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F1 drivers fear unintended consequences of Barcelona track changes

Formula 1 drivers predict that overtaking in the Spanish Grand Prix will not increase from the return of the high-speed final sector, despite it being the intention behind the modifications.

Nyck de Vries, AlphaTauri AT04

Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

For the first time since 2006, the championship will cut out the oft-maligned low-speed Turn 14-15 left-right chicane and will revert to the two high-speed open right handers to complete the lap.

This has increased the final-corner apex speed up to 170mph, with the aim being to allow drivers to follow more closely onto the main straight to slipstream and mount an overtake.

While single-car running during Friday practice returned rave reviews from drivers about the changes to make the lap faster, they do not expect said tweaks to do as conceived to help passing.

With a perceived lack of overtaking so far in 2023 partially blamed on the Pirelli tyres being more limited by overheating rather than degradation, AlphaTauri driver Nyck de Vries reckons that will again be a major factor this weekend.

He said: “Let’s not take to conclusions but obviously the main reason for the change is for better racing. 

"I'm not sure whether that will provide us with better racing… the left-front suffers a lot.

Insight: What we learned from Friday practice at F1's 2023 Spanish GP

“The duty on the fronts are just tough. You can feel it now, during a long run when you're behind other cars that it's so difficult to follow.

“Now there is a lot of emphasis on the front axle whereas previously, there was a bit of both… They did [the changes] with the right intentions, let's put it that way.”

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo Racing

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo Racing

Photo by: Alfa Romeo

De Vries reckoned it was possible to push for two laps before “you’ll pay the price eventually” from taking too much out of the tyres.

Drivers also cited the 2023 cars for exacerbating fears that the revised Barcelona lap will not lead to increased overtaking. 

Despite the switch to ground effect having been intended to help cars follow more closely, the rate of development over the winter has increased levels of dirty air. Drivers have commented that it is noticeably harder to follow this season compared to last. 

Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas told Autosport: “Faster is always more fun. [But overtaking levels] are going to be the same. It's difficult to follow in the last corner.

“It's just faster, but I don't think it's going to improve overtaking. It's slightly bumpy over there.

“So, there's a bit of movement, which makes it more challenging, but it's quite a cool corner. It's super high speed. Definitely a bit more challenging but also for the tyres.

“It feels like the tyres are going quite a lot through those two corners.”

Pirelli has raised the minimum pressure of its front tyres by 1psi for this weekend, bringing the baseline up to 24psi.

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