on-track behavior of the car. Hence, F1Lead invests significant time in observing the cars from the trackside to gain a deeper understanding of their distinct traits and features.
Although the usual reservations apply concerning varying conditions, run plans, fuel loads, and tires, watching the car behavior regularly throughout the week can provide a consistent understanding of how the car performs. Even though we generally only observe the effects of the car behavior (both positive and negative), rather than the causes, a comprehensive picture of a car’s function can be built through regular observation at various times and vantage points.
Having spent time trackside over three days, at various intervals and viewpoints, here’s our evaluation of the performance of the 2023 class on the track, presented in descending order of fastest lap.
Williams Demonstrates Improvement But Remains One of the Weaker Teams During Pre-Season Testing.
Williams has shown some improvement during pre-season testing, but the car still appears to be relatively weak. Although the team was able to complete a considerable number of laps, the car’s pace was generally slower than that of its rivals.
On the positive side, Williams seems to have addressed some of the weaknesses that plagued the team last season, such as poor reliability and a lack of downforce. The car exhibited a more stable and predictable behavior, and the drivers were able to push harder with greater confidence.
However, the car’s straight-line speed was still a concern, and it appeared to struggle with cornering at higher speeds. Williams will need to find more pace if it hopes to be competitive this season.
Compared to the previous year, the Williams car appears to have made some strides in terms of being more compatible with the dynamics of turning and braking simultaneously. However, it still appears to be weaker than most other cars on the track.
As expected, rookie Logan Sargeant required some time to establish confidence and familiarity with the car, which made him appear a bit disjointed through Turn 10 and vulnerable to some lock-ups.
Towards the end of the test, the car still seemed somewhat hesitant in the hands of Alex Albon and showed signs of breaking traction. This suggests that the design of the car is functional but lacking in downforce. Nonetheless, it could provide a stable foundation for improvement.
Haas Demonstrates Solid Performance with No Major Issues During Pre-Season Testing.
Haas’ performance during pre-season testing did not reveal any significant weaknesses or issues. The car demonstrated a solid and predictable performance on the track, with both drivers completing a considerable number of laps.
During pre-season testing, the Haas car appeared to perform consistently well at low-speed corners, such as Turn 1 and Turn 10. The car exhibited no significant issues or vices, except for a slight understeer that was not particularly concerning.
At Turn 11, the car appeared capable of aggressive braking, with any understeer occurring mid-corner, but not at a problematic level. While the car did not exhibit the same level of excitement as the Alfa Romeo on soft tires on day three, it was free from significant problems that plagued other teams like McLaren and Williams.
Overall, the Haas car’s performance was stable, dependable, and devoid of significant issues. While it may not be the fastest car on the grid, it appears to be a reliable and solid choice for the team.
Alpine’s Speed Remains Concealed During Pre-Season Testing.
Alpine appears to be concealing its true pace during pre-season testing. While they didn’t post the quickest lap times, they did demonstrate a consistent and solid performance on track. Additionally, the car exhibited a well-balanced and predictable behavior, making it easy to drive for both of the team’s drivers. Overall, Alpine seems to be focusing on long-run pace and reliability, rather than outright speed in pre-season testing.
Despite a relatively firm set-up that made the drivers appear highly committed at corner entry, Alpine’s pace during pre-season testing was not particularly remarkable. Nevertheless, the car demonstrated a dependable performance on track overall. Although there were instances when it seemed hesitant on turn-in, this may be attributed to heavier fuel loads. Furthermore, the car exhibited occasional moments of sharpness, suggesting that it possesses bursts of pace that were not reflected in lap times.
While Alpine didn’t appear as impressive as Aston Martin, it did exhibit consistent usage throughout testing. There were indications of a well-balanced car that may deliver genuinely impressive pace once unleashed. Towards the end of the test, its behavior during longer runs was stable and predictable.
Aston Martin Exhibits Aggressive Performance During Pre-Season Testing.
Aston Martin’s performance during pre-season testing was quite aggressive, with the car demonstrating impressive pace and handling on the track. The team completed a significant number of laps, with both drivers pushing the car to the limit.
During pre-season testing, the Aston Martin car had the most aggressive body language of all the cars on the track, particularly when driven by Fernando Alonso. However, Alonso appeared to work with the car, rather than struggle against it, introducing it to corners and pushing it without excessive force. Most impressively, the car was responsive to Alonso’s driving style, and the team completed a significant number of laps without any significant issues.
