Last week in China every team on the grid was able to lap more than two-and-a-half seconds quicker than they had 12 months ago. But in Bahrain two teams are actually slower than they were in 2016.
This circuit gives a drastically different picture of how much lap time each team has gained. Renault have gained two seconds more than any other team. Last year both their cars were out in Q1, this year both made it to Q3, and they are 3.3 seconds faster than in 2016:
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So why have most teams gained comparatively less time or, as in the case of Force India and McLaren, become slower than they were 12 months ago? Sebastian Vettel says this was to be expected.
“I think it was expected that we go quicker this year, depending on the layout: sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less.”
“Probably this layout is one of the least favourite ones this year in terms of how much faster we can go, compared to the year before.”
In short, Bahrain has very few of the medium-to-high speed corners where the new 2017 F1 cars are so much quicker than the previous models.
Nonetheless the lap time improvement compared to 2015 is in the same region of what we’ve seen already this year at other circuits. The target was for cars to be five seconds quicker than the 2015 pole position time at the Circuit de Catalunya.
And for the third race weekend in a row the previous track record has been broken by the new cars. Valtteri Bottas established a new benchmark with his first ever pole position lap of 1’28.769.
The race lap record, set by Pedro de la Rosa in 2005, is 2.7 seconds slower than this. As race fastest laps this year have been 3.7-4.4 seconds slower than the pole time, we can expect this refuelling-era record to remain safe for another year.
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