F1 testing 2022 is behind us, and the new season is imminent. Resident Formula One writer Nick van der Meulen takes a look back at the pre-season form of the field.
It’s that time of year when F1 testing 2022 has taken its course and all pundits and armchair warriors begin to speculate as to what to expect for the 2022 season, but what are the facts?
The cars look pretty. They have big wheels. Engineers/designers of the ten racing teams have come up with novel ideas and designs. Some of them have worked well, while others seemed to have failed spectacularly. Whenever Mercedes comes up with an idea, everybody is afraid and prepare to launch a protest. Each team is secretive and the “cloak-and-dagger” scenario presented itself at each test, with some teams making vast differences to their car design post presentation and between tests. With the new regulations coming into play, each team will have their own interpretation of the rules and attempt to find a loophole in each one of them.
Politically, former race director, Michael Masi has been shown the door and two race directors have been hired to replace him. Christian Horner and Toto Wolff have been slinging mud at each other via the media throughout the offseason. Drivers have also thrown their opinion into the pot, as if it will make a difference. Then, of course, there is the teams and drivers downplaying their chances of victory in 2022… ho hum.
On track, though, it was shown that Red Bull Racing is fast. Current titleholder Max Verstappen has warned that they are not at full pace, despite posting the fastest time at the Bahrain test. Ferrari demonstrated flashes of speed throughout the winter too, however, team manager Mattia Binotto was quick to downplay Ferrari’s speed, indicating they are merely outsiders in their quest for victory.
While Ferrari and McLaren were in the limelight in testing at Barcelona, with Ferrari continuing to shine at Bahrain, Mercedes were far more low-key in their preparations. Lewis Hamilton, who disappeared from public view after the disastrous end to the 2021 season, returned to the paddock and quietly got on with the job alongside new teammate George Russell.
The team revamped their new race machine (dubbed W13) in time for testing at Bahrain. It displayed a radical new sidepod design and producing a far more streamlined look at the second test. It reminds one of Gordon Murray’s Brabham BT52 design in 1983 in which Nelson Piquet won the world championship. Despite the radical design, the two drivers did not show a great deal of speed with the machine. Both pilots muttering how they will not be competitive and it will take some time before they will be winning races.
The big question is, is the team sandbagging or do they really have a problem? Due to past performances and histrionics, such as Hamilton’s doom-and-gloom race radio talk, nobody tends to believe them. There have been technical reports that appear to support their claim, however.
Team Haas look to have made a big improvement, despite losing their prime sponsor and pay-driver over the last couple of weeks. Surprisingly, Kevin Magnussen has returned to the team. Both he and young Mick Schumacher have turned eye-catching times. Of course, this time of year is also known as the winter world championship and lighter fuel loads and softer tyres could have been used in an attempt to lure another title sponsor on board…
The real take away
The only thing one can truly ascertain from F1 testing 2022 is how reliable the machines are due to the number of laps completed. In this area, Mercedes and Ferrari look particularly strong, with Red Bull not far behind. However, Alfa Romeo suffered the most in terms of reliability in testing. There are fears that they will not achieve a full race distance in the opening Grand Prix.
With the ground-effects concept returning to Formula 1 for the first time since 1982, the “porpoising” effect has been seen occurring on some of the cars (where the cars have a tendency of bouncing up and down), with Ferrari and Mercedes seeming to be affected the most. How will the drivers manage it without getting ill behind the wheel? Unless of course this can be alleviated ahead of the first race. Time will tell.
Next weekend is the first round of the FIA Formula 1 World championship at Bahrain. The bull manure will stop and racing will start. Hopefully, the whining of team managers and drivers will stop too. Currently they make more noise that the whine of a pack of Formula E cars: a particularly negative aspect of F1 at present, which certainly puts fans off. This fan prays the new rules and cars will produce scintillating racing for us to focus on instead.