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The car demonstrated excellent turn-in and rotation, allowing the drivers to carry impressive speed through corners. The car exhibited a stable and predictable behavior, which made it easy for the drivers to push to the limit. Overall, Aston Martin appears to have made significant improvements since last season, and the car’s performance in pre-season testing suggests that it could be one of the strongest performers this season.
During pre-season testing, Fernando Alonso’s driving of the Aston Martin car stood out for its impressive handling and stability. Alonso demonstrated an excellent ability to slow down the car neatly and rotate it sharply at the apex of Turn 1, enabling a better line through Turn 2. Additionally, he showed remarkable control under braking, scrubbing off excess speed to make the apex at Turn 10.
The car exhibited excellent consistency and adhesion to the track, with the exception of the Red Bull car, which was the only one that seemed to perform better. Overall, Aston Martin’s performance during pre-season testing bodes well for its 2023 campaign.
McLaren’s Performance in Pre-Season Testing Leaves Room for Doubt.
McLaren’s performance during pre-season testing was generally unconvincing. Although the car exhibited a solid and stable performance on track, it failed to demonstrate the outright pace required to compete at the front.
Furthermore, the car’s behavior was somewhat unpredictable, with the drivers appearing to struggle with its balance at times. The car also seemed to have some issues with overheating, which may impact its performance over longer runs.
Throughout pre-season testing, McLaren’s performance remained unconvincing, and it failed to dispel the initial impression of being unimpressive. While not terrible, the car seems to require more effort to turn into corners, and at times, the drivers have to turn in earlier at certain corners, such as Turn 11. Additionally, the car’s behavior through corners is inconsistent and unpredictable, which could impact its overall performance.
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The McLaren car’s rotation and change of direction were not as impressive as those of other cars, and the issue appeared to be amplified by fuel loads. Even on the final day of testing, the car continued to exhibit similar hesitations during its better moments. While rookie driver Oscar Piastri could be forgiven for struggling to acclimatize, the fact that experienced driver Lando Norris also struggled indicates the car’s inherent nature.
The team made significant improvements during the test, but the car still seemed like the least desirable choice to drive, with hints of the knife-edge characteristics that made the 2022 car challenging. In summary, the McLaren car is not terrible, but it’s not a particularly good car either.
AlphaTauri Improves and Finds Strong Footing During Pre-Season Testing.
Alphatauri appeared to have found its feet during pre-season testing, with the car demonstrating a strong and consistent performance on the track. The team completed a considerable number of laps, and the car exhibited impressive pace and handling.
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The AlphaTauri car started pre-season testing looking somewhat awkward, with some low-speed understeer that recalled a key weakness of the previous year’s car. The car lacked the front-end bite of the top-performing midfield teams, but it did not exhibit any significant problems.
Over the course of the test, the team made some improvements that unlocked more pace, although the car required softer tires to exhibit the impressive body language of other cars. However, even on longer runs during the final day of testing, the car showed only a hint of understeer without any significant grip issues, unlike last year’s car.
Overall, AlphaTauri’s performance during pre-season testing suggests that the team has produced a competitive car that does not exhibit any significant weaknesses. While there may be some understeer issues, the team has a strong foundation to build upon for the season.
Ferrari Demonstrates Very Well-Balanced Performance During Pre-Season Testing.
Ferrari’s performance during pre-season testing was impressive, with the car demonstrating a very well-balanced performance on the track. The team completed a considerable number of laps, and the car exhibited excellent pace and handling.
Towards the end of pre-season testing, the Ferrari SF-23 had become an extremely consistent car, which was a significant improvement from its starting point with a bit of low-speed understeer. The car’s handling was well-balanced, and it exhibited excellent consistency and predictability on the track.
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When watching the car looking backward to Turn 1, the Ferrari appeared to hit its marks nicely and exhibited good braking. Additionally, it demonstrated strong rotation that allowed Charles Leclerc to position the car neatly for the change of direction through Turn 2. Overall, Ferrari’s performance during pre-season testing suggests that the team has produced a competitive car that can compete with the top performers on the grid.
During pre-season testing, the Ferrari SF-23 did not exhibit any significant weaknesses or issues with the car’s rear end at low-speed corners, such as Turn 1 and Turn 10. The car’s handling was well-balanced, with good traction and strong rotation through corners.
