Insights from the first qualifying simulation of 2023 for all F1 cars
Our F1 journalists, KEN Kiz and Erin Preston, were present at the circuit throughout the entire FP2 session and witnessed each driver’s qualifying simulation.
The initial qualifying simulations of 2023 made the recent free practice session of Formula 1 incredibly significant, informative, and thrilling, potentially making it the most noteworthy one of the year.
Typically, Friday practice sessions in Formula 1 don’t generate much enthusiasm. However, the first FP2 of the season is a significant event as it marks the initial occasion when teams collectively engage in low-fuel, soft-tyre runs to gear up for the qualifying round on Saturday.
Following a week of speculating about the hierarchy of teams based on testing, the recent low-fuel, soft-tyre runs during the first FP2 session of the season provide the most accurate gauge yet of the raw performance levels of the 10 teams as they head into the new season.
During the recent FP2 session, the AMR23 car appeared to behave similarly to how it did during the previous week, which is noteworthy given that every other car appeared to be performing slightly worse.
In the hands of Fernando Alonso, the car looked extremely tidy, although it was nothing special. Alonso appeared to be good on the brakes, with the car responding well to single turn-in maneuvers, and displaying smooth traction.
While navigating Turn 11, Alonso quickly loaded up the car on entry, hooked it up to the apex well, and it rotated nicely. He was also on the power at a decent time and didn’t have to hustle the car too much.
The Ferrari car appeared to be solid during the recent FP2 session, with no significant weaknesses observed. However, compared to the Red Bull and Aston Martin cars, there was a slight indication of hesitation.
Both drivers were able to attack the braking zone at Turn 10 reasonably well, and the car appeared to respond positively on the front, with no real signs of rear instability.
Despite the car’s stability, it appeared to be slightly slower compared to some of its rivals. While navigating Turn 11, the car looked planted but seemed to require a more delicate turn-in as it didn’t load up as effortlessly as the Aston Martin, for example.
During the recent FP2 session, two things stood out as the Red Bull cars passed: they were not as hooked up as they were a week ago, and they were sparking more than any other car when carrying more weight.
The limitations of the RB19 car were perhaps more noticeable at low speeds. Neither driver appeared to be as aggressively committed as they were during testing, but the car still performed reasonably well.
Max Verstappen seemed to have more confidence while running on low fuel, and he arrived at Turn 10 with a more poised car, while Sergio Perez needed a second attempt to get the car to the apex.
During Turn 11, Verstappen was so far onto the outside kerb during the entry that he was practically on the drag strip. Nonetheless, he was able to attack the corner, and the car responded nicely with good rotation. Although the car did not look ultra-planted, it still appeared to perform well.
According to the observations made by our F1 journalists, the Williams car showed promising signs during the recent FP2 session. However, its lack of outright speed still remains an issue.
Logan Sargeant initially aborted his first flying lap, resulting in a slightly reserved approach during his next attempt, particularly while navigating Turn 10. Nonetheless, his overall performance was tidy and composed.
Alex Albon faced some understeer due to the car’s entry speed, but the car’s balance remained steady. The car showed decent stability while attacking the kerb on entry at Turn 11.
The Williams car seems to have made progress compared to last year, but it still lacks overall grip, which is hindering its speed.
According to the observations made by our F1 journalists, the Alfa Romeo car appeared to be quite user-friendly during the recent FP2 session. There were no significant positive or negative traits observed, and it appeared to be a steady and consistent performer.
Both Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu faced a touch of understeer at low speeds, while they experienced a hint of rear limitation on turn-in while navigating high-speed corners. The car seemed to perform slightly better at Turn 11, which is in line with the results from pre-season testing. However, there was little to distinguish the car’s performance at Turn 10, except for Bottas’s slight understeer, which caused him to go wide of the apex.
The McLaren car seemed to be challenging to handle during the recent FP2 session, with a significant gap in lap time between Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri.
The car appeared to be tricky to handle while braking and had limited overall grip. Norris had to work hard to get the car to the apex at Turn 10, while Piastri visibly struggled with under-rotation, a recurring issue for McLaren last season.
Norris appeared to be more comfortable while navigating Turn 11, while Piastri seemed to be getting back on the power slightly later due to the car’s under-rotation. However, this is not surprising given Norris’s experience with this line of McLaren cars.
The car seemed to be more controlled during long runs, providing some comfort to the team. However, while running on low fuel, the car appeared to be on a knife edge, making it challenging to extract maximum performance.
The W14 car had a mixed performance during the recent FP2 session, with a slight hint of sketchiness about it. The car did not appear to be as bad as it did on the second day of testing, and it looked more like the first day, with slight rear-end instability and traction limitation.
Lewis Hamilton seemed to be more comfortable during the qualifying simulation, although the longer run did not look as comfortable. The car still seems to have a rear that occasionally struggles to keep up with the front, and its traction seems to decrease as long runs progress, which puts it at a disadvantage compared to its rivals.
The Alpine car appeared to be reasonably quick but unspectacular during the recent FP2 session. Esteban Ocon had a minor mid-corner slide with the front axle while navigating Turn 10, whereas Pierre Gasly faced a touch of understeer.
There was nothing particularly dramatic about their performance. During Turn 11, the drivers were not attacking as aggressively as some of their competitors during their push laps. They were not taking as much road on entry, which could suggest that they have more to give, provided there is no instability at the rear that they are compensating for.
During the recent FP2 session, there was a noticeable difference in performance between Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg. Magnussen appeared to be a little disjointed while navigating Turn 10, whereas Hulkenberg showed more commitment.
Magnussen struggled with the car’s handling from entry to exit, both on low fuel and during longer runs, while Hulkenberg looked more in control. The disparity between the two drivers was significant, almost as if they were driving different cars.
At the faster Turn 11, both drivers appeared to struggle slightly to rotate the car. It could be due to understeer or a rear limitation that required them to be slightly conservative on entry, but there was no major imbalance.
On a few occasions, they seemed to be running out of road in the exit phase more than others.
According to the observations made by our F1 journalists, KEN Kiz and Erin Preston, the AlphaTauri team did not perform impressively during the recent FP2 session. This was in line with the initial concerns that a late soft-tyre run during pre-season testing may have given a slightly inflated opinion of the team’s performance.
The AT04 appeared lackluster during both low and high-speed maneuvers. Yuki Tsunoda seemed to be more at ease compared to his teammate, Nyck de Vries, as he showed better control during braking for Turn 10 and was more assertive while navigating the fast Turn 11. However, neither driver seemed to be entirely comfortable in the car, resulting in a slightly tentative approach. The car’s performance in high-speed corners, although improved, was not entirely convincing.
During long runs, Tsunoda made fewer errors compared to de Vries, who had a significant lock-up early on and struggled with understeer for the remainder of the run.
Both corners reflected Alonso’s own verdict, which he shared afterwards: “I will lie if I say it’s not feeling good [to drive].”
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