Speaking during the final day of pre-season testing, Red Bull driver and reigning champion Max Verstappen commented on the improvements to car handling when following another car. It's no secret that the sweeping changes in technical regulations introduced for 2022 had the main goal of minimising the effect of dirty air in order to improve racing.
Verstappen's comments suggest a positive impact on predictability when following other cars. Speaking with Motorsport.com, the Dutch driver said:
"I do think it's better, it's at least better than last year, when if you got behind someone, you suddenly got understeer or a lot of oversteer. It was uncontrollable.
"When I'm behind a car now, I do notice that I'm losing downforce, but that happens front and rear. So that makes it more predictable and controllable for drivers."
Verstappen wasn't entirely positive about the changes however, noting that the increased weight of the new cars, due to a higher level of safety, makes the cars more sluggish in low speed corners.
When quizzed on whether he felt the cars would be enjoyable to race, he stated that would be track dependent.
"That depends a bit on the circuits we go to. These cars are a lot slower in the slow corners because they are a lot heavier. On a track with a lot of slow corners, it will be less fun for us to drive.
"But if we go to circuits with a lot of fast corners, it really is a fun car to drive."
Verstappen also commented on Mercedes' and Lewis Hamilton's claims that their car is not capable of competing for wins, an all too familiar line from the eight-time constructors' champions, who often play down their expectations during testing.
"If someone is doing well or a team that everyone expects to do well, then it’s: 'Oh no, we're definitely not the favourite’," Verstappen told Motorsport.com
"And then a week later, when things do go well, all of a sudden it's: 'Oh no, but we turned it around completely within a week. Not normal, unbelievable work. Thanks to all the people in the factory!"
Another potential challenger in 2022 is Ferrari, whose consistent pace during testing has many in Formula 1 circles excited. Verstappen believes the Italian outfit's consistency and quiet confidence are positive signs for the team who have struggled in recent years.
"That shows that they clearly have a stable car at the moment," said the champion.
"It just looks good for them, they have had very few problems as well. We will see next week who is fastest, but so far they have had a very good test.
"The last two years weren't great for them, so you automatically start looking at this season a bit earlier than some of the other teams. It's more than normal that they started earlier than us on the 2022 car and that's OK as well.
"In the end, with these new cars, the development rate during the season is the most important thing."