The F1 season – not long to wait now
The 2022 F1 season gets underway later this month and the first three day test in Barcelona only served to heighten the excitement of this approaching new era, brought about by the drastic changes to the technical rules.
What was pleasingly clear from the first foray on track at the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit is that, contrary to what pessimists were predicting, the cars look quite different to one another, with various interpretations of the rules applied by different teams. That comes with the caveat that, during the year, if one tech solution proves superior to the rest, then the shapes of the cars might well once again converge.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton testing out the new car at the 2022 pre-season testing in Barcelona-Catalunya. Image courtesy Hoch Zwei
These rules are unique in that the FIA and F1 produced them with one goal in mind, namely to deliver closer racing, by getting rid of much of the “dirty air” and turbulence, thus allowing cars to follow each other more closely and after just three days in Spain, the general consensus seems to be that this is going to happen.
With one more test session coming up in Bahrain before the first race of the year, teams will have been working flat out to overcome any problems thrown up in Spain last month. One nasty surprise back then was the phenomenon that’s brought the word “porpoising” into the headlines. Despite all the sophisticated simulation tools the teams use, they were all caught out by this phenomenon, which basically sees the cars bouncing up and down as they lose and regain downforce through their floors. Whichever team fixes this quickest will have stolen a march on the opposition.
The three days of testing so far is definitely not enough to draw any conclusions about who might be the dominant force this year. Ferrari did the most laps, Mercedes was quickest, McLaren looked strong and Red Bull clearly has more to come.
McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo preparing for the 2022 season at the pre-season testing in Barcelona-Catalunya. Image courtesy Hoch Zwei
With all the furore surrounding the way the Drivers’ title fight ended last year, it’s easy to overlook that Mercedes-AMG did actually win the Constructors’ title. After seven years of winning both titles, 2021 must have come as a shock, but there’s no reason to think the Brackley based squad can’t still be the team to beat. After doubts were raised as to whether Lewis Hamilton would race this year, he has told his rivals that they ain’t seen nothing yet! Apart from the car itself the other big change for the Silver Arrows – and the cars are back to being silver this year – is the arrival of George Russell as the replacement for Valtteri Bottas. Despite his talent, the Finn was no match for Hamilton over a season and how his young English replacement will fare is going to be one of the most interesting topics over the coming months.
Max Verstappen will have the Number 1 on his Red Bull this season and that alone brings plenty of motivation, in this case to prove that despite the “unusual” way in which the title came to Milton Keynes, the team and its Dutch driver were deserving winners. There is little doubt that Red Bull will be at the front again, although it’s too early to say if the huge effort that went into winning the 2021 title has had any effect on the development of this year’s car. In an age when cars are designed by teams of people, Adrian Newey’s individual talent still marks him out as a designer who can single-handedly come up with an inspired interpretation of the new regulations.
2021 champion Max Verstappen with the Red Bull team at the 2022 pre-season testing in Barcelona-Catalunya. Image courtesy Hoch Zwei
Last year, McLaren had a tough fight with Ferrari for third place in the Constructors’ classification, having returned to form after dropping down the order, after the much anticipated three year partnership with Honda did not manage to revive its glory days. The big question is whether or not it can take a further step and actually challenge Red Bull and Mercedes. Young Lando Norris is a rising star and will have another year’s experience to call on, while surely proven race winner Daniel Ricciardo will overcome the difficulties he had in adapting his driving style to the McLaren. A team needs both its drivers to perform at roughly the same level if it is to really rack up Constructors’ points, something which Red Bull will also be keenly aware of, as Sergio Perez struggled at times alongside Verstappen.
Aston Martin was the first team to reveal its 2022 car and it certainly looks the part, with the louvered engine cover drawing the eye, sitting on top of very slim lower bodywork. This year will be the first real test for the team after a 2021 debut season that was frankly disappointing, the team finishing seventh in the standings, after regularly challenging the top three in its previous guise in past seasons. But those teething troubles should be behind them now and it has the budget and resources to have a good year.
Sebastian Vettel testing out the new Aston Martin at the 2022 pre-season testing in Barcelona-Catalunya. Image courtesy Hoch Zwei
Every year, drivers and team bosses tend to say you don’t really know who has the quickest car until Qualifying at the first race and this time, with the epochal rule changes, that is truer than ever. What all the neutral fans want to see is unpredictable and exciting races with more than two teams in with a regular chance of winning. Fingers crossed!