F1 drivers didn’t miss Catalunya’s chicane, however did they discover overtaking simpler?

When the newly-built Circuit de Catalunya was added to the Formulation 1 calendar in 1991 it was extensively held to have one ingredient which may very well be relied upon to provide overtaking: A fast nook main onto an extended straight adopted by a sluggish nook.

Because it occurred that inaugural race additionally benefitted from the opposite variable which often produces motion: rain. The race which adopted produced one of the memorable overtakes ever seen – championship contenders Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell racing to show one, their automobiles separated by millimetres, sparks flying.

Over time which adopted F1 automobiles developed and so did views about what sort of observe format was wanted to create passes: particularly, even longer straights bookended by tight corners. These have been duly created in a swathe of ‘Tilkedromes’ – new circuits designed by former F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone’s most popular observe designer Hermann Tilke – by way of the noughties and onwards.

Throughout this time Catalunya’s ultimate nook was additionally overhauled and changed into a a lot tighter nook. Nevertheless this 2007 change was principally accomplished as a result of security considerations. Now, 16 years later, it was reversed following enhancements to the run-off on the nook plus years of security enhancements made to the automobiles.

Mansell’s famed go on Senna in Catalunya’s first grand prixDrivers had been calling for the change for years. Unsurprisingly, they welcomed it from a pure driving viewpoint, as a 270kph sweep is a problem they have been all the time going to relish over a slender, tight and sluggish chicane. However did it additionally make overtaking simpler, or are F1’s newest era of automobiles nonetheless too delicate to high-speed air disturbance for that to be doable?

After the race, drivers provided a mixture of views. That is partly to be anticipated, as many competing components decide how a lot overtaking occurs in a single race. A vigorous qualifying session produced a extra diverse grid for this yr’s race, so with Sergio Perez, George Russell and Charles Leclerc all beginning exterior the highest 10, extra passing was all the time going to be probably.

The latter didn’t make it so far as the highest ten after beginning the race from the pits, suggesting overtaking was a problem for him. He reported it was “very tough” to go, after spending the final laps staring on the Alpine of Pierre Gasly which was protecting him out of the factors.

“The brand new format I’m undecided helped that a lot, I really feel prefer it’s roughly the identical as final yr,” he mentioned.

Nevertheless Ferrari have discovered their automotive is especially delicate to the airflow of different automobiles. And as Leclerc’s workforce mate identified the midfield is extra aggressive than it was 12 months in the past, making it tougher to achieve the mandatory efficiency benefit to overhaul a automotive.

Drivers might observe carefully sufficient by way of quick ultimate cornerCarlos Sainz Jnr did see some overtaking – although he admitted it was largely different drivers going previous him. “It didn’t really feel that tough on the market, not less than for the others on me it felt fairly simple,” he noticed.

“It simply exhibits most likely final yr we might have made it again to the highest 4, prime 5 ranging from the pit lane. It’s simply the sector is tighter and it’s tougher to make your means by way of.”

Nico Hulkenberg believes the change in automotive design caused by the technical rules launched final yr has made it simpler for automobiles to observe extra carefully by way of the restored, high-speed sweeps which conclude a lap of the Catalunya circuit.

“I did numerous overtaking and obtained overtaken as properly,” mentioned the Haas driver, who returned to F1 this yr as a full-time driver for the primary time since 2019. “So it felt prefer it was very doable.

“I don’t know with these automobiles, with the previous format, if it could have been the identical. Tough to say. However following by way of to the final nook which is 240kph or one thing was fairly good. That’s the factor with these automobiles, in excessive velocity really it’s higher to observe than the earlier era.”

Because the drivers have been carrying considerably extra velocity onto the primary straight, the slipstream potential was nice. And with the DRS zone unchanged from final yr, many drivers have been capable of go properly earlier than the primary nook – as occurred with Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon.

The gang at flip one noticed loads of actionThat, plus the elevated tyre degradation caused by changing three sluggish corners with two quick ones, seems to have finally proved useful for overtaking. Pirelli’s head of motorsport Mario Isola believes restoring the quick corners “most likely” made passing simpler.

“Particularly on the finish of the primary straight, that was the aim of the brand new format.

“So I imagine that in Barcelona – not trying on the chief that was dominating the race from lap one – we had fairly a great variety of overtakes on-track and that’s precisely what we would like.

“Clearly the power to handle the degradation was most likely decreasing a bit of bit the overtaking. But when I take a look at the place behind the chief, we had numerous deg, I’m pleased with the outcome. And on the primary straight it’s now a place the place you possibly can overtake, most likely it’s a bit simpler due to the velocity you can keep it up the primary straight.”

Eradicating the chicane on the Circuit de Catalunya seems to have been a step ahead for overtaking, and there’s no query the drivers favor the ultimate two corners of their unique (and now reinstated) type.

“It’s much more satisfying to drive,” mentioned Max Verstappen. “I imply, going into that final nook brings a smile on my face as a result of that’s the place an F1 automotive actually comes alive.”

Now, who’s up for bringing again the unique, the ultra-fast Nissan chicane subsequent?

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