Takuma Sato believes it is too early to expect a dramatic turnaround in form from his BAR team, despite some positive early feedback from a new aerodynamic package that will be raced for the first time at the San Marino Grand Prix
Jenson Button put the new package to good use at Barcelona in Spain last week when he set a new unofficial lap record during testing, prompting talk that the team could be back in the hunt for race victories as soon as Imola.
But after Sato ran the new components for the first time at Paul Ricard on Wednesday, the Japanese driver is not as convinced the team's pace will be much different from the start of the campaign - although he is sure they are moving forwards.
The new parts include a modified diffuser, winglets, sidepod and front and rear wing.
"I tried out several individual pieces at one time and then finally tested the whole lot together and it was good," said Sato, speaking exclusively to Autosport-Atlas. "We have collated a lot of data and it has definitely improved the driveability of the car.
"In terms of downforce it is a bit better but not much, as everyone else seems to have got better with their new packages. So we don't expect to be making an enormous jump, but we are definitely making a step forward."
BAR's decision to give the go-ahead to run the new parts for the San Marino Grand Prix has had a knock-on effect, meaning that Sato will now have to wait until the Spanish Grand Prix at the earliest to get his hands on a new chassis.
Although Sato had hoped to take the new chassis (007/05) for Imola, after complaining of a mysterious handling imbalance with his regular car (007/02), the lack of time to turnaround the new car after this week's test means he will now have to continue with his old car for the time being.
Three weeks is a long time in Formula 1, but in the reshaped start to the 2021 season the teams head to Imola to pick things up after the frenetic Bahrain opener. Here's what to look out for and the developments to follow at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix
After a pandemic-hit winter of seat-swapping, F1 kicked off its season with several new faces in town, other drivers adapting to new environments, and one making a much-anticipated comeback. BEN ANDERSON looks at who made the most of their opportunity and who needs to try harder…
Max Verstappen’s star quality in Formula 1 is clear. Now equipped with a Red Bull car that is, right now, the world title favourite and the experience to support his talent, could 2021 be the Dutchman’s year to topple the dominant force of Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes?
For many, many years Formula 1 has strived to do and to be better on all fronts. With close competition, a growing fanbase, a stable political landscape and rules in place to encourage sustainability, 2021 is on course to provide an unexpected peak
The longer Red Bull can maintain a performance edge over Mercedes, the better the odds will be in the team’s favour against the defending world champions. But as the Bahrain Grand Prix showed, many more factors will be critical in the outcome of the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship