Come the conclusion of Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix, the Formula 1 season will have passed the quarter completion mark.
Already we have seen the revival of Ferrari and the decline of Mercedes – along with the seeming ever-presence of Red Bull.
But with the Formula 1 calendar set for an extended stay in Europe – bar a weekend in Canada – it’s now the optimal time for teams to bring a barrage of upgrades to the grid in a bid to improve their set up.
And though teams never treat fans to every detail of car changes, some are noticeable and reported in the lead up to any given race weekend.
Barcelona, this week’s venue, is a testing site pre-season, too, and therefore allows teams to assess a like-for-like performance change with a reasonable level of accuracy. Here are the key upgrades to watch for.
Ferrari had been playing with a new floor design in the past and although it didn’t feature in the last grand prix in Miami, it’s expected to become a permanent feature of the Prancing Horse in Spain.
Ferrari have used Formula 1 free practice sessions throughout the season to trial car changes before reverting to their trusted, regulated car for the race.
These real-time testing sessions may give Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz an advantage this weekend – racing with the knowledge their upgrades have been trialled on the track.
As for Red Bull, their main aim going into this European swing is weight saving. We saw in Miami how McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo was allegedly denied his full fluid allowance to save weight. It’s a real concern for teams.
Red Bull are said to have taken existing, working components and redesigned them to save a few grams here and a few grams there – every gram counts.
But upgrades aren’t a given.
“Normally Spain is the obvious place to bring upgrades and I think quite a few teams are planning them,” Haas team principal Guenther Steiner said this week. “I don’t know how much difference they will make on each car and what they will bring. We have decided to wait a little bit longer with upgrades.”
So, then, it’s not a cross-board decision to improve for Barcelona. Haas have performed well this season in comparison to their rivals and are expected to bring upgrades in small batches across the next five races.
If cars perform well and don’t point towards an obvious change, there is little need to alter a car that scored more points in the opening race of 2022 than the entirety of 2021.
Formula 1 teams have a budget for development which they aren’t allowed to exceed, and while rumours circulated of Red Bull blowing the majority of theirs, these proved unfounded.
Spain is seen as an upgrade target on the Formula 1 calendar – geography and historic testing drive that – but it’s not a given that teams will implement them.
And as with upgrades, they can only be truly tested on race weekend. Some will thrive on their chosen chassis, others will flop. But much like the wider sport, it’s the risk takers and innovators who tend to come off the best.