Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo believes dirty air and following other cars could be “a bit worse” during the 2020 Formula 1 season due to increased levels of speed this year.

Thanks to development gains made by teams with stable regulations, drivers were lapping the Circuit de-Barcelona Catalunya quicker than previous years during pre-season testing, with Valtteri Bottas’ headline time half a second faster than what was managed last winter. 

But the increased speed has come with a drawback, according to a number of drivers including Ricciardo, who fears the dirty air produced by cars will have an even worse effect on the quality of wheel-to-wheel racing. 

“It is pretty dirty, but I feel we're going quicker than last year again, Turns 2 and 3 are easy flat, Turn 9 is for more or less every lap, not with fuel but low fuel,” he explained. 

“So the dirty air we are creating is more because of the speed we’re going, and trying to travel close behind another car you still feel it. 

“Unfortunately a track like this with a lot of high-speed corners in the first two sectors it is very hard to stay close to a car. 

“I’d like to say it’s better but it is certainly not and maybe a bit worse.” 

F1 bosses are working to address the problem in the upcoming regulation overhaul for 2021, with improved on-track action between battling cars at the centre of plans to help create more competitive racing. 

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who found himself battling McLaren driver Lando Norris on track during testing, echoed Ricciardo’s verdict. 

“I actually enjoy it [the fight], but I think the car is probably a little bit worse this year for following and passing,” he said.

“Everybody is trying to put more downforce on the car which means we are more worried about needing clean air where it matters on your car. 

“So whatever comes out in the end you are not too worried but if you are the car behind it is not nice but we will wait and see.”