2017 Formula 1 cars on target to be fastest ever

The 2017 Formula 1 cars are on target to be the championship's fastest ever, with Pirelli predicting potential lap records by the end of pre-season testing next week

The best pre-season time so far this year is Kimi Raikkonen's 1m20.960s, which is still slower than the cars were in the final years of V8 engines.

But F1 tyre supplier Pirelli is expecting much more performance to come over the remaining six days of testing, and that lap times will drop by another two seconds before running finishes.

When asked where he expected lap times to be by the end of the two tests, Pirelli F1 racing manager Mario Isola said: "In my opinion, we should be around 1m18s - so you will have to come back on the last day and see if I am right or wrong."

Such times in pre-season testing would set up the prospect of even quicker pace by the Spanish Grand Prix in May because car development will have moved on so much by then.

Isola reckons the 1m18s range is a likely Barcelona race pace.

"The race is difficult [to predict] because Barcelona is the first race where a lot of teams introduce new parts and updates, so they will probably have a step," he said.

"So if we have 1m18s in qualifying simulations at the end of the test, during the race we will be in that range."

Pirelli's prediction of 1m18s is in line with what team sources have also suggested will be possible over the course of testing.

The fastest ever pole position on the current Barcelona circuit configuration was set by Mark Webber in 2010, with a lap time of 1m19.995s for Red Bull.

A year earlier Brawn's Rubens Barrichello had produced a lap of 1m19.954s in a Q2 session that did not count for the grid.

The ultimate fastest lap ever at Barcelona came back in 2008, during an in-season test when drivers were trying out experimental Bridgestone slick tyres that were being introduced for the following season.

Fernando Alonso, who was then driving for Renault, did a 1m18.483s midway through the test.

Pirelli added that early indications from the test confirmed its belief that 2017 tyres were meeting their targets for lower degradation and better thermal properties to allow drivers to push harder in races.

Isola also said that on-track data had suggested downforce levels were significantly higher than 12 months ago.

"We said that the downforce should be around 30% more than last year - and if it is not that much, it will be 25% or something like that," he said.

"I heard some comments from drivers that they can brake later and go quicker in the corners."

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