After three days of activities in Barcelona, the first part of the 2022 Formula 1 pre-season has come to an end, which marked the official debut of the new generation of cars in the category. And despite being just the first contact with the new models, the tests in Spain have already left some initial impressions that are difficult to ignore.
But, first of all, it is important to make it clear that the results of Barcelona need to be taken exactly like that: impressions, not absolute truths. We still have three more pre-season days in Bahrain that could show a completely different picture than what we had last week.
As everyone knows, in tests of this type, what really matters is the number of laps completed, far above the lap times, since the objective is to accumulate as much mileage as possible. Especially with the arrival of the new regulations, it is essential to have time with the car on the track to understand how it works, in addition to detecting possible problems that can be resolved by the start of the season.
Even so, let’s start by looking at each rider’s best lap times in Barcelona, along with the compound used and when that time was achieved.
The best times of each driver:
|Position||Pilot||Team||Best lap||Used Compost||Session|
|1º||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||1:19.138||C5||Friday – Afternoon|
|2º||George Russell||Mercedes||1:19.233||C5||Friday – Morning|
|3º||Sergio Pérez||Red Bull||1:19.556||C4||Friday – Afternoon|
|4º||Lando Norris||McLaren||1:19.568||C4||Wednesday – Afternoon|
|5º||Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||1:19.689||C3||Thursday – Afternoon|
|6º||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1:19.756||C3||Friday – Afternoon|
|7º||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||1:19.824||C5||Friday – Morning|
|8º||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||1:19.918||C4||Thursday – Afternoon|
|9º||Carlos Sainz||Ferrari||1:20.072||C3||Friday – Afternoon|
|10º||Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren||1:20.288||C4||Thursday – Afternoon|
|11º||Alexander Albon||Williams||1:20.318||C4||Friday – Afternoon|
|12º||Nicholas Latifi||Williams||1:20:699||C4||Friday – Morning|
|13º||Fernando Alonso||Alpine||1:21:242||C3||Friday – Morning|
|14º||Nikita Mazepin||Haas||1:21.512||C3||Thursday – Afternoon|
|15º||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||1:21.638||C3||Wednesday – Morning|
|16º||Guanyu Zhou||Alfa Romeo||1:21.885||C3||Thursday – Afternoon|
|17º||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||1:21.920||C3||Thursday – Morning|
|18º||Mick Schumacher||Haas||1:21.949||C3||Thursday – Morning|
|19º||Esteban Ocon||Alpine||1:22.164||C3||Thursday – Afternoon|
|20º||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo||1:22.288||C3||Thursday – Afternoon|
|21º||Robert Kubica||Alfa Romeo||1:25.909||C3||Wednesday – Morning|
Remembering that the tires C1 and C2 are hard (C1 being the hardest), C3 is intermediate and C4 and C5 are the soft (C5 being the softest)
At the lights out in Barcelona, Hamilton delivered a series of flying laps to secure not only the overall pre-season lead but also a “double” for Mercedes, with Russell in second place. But it is important that, while the British duo finished at the front, with times in the home of 01:19, they were two of the few riders to use the softest C5 compounds.
Champion Verstappen, on the other hand, was “only” sixth, finishing about six tenths behind his 2021 rival, but it was clear that the Dutchman used the day and a half of contact with the RB18 to better understand the new car, betting on many racing simulations. race and the use of the intermediate and hard tyres, doing few laps on the softer compounds, and without doing considerable laps.
Laps made by each team
Here we have more representative numbers. As we don’t know the map of the engine used by the teams, the amount of fuel present in the cars and more to evaluate the lap times, the most important factor in a pre-season ends up being the laps completed.
Among the various points that we can take from this, two stand out: the reliability of the car and the engine, in addition to the consumption of tires. Especially at a time of the beginning of a new era, the more mileage acquired, the more each team can study the telemetry obtained to understand where it is possible to improve performance.
In this regard, the four teams that were pointed out since last year as possible candidates for the 2022 title stood out, finishing in the top four positions: Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren and Red Bull. And you have to put Ferrari aside, doing nearly 80 laps more than Red Bull, which had its share of problems throughout the week when Pérez was on board.
But the three days in Barcelona show that the two don’t have much to worry about. Mercedes and Red Bull showed that they are still going strong, not only getting good lap times but also good mileage. Both teams highlighted on Friday that there is still a lot to improve, but this is normal, even more so with the first year of a radically different regulation.
