Those 3 days just flew past like a Ferrari down the straight! It’s now time to analyse the final day of 2022 F1 Pre-season testing in Barcelona. The first day was when we all got to see the beautiful cars out on track for the first time. The 2022 cars definitely look better than the 2021 cars, and not just in terms of the liveries. However, on the first day, 2 teams struggled with reliability. Haas and Alfa Romeo both didn’t manage to complete 50 laps. However, day 2 was a better day for almost all of the teams. The only teams that actually had some struggles were the 2 top teams. Sergio Perez’s Red Bull had a gearbox problem, and Lewis Hamilton had the slowest time of the day.
However, day 3 was by far the craziest and most chaotic day of all. There were FIVE red flags in one day of testing. And 3 of them were thanks to reliability issues. I will get into the issues, their causes, and their consequences in this post. The morning session was dry, but in the afternoon session, Pirelli wet the track for some wet-weather running. This is very important because, with the new Pirelli tires and new aero regulations, it’s important to see how the cars and tires behave in wet conditions. Multiple trucks went on the track during the lunch break and water was released from the trucks onto the track. The pit entry and exits were also wet, but the pitlane itself remained dry.
Since the morning and afternoon sessions were 4 hours long each, in the afternoon session, the track did dry eventually. With the cars doing so many laps, the tires dispersed the water and the water dried. The track was only wet for an hour and a half. Then the drivers went back to slick tires. In the dying minutes of the afternoon session, Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time of the day and the fastest time of the entire test with a 1:19.138. Close behind Hamilton was George Russell’s time, and close behind them were the Red Bull drivers. Guess the top teams dropped the sandbags (more on that later)! Sebastian Vettel’s time was still 5th fastest and only 6 tenths of a second off the pace. Despite his car stopping in the morning session, his lap time was really good. It capped off a strong testing performance for him.
Behind Vettel were the Ferraris, the Williams cars, and the McLarens. Below the McLarens were the drivers that faced reliability issues. Bottas had the slowest time of the day. He really struggled with his new team and has only completed 54 laps over the 3 days of testing. That’s not even the ideal number of laps that a driver should complete in a day! Hopefully, he does better in Bahrain. Remember, there are 3 days of testing in Bahrain as well from 10th to 12th March. Those are the official 2022 F1 pre-season testing days, with the testing in Barcelona being called a “shakedown” or “track session”. Now let’s get to the analysis!
The last day is, in my opinion, a better day to have reliability issues. You’ve already gathered data from the last 2 days, so even if you face issues, it won’t be catastrophic. All 5 red flags of the day were in the morning session. The first red flag was just 45 minutes into the session. There was loads of smoke coming from Alonso’s car, and it took a while to extinguish the fire. Alpine initially stated the issue that caused the car to break down was a “loss of pressure”. After more investigation, they stated that it was a minor sealing issue in the hydraulics that led to the fire.
With these new cars, the mechanics haven’t had much experience repairing them, so they take longer. That’s why Alpine said the repairs would take too long, and that they wouldn’t be able to get the car back out. Alpine need to sort out the problem. Also, they said that they would be focusing less on reliability this year. If they face more reliability problems, then they might end up losing both on performance and reliability. Hopefully, they can find the right balance. I know for sure that Fernando Alonso won’t be happy if he has to drive an unreliable car again.
Later in the session, Gasly crashed somewhere in the middle sector. There’s no footage of the crash, and very few pictures. But there was clear damage to the front end of the car, and it took a while to end the red flag period because marshals were picking up debris. Like I said, it takes mechanics more time to repair these new cars. That’s why Gasly couldn’t go back out in the morning session. Literally less than 10 minutes later, there was another red flag. Guanyu Zhou had spun and was beached in the gravel. Less than 20 minutes after that, and Zhou’s car ground to a halt on the main straight. Alfa Romeo haven’t yet confirmed what the issue is. It’s been a difficult test for them, since Bottas hasn’t been completing many laps either.
The last red flag came when Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin stopped on track and caught on fire. It was a small fire that the team later confirmed was caused by an oil leak. While it may not seem like a huge problem, Aston Martin confirmed that they weren’t going to run in the afternoon session. They said that the repairs would take too long. Another team that had the same issue was Haas. Haas didn’t have much running on the last day at all. Mazepin completed 9 laps before he was called into the pits because of a suspected leak. The issue turned out to be a major one, which would take “several more hours” to repair. It capped off a somewhat disappointing test for them.
These teams are in the lower half of the grid, and hopefully they can complete their repairs and try and prevent more issues. The budget cap and the new rules are all about closer racing. If teams are facing issues with their cars like this, then it won’t be good for the teams, and they won’t be able to get involved in the racing and entertain the fans. However, there’s still 3 more days of 2022 F1 pre-season testing. This is where the teams should discover their issues so that they can fix them ahead of the season opener.
It’s very surprising to see the sandbagging end already! Sandbagging is used when top teams make it look like their cars are relatively slow during pre-season testing. However, when the actual race weekends come around, those teams are back to the top of the timing sheets. In the first 2 days of testing in Barcelona, there was clearly some sandbagging from Red Bull and Mercedes. McLaren and Ferrari were clearly faster than them, and Mercedes and Red Bull were performing at an upper-midfield level. But look at the classification for day 3. 1-2 for Mercedes, 3-4 for Red Bull.
Both Red Bull and Mercedes actually tried to top the timing sheets. In the morning session, Max Verstappen set 1:19.765. George Russell went and set a 1:19.233, which was the fastest time of the morning session. In the afternoon session, with half an hour to go, Hamilton came out of the pits with a fresh set of C4 tires. Perez also set his fastest lap of the session on C4 tires. The C4 tires are the 2nd-fastest tires. On the same tire compound, Hamilton was 4 tenths of a second faster than Perez. That’s not really surprising, although I was expecting more like 2 and a half tenths. Russell set his time on the C5 tires, which are the fastest available compound, yet he was still almost a tenth slower than Hamilton. That means on the C4 tires, Russell would be around 5-6 tenths of a second slower than Hamilton.
Even though his time is 6 tenths of a second slower than Hamilton’s, Verstappen actually did pretty well. His lap time was on the C3 tire, which is the medium tire. It is the balance between durability and speed. The C3 compound is supposed to be around 5 tenths slower than the C4 compound per lap. So Verstappen would be around 1 tenth slower than Hamilton if he went on the C4 tires.
This is really intriguing, because it shows that Hamilton is upping his game even more this year. I think the fact that this happened on the last day of testing in Barcelona shows that Hamilton wants to go out strong before the official testing in Bahrain. Since Verstappen set his time on the C3 tires, it seems he’s just sitting back and not revealing his true pace just yet… The 3 days of 2022 F1 Pre-season testing in Barcelona have come to an end. It’s been incredibly interesting, and I can’t wait for testing in Bahrain!