Race pace simulation analysis: Who's looking faster ahead of Sunday
During yesterday's FP2 session, the teams focused on the race pace simulation, and we collected the times of Red Bull, Ferrari, Aston Martin, and Mercedes to get an idea of what could happen on Sunday.
As the first race of the season is just one day away, we wanted to share with you an interesting analysis regarding the teams mentioned above to give you a better understanding of what could happen during the Bahrain GP.
After the pre-season testing, many people got the feeling that Aston Martin had built a competitive car for the 2023 season, a piece of machinery so good that it could also challenge the top teams for the win. However, since it was only testing, it just seemed mere speculation.
It turns out, though, that the AMR23 is very good in terms of performance both during a flying lap and in the race pace. As we analyze the times set by Fernando Alonso and Max Verstappen – which we'll do shortly – it is easy to notice that both drivers were close in terms of performance.
Here's the table with the driver's timing during FP2, with their average times, too.
|1:37.6 (s)||1:36.8 (s)||1:36.2 (s)||1:37.4 (m)||1:38.9 (s)||1:38.2 (s)||1:37.8 (s)||1:37.9 (s)|
|1:50.6 (cool down lap)||1:37.9||1:38.1 (traffic)||1:38.2||1:37.5||1:38.0 (s)||1:39.0||1:38.4|
|1:37.1||1:42.2 (traffic)||1:37.9||1:38.7||1:37.6||1:37.8||1:37.0 (s)||1:38.9|
|1:37.2||1:38.0||Average 1:37.2||Average 1:38.4||1:37.6||1:37.8||1:37.6||1:39.4|
|Average 1:37.2||1:38.3||1:37.5||1:38.3||1:36.3 (s)|
|1:38.2||Average 1:37.7||1:38.4||Average 1:38.5|
Despite Aston Martin's incredible form, Red Bull still seems the one to beat, as the Milton Keynes-based team still sandbagged a bit on Friday. Verstappen used the soft tires to complete his race pace simulation without pitting and completed 14 laps with an average time of 1:37.2, which was the fastest of the whole grid.
On the other side of the garage, Sergio Perez did a good job as well, completing two laps more than his teammate, with an average time of 1:37.6, also using the soft compound.
Now coming to Aston Martin, Alonso surprised everybody as his average lap time was the same as Verstappen's with the same compound. The Spaniard drove for 12 laps and could easily be a podium contender, as he looks faster than Perez and Sainz, while Leclerc might have some margin of improvement.
Lance Stroll proved that the AMR23 is fast, too. Even though he just came back, he immediately found a strong and consistent pace. The team used a different strategy with him, sending him out on the mediums. The Canadian, who also had to steer in a different, strange way due to his wrist injury, completed 12 laps (just like Alonso), with an average lap time of 1:38.4.
Ferrari might be quicker than Aston Martin in qualifying, considering that the Maranello-based team did not show its true potential on the power-unit side. We can understand that since Nico Hulkenberg was just nine milliseconds off Charles Leclerc's lap time in FP2. However, if we take into account the tire wear, which Ferrari improved since pre-season testing, the team owned by Stroll might be a threat to the Prancing Horse.
If Leclerc was pretty competitive on the softs - but still far off Alonso's and Verstappen's pace - with an average time of 1:37.7 and a total of 16 laps (considering the in and out lap for the pit stop), we cannot say the same for Carlos Sainz.
The Spaniard struggled on Friday, and only averaged a time of 1:38.1 on the softs, with a total of 18 laps (with the pit stop as well). His average pace was just three-tenths better than Stroll on the mediums. Sainz admitted that he did not feel good in the car, and he would have to work overnight to find the right balance to bounce back and get closer to Leclerc.
Ferrari has some more performance in its pockets on the power unit side, which is not at its maximum potential, but Alonso might be able to sneak in between Leclerc and Sainz, maybe.
The last top team – or not – of the analysis is Mercedes, which showed once again that the W14 is not that much better compared to last year's car at the moment. Both George Russell and Lewis Hamilton struggled on Friday, and they don't seem to be able to compete for victory on Sunday.
The seven-time world champion wrestled the car around the track, suffering a lot of oversteer and instability. He completed 15 laps (with a pit stop, too), and his times never went under the wall of 1:38.0 (except his first one and his last one right after pitting), showing that Aston Martin might be the third team on the grid, at least now.
On the other side of the garage, Russell's pace was slightly better, but not as good as the rivals mentioned above. The only cars he seems to be able to stay close to being the one of Stroll and maybe Sainz if he keeps struggling.
Brief recap of what to expect
To sum it up a little bit, Red Bull might still have a margin over its rivals both in qualifying and in the race. Aston Martin is very competitive and Alonso might be able to get ahead of both Perez and Sainz, as both still seem a bit off the pace compared to their teammates and Alonso. Leclerc could challenge Verstappen if Ferrari still has some margin, or he might just have to settle for P2 and fight for it with Alonso. Finally, there is still a lot of work to do for Mercedes, which needs to fix its early issues to get the better of Aston Martin.