New cars take toll on driv­ers but add speed

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Joseph Wil­son

Bat­tered BARCELONA, SPAIN — and bruised, Lewis Hamil­ton loves the pun­ish­ment he is re­ceiv­ing from his more phys­i­cally de­mand­ing Mercedes.

Be­cause if some ex­tra sore­ness is the price for in­creased speed, then Hamil­ton and For­mula One’s other driv­ers say they are more than happy to pay it.

“I’m find­ing the car is much more phys­i­cal to drive than in the past,” Hamil­ton said dur­ing last week’s first pre­sea­son test near Barcelona.

Driv­ers will have a sec­ond round of try­ing to tame their pow­er­ful ve­hi­cles on the same track from Tues­day to Fri­day.

“I think the cars look fan­tas­tic, the tires look fan­tas­tic, the wider wheels, the wider body and the wider chas­sis,” Hamil­ton said. “Hope­fully it is great for the fans.”

Wider means faster, since the added width on tires and wings in­creases the car’s grip to the track and lets driv­ers hit higher speeds while veer­ing through curves. And those faster cor­ners trans­late into added stress in the form of G-force pum­mel­ing driv­ers’ bod­ies lap af­ter lap, turn af­ter turn.

“It’s so much faster in the cor­ners. The force you feel on your body and on your neck is much higher,” Hamil­ton said. “I’ve got bruises and bumps where I’ve never re­ally had them be­fore.”

“Th­ese are the hard­est cars I have ever driven,” Hamil­ton told F1.com in a sep­a­rate in­ter­view. “My guess is that in the next cou­ple of months we will see trans­for­ma­tion in peo­ples’ neck sizes and their phys­i­cal pres­ence.”

Hamil­ton was not alone in his praise for the results of the big­gest rule­book change since 2014 aimed at rein­vig­o­rat­ing F1, and pos­si­bly pro­duc­ing a chal­lenge to Mercedes’ three-year reign at the top.

Retired cham­pion Nico Ros­berg mar­veled first­hand at the cars he won’t get to drive when he vis­ited the Cir­cuit de Barcelona-Catalunya last week.

“They look like proper mon­sters, I mean, wow,” the for­mer Mercedes driver said. “With those cars the driv­ers need to be gla­di­a­tors out there. The cars are go­ing to take them to the limit, phys­i­cally also, even now they’re hurt­ing bad, all of them.

“That’s how it should be also. It should take the driv­ers phys­i­cally to their ab­so­lute lim­its. And maybe we’ll even see some races where some­one will lose a win be­cause he’s just knack­ered. That would be ex­cit­ing.”

For Fer­nando Alonso, re­gard­less of the prob­lems his McLaren team is hav­ing, there is sim­ply no con­test: The cars in re­cent years were nei­ther fast nor fu­ri­ous.

“I apol­o­gize to the fans for the last five or six years that they saw hor­ri­ble cars,” Alonso said, adding that the new cars al­low driv­ers “to ex­press your driv­ing style” and not have to hold back as they did be­fore in or­der to save their tires.

Valt­teri Bot­tas, Ros­berg’s re­place­ment at Mercedes, was quick­est through the first four days of test­ing, set­ting the fastest time since lay­out changes were made at the Barcelona track a decade ago.

Bot­tas said that he and the rest of the field had gone through more rig­or­ous work­outs over the win­ter to pre­pare for the more dif­fi­cult drives.

“I mod­i­fied my train­ing regime to fit to the re­quire­ments of the new cars and its G-forces,” Bot­tas said. “And it worked well, as I felt su­per in the car right away.”

What is still to be seen is if the faster speeds that driv­ers rel­ish will trans­late to more ex­cit­ing races for those watch­ing from the stands and on tele­vi­sion.

Wider cars that take up more track could hin­der over­tak­ing, and leave F1 with the prob­lem of bor­ing races of the best cars speed­ing away from the pack.

Lewis Hamil­ton likes the new For­mula One cars.

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