The questions the second F1 test must answer
A lot could change in the pecking order over what will be a very long season, but this week we should at least have an idea of what to expect in the early races.
Here are some of the key questions that could get answers in Bahrain.
Are Red Bull and Mercedes updates a game-changer?
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18
Photo by: Erik Junius
All teams are expected to bring new parts to the Bahrain test. The gap between day one in Barcelona on February 23 and the start of action in Sakhir is 15 days, and it’s even longer if you go back to the previous shooting and shakedown days for the various teams.
This is an important time in terms of winter development in F1, and teams will have planned months ago to have certain parts built and ready for track use only for the second test, not the first.
Also, anyone who has something really new in the works in terms of aerodynamic parts would want to hide it as long as possible and not show their full hand to Barcelona.
It was evident in Spain that there would be more to come from the big players, and the focus was on the steps Mercedes and Red Bull will take for the second Test this week.
“I think we will see changes in Bahrain,” said George Russell. “And throughout the season, I’m sure that the development slope will be quite steep for everyone. Whoever can get out of it the fastest and most efficiently will be the one who is in front at the end of the season. season.”
The big question now is how much performance these two teams were holding back for Bahrain, and how quickly and efficiently they can make new plays work.
Is Ferrari’s pace real?
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
The Ferrari F1-75 looked quick from the start of Barcelona testing, and Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz looked capable of setting effortless fast times in all conditions.
Leclerc was fifth in the standings for the week, but his best lap was set on the C3 tires – and those ahead of him in the standings used the softer C5s or C4s. Above all, the car has done a lot of laps, and therefore a lot of data has been collected.
“I think it was important because these cars are so different,” said team boss Mattia Binotto. “And the first objective is to try to learn them. And the objective at least this session was really to try to map the car in all the conditions, to try to understand the correlations with the wind tunnel, the simulator.
“Now this correlation will be an exercise for the next few days at Maranello. We will really try to cross-reference all the data. And see if it works well. But the car is handling well, overall.”
The consensus of those who analyzed the numbers is that the pace of the team was genuine against their main rivals. The question now is how the F1-75 compares in Bahrain alongside Mercedes and Red Bull, who will now be much closer to the specification they will use in the first race.
Binotto was keen to play down Ferrari’s own upgrade program for Bahrain, noting: “It won’t be much different compared to what we have. I think the first step for us will be to optimize what we have. “
Will Alpine gain momentum?
Fernando Alonso, Alpine F1 A522
Photo by: Erik Junius
Much is expected of the Alpine team this year, but the Barcelona test was not a good start.
Early on the final morning, Fernando Alonso stopped on track after a hydraulic leak started a fire. After inspecting the damage, the team announced that they would end the test early and return home.
This left Alpine eighth in the laps completed chart for the week. It also meant the riders didn’t get a chance to use less fuel and softer tires on the final day. A time set very early on Friday by Alonso on the C3 tire puts the team in eighth place, ahead of only Haas and Alfa Romeo.
The Enstone team were hampered in terms of lap times after deciding on day one not to race with the DRS open, for reasons which were not spelled out in detail. He was also using Viry’s new RE22 PSU for the first time, and since there was still a lot to learn, he wasn’t pushed to his limits.
In other words, Alpine have probably underperformed their true potential to a greater degree than any other team, and Bahrain will be given the opportunity to show signs of progress.
“I don’t want to say that everything is fine and we are completely chilled,” said sporting director Alan Permane in Spain. “Of course we’re worried. But it’s by no means, ‘Are we going to be at the bottom of the timesheets?'”
Will Bottas and Alfa Romeo find more speed?
Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C42
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
Barcelona testing was also a difficult week for the Alfa Romeo team, which rolled out its new C42 in camouflage livery ahead of its official launch.
The car suffered from a series of mechanical gremlins. Reserve driver Robert Kubica clocked just nine laps in his only session on the morning of day one, then Valtteri Bottas ran just 23 laps that afternoon.
By the end of the test, the car had logged 175 laps, with only Haas having completed less. This was not good news for rookie driver Guanyu Zhou, who obviously needs some mileage.
It was also clearly disappointing for Bottas, who has high expectations for his new team.
“It feels like we’re still in the very early stages of learning about the car,” said the Finn. “For me, it was quite limited running that we had, only with two different tire compounds, and only with very few set-up changes.
“So there’s still so much more to discover. That’s why we really aim to work hard between testing and hopefully get a better understanding in Bahrain. There’s work to be done. I’m not saying anything against that. But also I feel there’s potential in this package.”
Alfa team boss Fred Vasseur admitted that Barcelona hadn’t been easy: “It was quite a difficult session. Now we have to reflect and focus on the next one. But we’re trying to put everything together to Bahrain, and we can recover”. and look to the future.”
Will the new tires become more of a talking point?
A mechanic washes tires
Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
The Barcelona test was the first time F1 teams and drivers were able to experience the definitive 18-inch racing tires mated to the 2022 cars they were designed for, having previously tested them on converted mule cars l ‘last year.
Given the technical challenges of the change, it was perhaps surprising that the new Pirellis received little talk, and conversations were instead dominated by the huge changes to aerodynamic packages and the porpoising effect teams experienced. .
Few riders offered public tire commentary in Spain, but one of the most interesting comments came from Sainz.
“Compared to other years, maybe a little less overheating, a little less deg, but still there is deg, it’s still a degrading tire, an overheating tire,” explained the Ferrari driver. “But the scale of that for me personally, I feel like it’s a bit better. And the work that Pirelli has done over the last year and the development seems to be starting to pay off a bit.”
Will tires become more of a topic in Bahrain? Firstly, the temperatures will be much higher than they were in Spain, and therefore more relevant not only for the Sakhir race itself, but also for those to follow in warmer climates.
And second, the track is known to be among the most abrasive, as the asphalt has a high granite content.
For the next grand prix, Pirelli has chosen a conservative route and has chosen its three hardest compounds, the C1, C2, C3, after using the C2, C3 and C4 with its previous generation of tires in 2021.
Naturally, the teams will focus on the race selections for the test, but the softer tires will also be available if they want to try them, and this race could provide useful data for future events.
Will porpoising still be a problem?
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Barcelona’s experienced porpoising teams have been the main talking point of the week and are likely to continue to be in Bahrain.
The teams were given a fortnight to study it, although given that even with all their wind tunnel and CFD work they hadn’t fully anticipated the problem, it remains to be seen how well their modeling succeeded in solve it.
These cars were designed to run low to the ground, and while increased ride height is part of the remedy, teams will still have a lot of adaptation work to do at Bahrain testing and ahead of the first weekend. race.
It also remains to be seen to what extent the teams decide to accept that certain porpoises are acceptable if they allow faster lap times, if they are not too inconvenient for their pilots.
“We were a bit surprised, which I think was the case for all teams or most teams,” Alfa Romeo technical director Jan Monchaux told Barcelona.
“I suspect we’ll get that under control with some changes mainly on the ground that will get us a little closer to our optimum.
“But with the current state of the rules I would also expect that we would have to sit slightly higher than we all thought at first. The question will be how much is 3-5mm , or is it 20mm? I hope it will be five, because then the touch-ups on the car will be less.”