The 2021 rivals should continue to show strength
Over the course of the 2021 season, a doubt lingered in the air: with Mercedes and Red Bull focused on intense title contention, are they in danger of starting the new era behind? And that was a valid question, because while many teams were already focusing only on 2022, the two still shared their attention with current projects.
Ferrari seems to have arrived and McLaren approaches
Several teams awaited the arrival of the new era with the aim of taking a leap in performance and, for Ferrari, this meant returning to fight for victories and titles more often, seeking to end a fast that has lasted since 2008. And the first impression. what remains is what was already expected: the Italian team indicates that it comes strong, being able to place itself among those fighting for the front of the grid.
Another that left a good initial impression, but that still seems to be a step behind Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari is McLaren. With the support of a good Mercedes engine (after all, we are still in the turbo-hybrid era of F1), the British team went through the pre-season without major problems that left any doubts, acquiring good mileage and delivering good laps.
Alfa Romeo and Haas start with warning light on; Alpine looks at engine warily
While most teams crossed the 250-lap mark over the three days, two didn’t even make it to 200: Alfa Romeo and Haas. None of them completed the equivalent of three Spanish GPs (66 laps).
Considering that both were awaiting the arrival of the new regulations as a way to make a leap in performance and reintegrate the midfield, this pre-season start, with low mileage, is alarming. Cars spent a lot of time in the garage being repaired for the most diverse problems. The eyes of Bahrain will be on them, looking for an answer to this troubled week in Barcelona.
Bearing in mind that Haas still has a lot to worry about off the track. Russia’s war against Ukraine should have more repercussions on the American team in the coming weeks, including with Nikita Mazepin’s future being left open, with the Russian being able to be replaced by Pietro Fittipaldi if necessary.
And despite having acquired greater mileage, Alpine must not have left Barcelona very happy either. The engine failure while Alonso was driving, on the last morning, prevented Ocon from going to the track in the afternoon and leaves a very big doubt. Earlier this week, CEO Laurent Rossi revealed that the focus in developing Renault’s new power unit was on performance rather than reliability. Has the French automaker gone too far?
Car designs show diversity of ideas
As was to be expected, the beginning of a new regulation brings with it several interpretations of the new rules. The pre-season debut in Barcelona was marked by comparisons between the solutions presented by each team for each area.
After fake launches, betting on renderings to hide details of the car, Wednesday marked the first time we were able to really look at each model, each novelty, each innovation.
From now on, the trend is that we start to see some equal directions that the teams will go in, from the moment they see who excels in each area.
The doubts that remain about Barcelona
Of the many technical questions about the new regulations that were floating in the air before the start of pre-season, three stood out from the moment the cars entered the track.
Starting with the phenomenon called in English porpoising, these ‘bounces’ that cars give under high speed on the track (understand the phenomenon better here). Ferrari itself has even said that all teams have underestimated this possibility and must now race against time to minimize this effect in time for the first qualifying of the year in Bahrain.
— Formula 1 (@F1) February 24, 2022
Another big question was whether F1 could achieve its ultimate goal with the new car: making it easier for drivers to follow each other, facilitating disputes, and overtaking. According to Leclerc, this objective has been achieved to a certain extent: when the car is within 1s of the other yes, it is easier to approach, but between 1s and 0s5, the feeling is the same as last year. Is that enough to make racing more exciting?
This third question should be resolved soon. Between 2021 and 2022, the cars were 43kg heavier and, according to behind-the-scenes information, only one team, potentially Alfa Romeo, managed to keep their model within the limit, with all the other nine exceeding.
According to the Italian edition of Motorsport.com, the teams would be ready to ask the FIA for a change in the regulations, asking for the weight increase of cars between 5 and 10 kg. See how this unfolds.
Cars should come different already in Bahrain
That was just the teams’ first real contact with the new car. And certainly, all the engineers present in the paddock didn’t just look at their own cars, they also kept an eye on what rivals had brought, in search of solutions that could be quickly copied to maximize performance.
In addition, this was the first time that the teams were able to seek a correlation between reality and the data obtained in the wind tunnel. This is crucial for showing hits and misses regarding this new car.
A very fast development curve was already expected, and some drivers, such as Verstappen, were already highlighting the possibility of the cars being different in the pre-season in Bahrain. And this was borne out by the news that Mercedes is already expected to bring a strong package of aerodynamic updates, especially with the aim of minimizing porpoising.
Bahrain’s pre-season will have a lot of television coverage and I believe that only at this point will we see the cars that will actually be on the GP starting grid a week later. Even so, at first, I don’t believe that the three weeks separating the Barcelona tests and the GP will bring radical changes in performance. We should see this more throughout the year.