Renault’s Carlos Sainz believes the combination of a newly resurfaced track and Pirelli’s softer Formula 1 tyres will make Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya around two seconds faster in 2018.

The Spanish Grand Prix venue was resurfaced ahead of pre-season testing in a move criticised as a “waste of money” by Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who said the circuit had “lost its character” as a result. 

Although running during the opening week of winter testing was disrupted by unusually cold temperatures and rain, the newly-laid tarmac, combined with Pirelli’s introduction of two new tyre compounds for the 2018 campaign, is expected to result in a significant drop in track lap times once optimal grip levels are reached.

"I think if you get the tyres going, the new tarmac of Barcelona is around two seconds faster,” Sainz said. “Also what I heard from other categories and friends that live in Barcelona and come to run with different categories, they've all been on a normal day 1.5 seconds faster, two seconds sometimes. 

“The lap is going to be seriously quick this year and it will be a completely different track, completely different balance, completely different deg to what we're used to in Barcelona exactly one year ago.

“There are slight differences in cambers, in grip,” he added. “Obviously in kerbs there is also. It's not exactly the same track as it was last year, but it's still Barcelona in my opinion and still a great track, still one of the best tracks for testing. 

“Now with this new tarmac, it's going to be seriously impressive, the lap times we will be able to do once the weather starts to be normal.”

Hamilton set the quickest lap pre-season testing so far on the final day of the opening week at Barcelona on mediums with a 1m19.333s - a time shy of his 2017 pole position effort by just 0.2s.

Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly believes Pirelli’s prediction of race lap times dipping into the 1m17s by May’s Spanish Grand Prix is likely to prove feasible.

“Looking at Lewis’ [time] - he's already at 1m19.3 - then it will be possible. The Mercedes is pretty good to hide potential, so I think it's going to be possible.