The handling of the new generation of Formula One cars is more susceptible to wind conditions, according to Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas.
Last week’s test at the Circuit de Catalunya was the first time the new cars took to the track with race specification tyres fitted. By the third day of testing Bottas’ Mercedes had reached F1’s stated target of being five seconds per lap quicker than the 2015 cars, with the majority of performance coming from the reworked aerodynamic packages.
“In terms of performance, lap time wise, I think the main proportion of the gains come from the aero, but it is very difficult to calculate exactly how much comes from the tyres,” Bottas said. “I think there is a good gain from the tyres, but aero wise it’s much bigger. I think the main benefit with these new tyres is that they are more consistent, you can do longer stints with the average pace being much better, so I think the races are going to be much quicker because of that.”
One side-effect of the extra aero performance is that wind conditions can have an even bigger impact on car behaviour.
“Day two had very windy conditions, the cars, in general, were quite snappy then,” Bottas added. “I think the wind does make a bigger effect now, because the overall downforce is bigger and if you get a gust of wind you lose a bigger amount of force than you’d normally lose before. That makes it a bit more tricky.”
Some drivers have reported snappy handling related to the tyres too, but Bottas believes that is mainly down to the low temperatures in Barcelona.
“I think in terms of tyres, from my feeling there’s not a massive difference in terms of how there’s a sudden loss of grip. Only in cases when the tyre is not hot enough, which is easy in these kind of conditions, especially with the harder compounds.
“It can be quite tricky to get them to work, they are quite snappy and if you have oversteer it can be quite sudden. With the softer compounds, once you get them up to temperature, you get the same amount of sliding and losing grip that you had last year.”