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On the one hand, it prompted some questions concerning the equity of race drivers working within the sim at such a time, and giving their groups that further edge simply hours earlier than the automobiles hit the observe.
However it additionally supplied the newest proof that even for these drivers who’ve lengthy been sceptical concerning the worth of simulators, like Hamilton, one thing had modified to get them embracing them a lot.
For a very long time, a few of F1’s extra seasoned stars had steered away from getting too closely concerned in simulator programmes.
Kimi Raikkonen had lengthy hated them and noticed little worth in churning out hours and hours in entrance of a pc display.
And Hamilton himself, whereas doing what he might through the years, knew that sims might by no means supply the identical advantages as actual world testing.
“You’ll be able to go and do a sim day, and the sim is just not in the correct place it’s speculated to be,” he mentioned at one level final yr. “The grip stage’s not proper, or the wind impact is just not proper, or the thermal deg is ready unsuitable. So you may come away with bogus numbers.
“It’s important to be so cautious with the info that you’re receiving and the choices that you just’re making.”
However being conscious of the boundaries is a special factor to being utterly towards it, and it was fascinating to see simply how rather more Hamilton threw himself on the simulator programme final yr.
For the place as soon as he could have most well-liked to go away the sim work as much as others, in 2021 he did as a lot as he might.
And whereas a few of that cause was borne of necessity – for in as tight a title struggle as he was in, each bit of labor might assist – there was one other issue that would not be ignored.
It wasn’t that the likes of Hamilton had modified their minds about simulators; it was that the sims had gained a stage of sophistication to lastly ship clear advantages.
As Mercedes technical director Mike Elliot explains: “I believe as these instruments get higher and higher and so they get to be a more in-depth and nearer match to actuality, they turn into an increasing number of helpful to the drivers.
“They cease seeing them as a toy on the worst finish of it, to one thing that is a real engineering software that they will use to get a head begin for the race weekend.
“I believe a mixture of the enhancements we have made to that and the form of the tightness of the championship meant that each drivers pushed to spend an increasing number of time in there.
“I believe the dedication has at all times been there. It is extra a case of claiming, now I’ve acquired one thing that is helpful to me, I could make use of, I will actually push it.”
Romain Grosjean, Haas F1 Staff drives a lap of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on a simulator
Picture by: Andrew Hone / Motorsport Images
Certainly, as F1 sim tech has ramped up, and the worth has elevated for each drivers and engineers, the necessity to have ever higher simulators has elevated.
It’s definitely no coincidence that McLaren has put an improved sim on the high of its construct checklist alongside a brand new windtunnel, whereas Ferrari has invested in an all-new facility at Maranello that must be on faucet for this season.
And whereas its pc processing energy is a step up, it was fascinating to listen to Charles Leclerc clarify one different vital issue: the motive force expertise.
“I believe it must be an enchancment on completely all the pieces we really feel, particularly for the sensation of the motive force,” he mentioned on the finish of final yr.
“It’s very troublesome to recreate these Gs that we undergo in the actual automotive. So, it is going to be totally on that – on the sensation of the motive force that may be an enchancment.”
For Ferrari group boss Mattia Binotto, there’s completely little doubt that if the drivers might be received over on the worth of the sim, then having a top-notch facility was now important for any group that wished to win.
“We consider that having a very good simulator is essential,” he defined final yr when speaking about why the group had gone for an improve.
“In the event you take a look at the tyre put on [Ferrari suffered] in France, and the way chances are you’ll handle, perceive, and by some means attempt to react to these points, in the event you’ve acquired a very good simulator which is nice by way of response or correlation with the race observe, the train can be definitely extra correct.
“That is why for us it was vital to make an improve. That is why we consider the brand new one can put us in a very good place for the longer term.”
And it appears there’s a virtuous circle at play right here: the higher the sim, the extra the drivers can be desperate to work in it and the higher the outcomes…
Picture by: BMW AG