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Verstappen buoyed by new handling characteristics of 2023 F1 tyres

Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen is hopeful the new Pirelli tyres will help further dial out the inherent understeer of the current generation of cars.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

The Red Bull driver is well known for preferring a pointier front end, as he has no concerns about his cars being more nervous at the rear.

This trait was the opposite of what he started the 2022 campaign with, thanks to the combination of an overweight Red Bull car and the understeer characteristics of Pirelli’s latest generation of tyres.

While Red Bull worked hard to address the weight issue, and made rapid progress from the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix onwards, there was still some scope for improvement at the end of the year.

However, Verstappen’s hopes of getting an even stronger front to his car have been further boosted with Pirelli addressing the understeer nature of its 2022 rubber with new tyres for this season.

The aim is to slightly tweak the balance to help make the cars less prone to understeer.

Asked by Autosport about whether the changes, which he tried out in the Abu Dhabi test, would help bring things even more towards him, Verstappen said he was optimistic.

“Yeah, the big issue last year was not specifically the tyres, it was just the weight of the car,” he said. “It was very massively over and that creates a lazy behaviour on the front. Basically, once we started to get rid of that weight, the car became more agile.

“And that's how the car is gonna go quick, because I've never sat in a car with understeer which is fast in my life in any category.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“With the new tyres from Pirelli, I do think it's a little improvement. Of course, we only tested it fully in Abu Dhabi and we have to see it on every single track as well to see if it works everywhere.

“Because every tarmac and track condition, especially the weather, it influences a lot. But I'm confident that everything will be heading into the right direction.”

The feedback from technical figures after the Abu Dhabi test was equally encouraging about the small step that has been made with the tyres.

However, Alfa Romeo technical director Jan Monchaux expressed some caution about reading too much into the findings from a single test, as he reckoned any differences were only subtle.

“It didn't seem to be a massive departure from the first feedback we had after the Abu Dhabi test,” he said. “A slightly different stiffness, vertical stiffness, a bit softer. But we didn't see a day and night difference.

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“But, then again, the year before, when we did see the end of season test after Abu Dhabi with the 18 inches tyres, they were graining like hell and we were scared all winter long about graining. Then they didn't even grain in 2022.

“So I wouldn't draw an early conclusion of what we saw in the Abu Dhabi post-season test just on what we saw. Right now they are not a massive departure. So they shouldn't be behaving massively different.”

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