The 5 key questions of the 2022 pre-season running at Barcelona

Attempting to draw conclusions from the timing charts in the pre-season race is traditionally risky business as teams run a variety of schedules – and that makes comparisons difficult. But there’s still plenty to dig into after three days of track action at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya…

Did Ferrari create the surprise?

Ferrari caused a stir when it launched the curvaceous F1-75, the red machine featuring a series of innovative touches that wowed onlookers from up and down the paddock. Their boss Mattia Binotto said at the time that his technical team had been “brave” with the design, as they sought to recapture past glories, so there was plenty of satisfaction – and rightly so – at the inside Maranello when the car hit the track and was plugged in right away.

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Looking down from the side of the track, the F1-75 looked like it was on rails from day one and was among the most impressive machines as it swept around the corners at high speed. Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc were able to build on them fairly quickly and thanks to brilliant reliability they had plenty of seat time, with Ferrari finishing the event with the most mileage of all – 430 laps.

Thanks to a terrible 2020 season, where they finished the year sixth, Ferrari were given a greater amount of wind tunnel and CFD testing time in the first half of last year – in accordance with the rules – by compared to Mercedes and Red Bull. And upon initial inspection, it looks like they made the most of those vital overtime hours.

READ MORE: Ferrari ‘outsiders, not favourites’ despite strong pre-season form, says Binotto

Their rivals were impressed with what they saw, but Ferrari were keen to play down their form – with Binotto admitting the F1-75 will be largely unchanged for the next test in Bahrain as they seek to refine the package that brought to Barcelona, ​​while Mercedes and Red Bull are expected to bring significantly updated packages.

Will Ferrari be the class leader at the first race in Bahrain? That’s unlikely, given the prowess of Mercedes and Red Bull. But will they be much closer than they were last year – and therefore potentially looking to challenge for podiums and wins more regularly? Early evidence suggests yes.

Charles Leclerc seemed to like what he saw on the track

Is McLaren in the fight?

McLaren have been a team in charge in recent years and their three-day performance at Barcelona has given no reason to believe that won’t continue into the coming campaign.

Lando Norris was keen to play down his snappy opening-day pace – and admittedly there’s little point in reading too much about it, as we don’t know what fuel loads, engine settings or configurations everyone was using. .

READ MORE: Starting issues, wet weather racing and fun cars of 2022 – What we learned from day 3 of the pre-season race in Barcelona

However, they were one of the most reliable teams in Spain, finishing the week third in the mileage charts and internally they were happy the car was responding as expected. Daniel Ricciardo is in a much better position than this time last year, and although it’s still early days he looks comfortable in the car. Norris continues to get better and better and trusts how well the team has performed and ticked off his to-do list at Barcelona.

At the very least, they still look like a top four team. As everyone looks to performance in Bahrain, we’ll have more clues as to whether they’ve closed the gap to the top two teams.

Ricciardo feels ‘pretty good’ after Thursday session

How good is Mercedes?

The timesheets took on a familiar look, despite sweeping rule changes, on the third and final day of racing in Barcelona as Lewis Hamilton led George Russell in a Mercedes one-two.

The lap times, as we keep saying, aren’t worth reading, but the fact that the world champions clocked their most miles of all three days on Friday was impressive. Both drivers didn’t seem too happy with the feel of the car on day one, but those feelings improved as the event progressed.

READ MORE: Hamilton says Mercedes had ‘hurdles to overcome’ despite Barcelona pre-season run

It was a worrying sign that not only were they happy enough with the reliability of their car to make plenty of practice starts over the three days, but they flew over their schedule, to allow them to begin simulation preparation. racing and cutting fuel before the session was over.

It wasn’t all smiles, with Hamilton saying the team had several “hurdles to overcome” and were “a little behind” where they wanted to be. But the eight-time reigning world champions are also expected to bring a heavily updated car to the official pre-season test in Bahrain.

Hamilton suggested Mercedes had ‘hurdles to overcome’

Is there substance behind Red Bull’s style?

Red Bull caused a scene by unveiling the ‘real’ RB18 on the first morning of racing in Barcelona, ​​with the new machine sporting a highly innovative design, with several features never before seen on other cars.

World champion Max Verstappen had a ruthlessly efficient first day of racing, and while a few gremlins slipped through on day two which limited Sergio Perez to less than a century of laps, they bounced back with aplomb on the final day to finish fourth in the mileage charts.

READ MORE: ‘The difference is quite obvious’ – Drivers ‘positive’ about ability to keep up with cars under 2022 regulations

Both drivers reported a stable balance from the start and said the car was fun to drive, which is ultimately the key focus for those early days. They won’t worry about disturbing the top of the timing chart, not least because sources say they’ll have a vastly improved car in Bahrain.

These developments will be in the works for months and signed well before Barcelona. The question now is whether they will produce what the simulations suggested – and also whether the team is able to get the most out of them. Early signs, as with key rivals Mercedes, are good.

F1 2022 pre-season track session: What is porpoising?

Is it as bad as it seems to some?

While the top teams had a near-perfect race in Spain, it wasn’t as smooth sailing for the others. Alfa Romeo and Haas were the hardest hit, with the duo finishing ninth and 10th respectively in the mileage standings after being blighted by a series of small mechanical gremlins that caused them to spend too much time in the garage.

READ MORE: Bottas hopes Alfa Romeo ‘can make up for the time we lost’ after completing just 10 laps on final day of race in Barcelona

In a season where track time is so important, with every lap providing critical data to understand this new generation of cars, such poor reliability is obviously not ideal. But they each had at least one successful morning or afternoon where they were able to do some regular break-in, and that gives them something to build on over the next 10 days or so before the Bahrain test.

Alfa Romeo struggled in Barcelona

Alpine also appears to be behind, with Fernando Alonso only managing to complete 12 laps on the final day, thanks to a hydraulic problem which forced an early finish to the race.

WATCH: Jolyon Palmer gives his expert opinion on Barcelona’s 2022 pre-season

They were frustrated with being without DRS – which would have cost them around seven tenths of a second – throughout, and a limited number of games meant Alonso and Esteban Ocon didn’t push hard. But internally they felt they had made a breakthrough with changes made overnight Thursday to Friday, to give them confidence heading to Bahrain.

Pre-season is designed to be an opportunity for teams to learn more about their cars and iron out the creases – so some minor hiccups are to be expected. But they hope there will be few of them when they arrive in the Bahrain desert, so the focus can be on performance rather than reliability.

F1 2022 pre-season track session: laps completed by each team in Spain

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