The 2022 F1 pre-season testing has a unique layout thanks to the unpredictability of the new era of Formula 1. This year is very important for F1 because of the major regulation change. The change in the technical regulations and what the changes on the car are is for a different post altogether. On top of changes to the cars, there are brand new tires on the cars. The point is, there’s plenty of room for things to go wrong. The teams need more data than usual on the new cars.
And if there are issues, they don’t want that to come under the heavy scrutiny of the media and the public. That’s why there is a “shakedown” in Barcelona before the official pre-season test in Bahrain. This post has the analysis of the very first day of 2022 F1 pre-season testing in Barcelona. I’ll be posting an analysis of each of the next 2 days of testing as well since there is always plenty to delve into.
This shakedown, much to the disappointment of most F1 fans, is not being broadcast. There’s no live leaderboard either. But it’s 2022, and with the internet and plenty of sources, if a team’s struggling, the word’s going to get out, and people will know about it anyway. For example, on the first day of 2022 F1 pre-season testing, Alfa Romeo struggled with their car. They only completed 32 laps of testing on Day 1, but they haven’t disclosed the reasons behind the issues. I’ll get into the issues and the struggles later on in this post.
The feeling of seeing the new F1 cars out on track for the first time is a feeling I will never miss. This year, the anticipation and excitement were even greater because this year is the beginning of a new generation. Apart from seeing how the cars would perform, many F1 fans were also excited to see hows the cars looked. With the new chassis design, the 2022 F1 cars look a lot smoother and cleaner. They don’t look as boxy and overcomplicated as the 2021 F1 cars looked.
And of course, a lot of the teams have made major livery changes, and we wanted to see what that would look like out on track. We posted the reveal pictures on our Instagram. Mercedes going back to silver, McLaren switching it up with blue and black being incorporated. Alpine with the new BWT sponsorship, and of course the best-looking car of all, the Aston Martin.
On to the actual testing now, it’s clear that Ferrari and McLaren did very well on the first day. For McLaren, Lando Norris drove in both morning and afternoon sessions. He clocked in a total of 103 laps, and in the afternoon session, he set the fastest time of the day. He set a 1:19.568 and was 6 tenths of a second clear from P2, which was Charles Leclerc. Leclerc set his time in the morning session and was the fastest driver in the morning session. His teammate, Carlos Sainz, wasn’t far off the pace either and set the 3rd fastest time of the day. On top of having competitive timings, Ferrari completed the most laps of any team, with a lap count of 153 laps. It was a positive day for them. It wasn’t the best day for Mercedes, since their drivers were over a second off the pace.
Looking at the lap times, it’s clear that the cars this year are slower than the 2021 cars. The fastest time in FP1 at the 2021 Spanish GP was 1:18.504. The best time from Day 1 is almost exactly a second slower. This shows that despite the 2022 cars initially being expected to be significantly slower than the 2021 cars, the teams have found ways to make their cars as fast as possible, and have managed to cut down the difference. However, there are reports of the 2022 cars being more unstable, understeery, and overall harder to drive. Only drivers like Alonso and Leclerc were already pushing; the other drivers were still getting used to the car and the handling.
However, Mercedes did well compared to their rivals. Max Verstappen was the only driver running for Red Bull on Day 1. Red Bull’s actual car was seen for the first time this year. Something that many people noticed was the aggressive and unusual sidepod that the Red Bull car had. The sidepod has been cut away underneath the air intake. It’s a unique design that has left many wondering about the reasoning behind it. Could that be another stroke of genius from Red Bull Technical Chief Adrian Newey? It seems that Lewis Hamilton was also curious about the Red Bull car. He was taking a casual walk through the pitlane while George Russell was driving the Mercedes in the morning session. Hamilton noticeably spent more time looking at the Red Bull garage and checking out the car that he might be battling multiple times this year.
In terms of Red Bull’s performance, Verstappen completed a solid 147 laps, but his lap time was 2.6 seconds off Norris’ time. Since it’s Day 1 and data and reliability is key in testing, it doesn’t seem like Red Bull have any genuine problems. They completed a really good amount of laps, and it could be that they are sandbagging. Sandbagging is when the car or the drivers go slow to make it look like their competitors have the upper hand. But when the races come around, they unleash their true speed.
Speaking of data being key, teams use things like flow-vis paint or aero rigs on their cars. Flow-vis paint is this high-contrast luminous paint that teams apply on parts of an F1 car. Then the driver goes and completes a few laps with the flow-vis on their cars. The airstream carries the paint away, meaning the paint runs and a pattern is formed. The teams photograph the pattern, and then they can analyse the airflow on the car. Williams were quite generous with how much flow-vis they used. Aerodynamic rigs, also known as aerodynamic rakes, have sensors all over them that sense how the air flows through the car. This data is all very useful for teams, especially during testing, and especially because of the new aero regulations this year.
All of the midfield teams did relatively well – they all clocked in over 100 laps, and drivers like Vettel and Tsunoda were right up there behind Mercedes. Tsunoda is hoping to score more points this year and help bring AlphaTauri higher up in the midfield. Aston Martin are hoping to capitalise on the new era and to get back to the top end of the midfield. Alpine said that they are focusing more on performance this year rather than reliability. That makes sense because based on the 127 laps they completed, their car seems pretty reliable.
The last time there was a major regulation change, all of the teams struggled with reliability. That was back in 2014, and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen completed the most laps out of any of the drivers. And that lap count was only 31 laps. The team with the worst reliability, namely Alfa Romeo, still put in 32 laps. This is a good sign that the teams have been able to cope with the regulation change.
There were 2 teams that struggled with reliability on the first day of testing. Alfa Romeo and Haas, the two slowest teams in 2021, both clocked in less than 50 laps on Day 1. Haas only managed 43 laps, and Alfa Romeo only managed 32 laps. Alfa Romeo had multiple minor problems that took time to fix. Haas had a cooling leak for Mazepin, and they had to repair a damaged floor for Schumacher. Haas are under a lot of pressure because they didn’t develop their 2021 car and put all of their resources into their 2022 car. If their 2022 car fails, then who knows how much longer they’ll stay in F1.
All in all, there was plenty to take away from the first day of 2022 F1 Pre-season testing/shakedown. The reliability of most of the cars seemed good, and the teams are gathering as much data as they can. McLaren and Ferrari performed better than the Mercedes and Red Bull, but it is the first day, and all the teams have different strategies and plans for the 3 days in Barcelona. In March, I will be posting analysis of the official 2022 F1 pre-season testing at Bahrain, which takes place from 10th to 12th March 2022. That’s when we’ll get a proper look at the cars out on the track since those 3 days will be broadcast. Hope you enjoyed this post and are following the pre-season shakedown in Barcelona as well! See you in the analysis of Day 2!