In sweltering conditions, our FW44 was pushed to new limits at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, but both drivers ultimately fell short of points at the Spanish Grand Prix.
After Friday, it was clear that this would be a tough weekend for the team, but our pairing would never let that faze them – Nicholas Latifi battling to P16 with Alex Albon crossing the line in P18.
Our No23 made a good start, climbing to P16 at the end of the first lap, whilst Nicky was forced wide at Turn 1 by an Aston Martin, putting him in P18 following a collision between Lewis Hamilton and Kevin Magnussen.
The heat was unrelenting, with a track surface temperature just shy of 50°C throwing early predictions of a two-stop race out of the window – AA23 and NL6 stopping for their first change on Lap 12 and 13 respectively, fitting the medium compound.
With Hamilton on a charge after his earlier stop, he passed our duo on Lap 14 before Albon engaged in a battle with Lance Stroll at the pit exit. The Thai driver initially came out on top before the Aston Martin got by on the following lap.
Nicky’s tyre management was strong all race, soon catching up to the back of his teammate who was nursing a damaged floor and, after battling for a lap, they switched positions at the beginning of Lap 22.
Our pit crew were called back into action six laps later when both Alex and then Nicky popped in for a new set of soft tyres.
Shortly after the second round of stops, Zhou Guanyu was forced to retire, elevating NL6 and AA23 up to P16 and P17 respectively midway through the Grand Prix.
Magnussen, recovering from that Lap 1 collision, made his way past AA23 on Lap 41, with Alex pulling in for some new rubber just five laps later.
Nicky followed suit on Lap 52 and set off in pursuit of Magnussen. The Dane, who was 20 seconds up the road in tyre preservation mode, was aiming to be one of the few drivers to complete a two-stop strategy.
Alex boxed for a fourth and final time on Lap 57, meanwhile our resident Canadian kept gaining on Magnussen, despite dealing with several laps under Blue Flags and on Lap 63, he got him.
With fresher tyres and DRS assistance, Nicky made the move stick going into Turn 1 to secure a P16 finish.
“We struggled on track today with overall pace, but it was also tough on tyre degradation and physically due to the extreme heat,” our No6 stated when we caught up with him post-race.
“That being said, I’m happy with the way that we managed the tyres and it’s nice to have an aggressive strategy that allowed us to push and race a bit more.
“I enjoyed chasing down Kevin at the end, especially as the Haas is a car that’s much faster than us on paper, and although we weren’t fighting for points, it’s still something to be pleased with.”
After a run of strong results, Alex was disappointed with his P18 finish but is already looking to move forward as we prepare for Monaco next weekend.
“It was a tough day out there,” he explained, adding: “I picked up damage to the floor after my first stop which heavily impacted the car’s performance.
“There was a lot of tyre degradation and I really struggled with speed, especially into a couple of the corners.
“It’s unfortunate as it meant we didn’t really stand a chance today, but that’s racing sometimes and we’ll go again next week in Monaco.”
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Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance, suggested that the high temperatures gave the team some valuable learning to take away with them, saying: “It was blisteringly hot today, which pushed everything to the limit.
“We had prepared the cars for these conditions, but even so, we couldn’t make as much progress during the Grand Prix as we had hoped.
“Managing tyre pace and degradation was very challenging, but nonetheless, Nicholas was able to put together a strong race and manage his tyres well enough to catch Magnussen near the end of the race and claim sixteenth place.
“Alex had a strong start and opening stint and although he wasn’t able to make much progress initially, he was able to stay with the pack and give us an opportunity to make progress with strategy.
“Unfortunately, immediately after his first pit stop, he suffered significant damage to the floor, which cost him a lot of aero load. This effect on pace and degradation was stark and ruined Alex’s race before it had really begun.
“The layout of the Barcelona circuit, the very high track temperatures and the damage to Alex’s car has tested the FW44 to new limits and has given us some good data to highlight where we need to focus our car development efforts.
“However, our immediate focus turns to Monaco, which will present a whole new set of challenges for the 2022 cars, but which should also give us an opportunity for a much better weekend.”
In Formula 2, Logan Sargeant added a P4 finish to yesterday’s podium to conclude a strong weekend for him in Barcelona, with Roy Nissany picking up the final point on offer with his P10.
Damage to Zak O’Sullivan’s car in Formula 3 sadly forced him to retire from this morning’s Feature Race, the last action we will see from that series until the British GP in early July.