Watching the car on a race run on Saturday evening, it exhibited impressive consistency, with no significant issues. While there may have been a minor hint of hesitation with the car’s rear end at some point between turn-in and apex during the Turn 11 left-hander, it was likely due to an over-taxed right-rear tire, which is a minor issue.
Overall, Ferrari’s performance during pre-season testing was impressive, and the team appears to have produced a well-balanced and competitive car that can compete with the top performers on the grid.
Alfa Romeo Provides Confidence-Inspiring Performance During Pre-Season Testing.
During pre-season testing, the Alfa Romeo car exhibited a confident and impressive performance on the track. The team completed a considerable number of laps, and the car demonstrated impressive pace and handling.
During pre-season testing, the Alfa Romeo car demonstrated a steady and consistent performance on the track. The car’s handling was compliant and exhibited a steady through-corner balance, which helped create a good impression of the car. While the car demonstrated some understeer on longer runs during the first half of the test, it still appeared better than the McLaren or the AlphaTauri.
By the final day of testing, the Alfa Romeo car appeared to be confidence-inspiring to drive, with Valtteri Bottas able to commit on the brakes and at corner entry without any issues with the rear-end of the car. While the car may have demonstrated greater strength in lower-speed corners, it still took a significant step forward in faster corners.
Overall, Alfa Romeo’s performance during pre-season testing suggests that the team has produced a competitive car that can compete with the midfield teams on the grid. While it may not be the fastest car, it is a confidence-inspiring car to drive and has a strong foundation to build upon.
Red Bull Demonstrates Impressive and Joyful Performance During Pre-Season Testing.
Overall, Red Bull’s performance during pre-season testing was impressive, and the car looked like a joy to drive. The team has a strong foundation to build upon, and it will be one of the top performers on the grid in the 2023 season.
Watching the Red Bull car during pre-season testing was a familiar experience for fans of the team, as it demonstrated impressive performance and handling on the track. Over the past decade, Red Bull has consistently produced machines that have looked positively serene on the track, and the RB19 was no exception.
The car demonstrated impressive through-corner balance and stability, and it spent much of the testing period circulating as if on rails. While there were occasional moments where the car strayed, overall, it was one of the strongest performers on the track, and it looked like a joy to drive.
Overall, Red Bull’s performance during pre-season testing was impressive, and the RB19 demonstrated why the team has been one of the top performers in Formula 1 over the past decade. With a strong foundation to build upon, the team is well-positioned to compete for the championship in the 2023 season.
The Red Bull car, during pre-season testing, responded well on turn-in, maintained its balance through the corner, and generally performed well on traction at the exit. While there were occasional moments where the car got out of shape, such as Sergio Perez’s lock-ups at Turn 10 on day two, overall, the RB19 was one of the most impressive performers on the track.
Perez’s commitment and confidence when attacking corners was particularly impressive, with the RB19 responding well and maintaining its balance through the corner. The car exhibited almost imperceptible extra responsiveness that made it look like a joy to drive, and it was a testament to Red Bull’s engineering expertise.
Overall, the RB19 looked even better than its predecessor, and it was one of the top performers on the track during pre-season testing. With a strong foundation to build upon, the team is well-positioned to compete for the championship in the 2023 season.
Mercedes’ Performance During Pre-Season Testing Varies Widely Across Three Days.
Mercedes’ performance during pre-season testing was somewhat inconsistent, with three very different days on the track. The team completed a considerable number of laps, but the car exhibited some issues that need to be addressed.
During pre-season testing, there were several versions of the Mercedes W14 on the track in Bahrain. The day-one example demonstrated lively handling, while the second version on Friday exhibited a stark contrast, seemingly lacking both front-end and good traction at times. Lewis Hamilton needed quick hands on more than one occasion to deal with a mid-corner break of grip and a little slide on exit at Turn 10.
The third version of the car, which was seen on the final day of testing, did not look too far off Red Bull and Ferrari in terms of performance, although it still exhibited echoes of the earlier limitations. The car was not quite as responsive on turn-in as the Red Bull and sometimes struggled more for traction, but it was a decently balanced car overall.
Overall, Mercedes’ performance during pre-season testing was somewhat inconsistent, with varying performance across the different versions of the car. While the team has a strong foundation to build upon, it will need to work to improve the car’s stability and balance to compete with the top performers on the grid.
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