Fernando Alonso believes that overtaking in Formula 1 has not been made easier, even if following another car is now so.
Formula 1 wanted to bring the focus back towards driver ability with the new regulations for 2022, by making it easier to follow and therefore promote more overtaking opportunities.
So far, it appears to be a widely-held opinion that drivers can now follow each other closer for longer without losing downforce, which in-turn led to overheating tyres.
On the tyre front, Pirelli introduced new 18-inch compounds for 2022 which were designed to be less prone to overheating and degradation.
As for the overtaking, Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen demonstrated that even with very little separating them in terms of pace, it was possible to go wheel-to-wheel for several laps, with the pair swapping the lead on multiple occasions.
In the midfield also there was plenty of overtaking action going on.
But from Alonso’s perspective, he is not yet convinced that overtaking is actually easier, believing that the condition of the tyres and the pace differences which that creates on track, is still the key factor in overtaking.
Alonso finished the Bahrain Grand Prix in P9.
“Following was definitely easier. We spotted already in the test that it was easier to follow cars, but overtaking is still not as easy as it seems on TV,” he told reporters following the Bahrain Grand Prix.
“I think all the overtaking we saw today was because one car had two seconds more pace on newer tyres than others.
“I met cars that I was two seconds faster [than] and I overtook in a few corners. And I also met cars that were two seconds faster than me and they overtook me in two or three corners.
“I think the tyre is the biggest differentiating factor still, not the following. So, we need to see, we need to drive more races.”
Alonso’s Alpine team-mate Esteban Ocon agreed that a car behind is now “less affected by following another one”, but said that the impact of DRS and the slipstream is now “less powerful”.
That ties in with observations made by George Russell and Lando Norris back in testing.
However, with a race in 2022 now under their belts, both Russell and Norris are now in agreement on their disappointment with the regulation changes.
Mercedes’ Russell crossed the line P4 in Bahrain, while for Norris it was P15.
“It didn’t feel massively different from within to be honest,” said Russell.
“It’s definitely not worse following, Bahrain’s always difficult because of the surface and the tyres don’t seem to be a huge improvement on last year and we’re still sliding around quite a lot.
“And that’s made it much harder with the 40-50 kg increase in car mass, so it’s definitely not as enjoyable to drive.”
“It was tough, it wasn’t as good as I was expecting, which is a bit frustrating. I was expecting a little bit more,” Norris added.
“When you get close, you still just slide at the rear as easy as you need to and you lose the front, the tyres get hot, you just go off a cliff again.
“I would say it’s a little bit better, but you still lose a lot of downforce. I’d say maybe not as much as everyone was hoping for.”