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Is Barcelona nonetheless F1’s greatest automotive efficiency litmus take a look at observe?

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Dwelling System 1 heroes Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso sparked an intriguing debate at Barcelona final weekend – across the context of Purple Bull’s shock near-defeat to McLaren, does the venue nonetheless present the final word take a look at of automotive efficiency?

Due to its {old} place as common pre-season take a look at venue, its place on the calendar constantly for the final 33 years and common internet hosting of non-F1 race occasions plus different classes, the groups and drivers know this place extraordinarily effectively.

It’s why Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton warned “you must take it [the results] with a pinch of salt” after ending on the rostrum final Sunday – evoking the Barcelona false dawns Mercedes has endured right here the final two seasons. The groups simply have a lot knowledge for this circuit.

Plus, the observe options a number of totally different nook sorts. This forces the groups to commerce efficiencies in automotive dealing with round them, in addition to severely testing the drivers on tyre administration.

However there are important variations lately. For a begin, the much-derided low-speed chicane was eliminated forward of the 2023 race right here. Then, there’s the very fact there are actually eight road – or semi-permeant – tracks on the F1 calendar, which require very totally different set-ups across the adoption of the brand new floor impact vehicles in 2022.

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“Barcelona was a observe the place everybody used to say, ‘in the event you’re fast round Barcelona, then you definately’re fast round in all places’,” Sainz mentioned in final weekend’s pre-event press convention.

“I believe now System 1 has modified loads as a result of there’s really much more tracks like Monaco and Canada than there are like Barcelona.

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-24

Photograph by: Sam Bagnall / Motorsport Images

“Due to what number of road circuits they’ve added with the kerbs, bumpy layouts – the Monacos, the Singapores, the Canadas. Baku, Vegas, Mexico – there are such a lot of tracks that aren’t like Barcelona anymore, whereas earlier than, I believe there was quite a lot of Barcelonas, quite a lot of European type of tracks.

“I do not assume it is anymore the case that Barcelona is dictating the remainder of the 12 months.

“When you have a great automotive round Barcelona, usually it means you’ve a great automotive round Silverstone, round perhaps Hungary or Spa. However your good automotive in Barcelona for positive does not imply that you will be fast in Baku.”

Alonso added: “As Carlos mentioned, in Barcelona now’s a observe that may assist to grasp or to guess what’s going to occur in one other 4 or 5 tracks within the championship, however there are a lot of different varieties of circuits that perhaps Barcelona just isn’t so attention-grabbing anymore.”

By way of the break up between ‘regular’ aerodynamics-testing tracks, there are 14 on the 2024 calendar and 10 street-style programs (together with the kerb-riding and most downforce oddities of Imola and Mexico).

This works out at a 60:40 break up. In 2004, this was 80:20.

Stacked in opposition to the purpose raised by Sainz and Alonso is how Purple Bull – now the Spanish GP winner for 3 years in a row – has solely actually misplaced one race (Singapore 2023) to circumstances absolutely in its personal management since final season started.

Its downforce-packed, wonderful mechanically using machines of the present period might not just like the bumps and kerbs of road programs, however these merely transfer it nearer to the opposition.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Max Verstappen, Purple Bull Racing RB20

Photograph by: Sam Bagnall / Motorsport Images

“In fact, increasingly road circuits are coming but it surely does present that in the event you’re fast right here, your automotive typically continues to be good,” Purple Bull’s Max Verstappen defined.

“However you at all times have these few odd tracks on the calendar the place your automotive won’t be good or no matter.”

The suggestion that being good at Barcelona is a transparent indication of success on the coming rounds in Austria, Britain, Hungary, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy can also be not so clear lower. This too is an argument put ahead by Purple Bull – that truly, every of those venues as a sure excessive high quality of their very own.

“This place [is] comparatively excessive pace, [requires] aerodynamic sensitivity,” defined the workforce’s chief engineer, Paul Monaghan.

“Then we go 1000m above sea stage for 3 straights, three low pace, three excessive pace corners, or quickish corners [at the Red Bull Ring] after which with Silverstone, the place massive chunks of it are flat out.

“So, every observe presents its personal problem. I believe if we do our jobs diligently, and effectively, then we are able to have a aggressive automotive.

“What different folks do? We will not affect the automotive management, and we’re judged relative to them.

“So, Hungary once more, we’re again up on most downforce. And every week later, we’re in Spa [which requires] the skinniest rear wing could have run this 12 months, apart from maybe someplace like Jeddah.

“So [these are] regular races, [but] we’re shuffling the downforce round, altering the cooling – going from minimal downforces previous to Monza to the utmost.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23

Max Verstappen, Purple Bull Racing RB19, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23

Photograph by: Alessio Morgese

“Yeah, okay, in the event that they’re all related tracks and perhaps I am naive, however we are able to have some enjoyable.”

There are background components to think about when it comes to Barcelona’s earlier standing now being questioned – resembling Madrid’s looming presence on the F1 calendar from 2026 and sources saying Alonso doesn’t get together with the Barcelona observe’s administration, which is combating exhausting to maintain this circuit on the schedule post-2025.

However in a single sense, Sainz and Alonso are fully appropriate in what they are saying.

By eradicating the final sector chicane, Barcelona’s new/{old} configuration simply doesn’t present as full a take a look at of F1 automotive efficiency.

It was that the workforce doing greatest in that advanced was predicted to go on and dominate at Monaco – with the caveat that the race was later within the 2024 calendar and will probably be once more subsequent 12 months.

That is not the case, however Barcelona nonetheless checks F1 vehicles significantly and one of the best of the season to date – constantly over all observe sorts since McLaren up to date the MCL38 – led the way in which.

Watch: Spanish GP Race Evaluation – Why F1’s “Quickest Automotive” Could not Beat Verstappen

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