F1 Analysis: New cars require new driving styles

Ground-impact vehicles are forcing drivers to adopt a new driving style. Since its downforce is more dependent on speed than before, you have to be extra careful when braking and accelerating.

The drivers’ first impression was of the new cars: not much different from before. Same speed in fast corners, slower in medium and slow corners, more slow when changing direction. “It feels heavy more than anything,” Sebastian Vettel said when he first met him. “It pushes the car where you don’t want it.”

It’s been three races now. Pilots now see ground-impact vehicles as more differentiated. Not everyone gets along well with it, as evidenced by the team comparison. Charles Leclerc adapted faster than Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso as Esteban Ocon and Kevin Magnussen as Mick Schumacher.

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If you brake too late, you have to deal with less thrust. The result is a stationary wheel.

Differences in braking

Carlos Sainz got to the heart of the problem. The Spaniard has been looking for points in studying data on why and where Leclerc gained time on him after hitting the level with his teammate in his first year.

Step by step, Sainz approached the secret of the current world championship leader. At the Australian Grand Prix, he was as fast as Leclerc during the second quarter, until an unfortunate red flag timing and minor technical issues in qualifying threw him out of rhythm.

Ground-impact cars change their characteristics more quickly than their predecessors. The downforce generated under the vehicle depends more on speed than before because it contributes more to the overall downforce.

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The car also looks different when braking. “If you hit the brakes at high speed, there’s an incredible amount of downforce. The car is stable there. But the contact pressure also goes away more than before, the further down the speed,” says Sainz.

Carlos Sainz - F1 - 2022


Drivers make fewer mistakes when overtaking.

Hard times for the late wishers

This feature allows passengers to stand on the irons firmly at the beginning of the braking maneuver. “But then you must not miss the moment when you release the brake, because the effect of the ground decreases and you lose grip. If it is too late, the front wheels lock,” says Sainz and comes to the conclusion: “It is better to brake 10 metres. And then It would be easier to avoid blocking the car and put it in a corner.”

There is also a trick for slow angles. According to Sainz, at the top, it’s important to let the car roll as smoothly as possible so you can get up on gasoline early. “You have less downforce in these corners than before,” says the Spaniard. “Any turbulence in the car when accelerating can cause you to pass from behind.” Sainz admits that Leclerc initially had advantages on these two points. “As a late rider, I have to adapt more. But I’m slowly getting to where I want to be.”

Driving behind you just got a lot better. “It used to be very quiet in the car from a certain distance to the car in front of you. That was the moment when you lost a lot of downforce. You never knew how the balance would shift. Now the cars on the ramp are so much more to expect. You lose there. Also downforce, but not as much and you know how the car will react. I think that’s also why there are fewer crashes in duels.”

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