Racing driver Tom Coronel believes that Ferrari and Red Bull’s title aspirations are contingent on which team is able to minimise the weight of their car this year.
As the technical regulations radically changed to facilitate the return of ground effect aerodynamics, the weight of the cars naturally increased, so the limit was raised to 795kg.
Many of the teams felt as though this was an unrealistic target after Alfa Romeo were reported to be the only team to construct a car that fell within those boundaries, so the FIA increased it again to 798kg.
However, both Ferrari and Red Bull are at least 10kg over the minimum weight, meaning that upgrades being implemented in the new few races will be crucial as the Scuderia and Red Bull attempt to bring their weight down.
Red Bull, however, also suffered from reliability issues related to their power unit, with a double DNF in Bahrain and another reliability-induced retirement for Max Verstappen in Melbourne.
Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz capitalised on Red Bull’s woes in Bahrain to score the team’s first one-two since 2019 to get off to the perfect start in 2022.
Speaking ahead of the 2022 Australian Grand Prix, Coronel said he believes the two teams are on level pegging.
“As far as I can see, the Ferrari has been the better car up to now,” he told AD.nl.
“Max fought with a knife, Leclerc with a gun. Now they both have a gun. I knew they (Red Bull) had a handicap, but that is now solved as it should be.
“That is very good news. Max can now go into battle.”
Coronel, who has contested the 24 hours of Le Mans 10 times, won the Spa 500 in 2019 and took a podium in the World Touring Car Cup last year, emphasises the importance of keeping weight to a minimum.
“Weight is everything. With less weight, you can brake easier and accelerate more easily,” he explained.
“You can see how big the difference in lap times is when the cars drive with a half-full fuel tank compared to a full one.
“I have heard from a very reliable source that they (Red Bull) have solved a good 75% of the problem in recent weeks.
“Around seven kilos has been removed from the car. I understand they have made the floor lighter and many other components a little lighter.
“With us in the touring car class, 10kg less weight means you are 0.1sec faster on a lap. Formula 1 cars are a lot lighter, so I calculate the effect is twice as big.”
A Red Bull weight upgrade set to be introduced in Imola is anticipated to gain them two tenths of a second per lap.
This would have put Verstappen on pole in Bahrain, and significantly extended his winning margin in Saudi Arabia.
“If the Red Bull is now 0.2secs per lap faster, that would have made him (Verstappen) 10 seconds faster in Saudi Arabia over 50 laps, added together. That’s how you have to calculate it and then the difference is very big,” Coronel added.