Formula 1’s second and final pre-season test kicks off tomorrow amid rumors that Mercedes have produced something special. What do the last three days of racing have in store for us before the start of the championship?
There have been various claims that one team or another could pull off a surprise for the final three days of testing. But one report captured the imagination of many. Italian newspaper Corriere della Serra claimed yesterday that Mercedes is set to present a radically revised W13 that lacks conventional sidepods. Rumors spread quickly on social media yesterday.
If a team has a radical idea up its sleeves, now would be a good time to produce it. After this test, competitors head straight into two races on back-to-back weekends, meaning any early advantage will be locked in for the first two events.
But the realism of such a design is open to debate. Removing or significantly reducing the sidepods while passing F1 side impact tests would be a formidable challenge. It would also place much greater demands on the car’s airbox to provide cooling. However, other teams have already pursued aggressive solutions in this regard, including Red Bull’s ultra-thin pontoons.
Shortage of mileage
Two teams left the Circuit de Catalunya particularly unhappy with their progress: the two Ferrari customers Alfa Romeo and Haas.
Alfa Romeo covered the lowest mileage of any team. “In the past we were generally very good in terms of reliability,” said the team’s technical director, Jan Monchaux. “For this new car we had to go very far on certain design features mainly because of the weight impact. ‘them.
It was a particular setback for the team which ran the roster’s only rookie driver – Guanyu Zhou – and a second newcomer to the team in Valtteri Bottas.
Haas also lost a significant amount of running. This was initially due to problems with the ground hitting the track and later an engine oil leak cost them even more. Of course, that turned out to be just the beginning of their troubles in the opening test.
Mazepin out – Fittipaldi in?
When Haas rolled out their cars for the final day of the first test of their Uralkali logos and colors, the writing was on the wall for the future of their relationship with their sponsor and driver Nikita Mazepin. Indeed, Haas later confirmed that none will return after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine two weeks ago, which has already claimed many lives and led two million people to flee the country in the most major refugee crisis since World War II.
The team has yet to confirm who will take Mazepin’s place. Team principal Guenther Steiner has indicated in Spain that Pietro Fittipaldi, who drove two races for them in 2020 replacing injured Romain Grosjean, is in the lead. However, team owner Gene Haas later said the team wanted to put a more experienced driver in the long-term seat.
Fittipaldi can therefore get another two races in the car for the opening rounds in Bahrain and Jeddah, but then will have to give up his seat.
The empty slot on the calendar
The other consequence of Russia’s attack on Ukraine was the cancellation of the Russian Grand Prix, which was to be the 17th round of the world championship. F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said the series would have “no problem” replacing the event.
Istanbul Park in Turkey was immediately named by some publications as a likely replacement, but RaceFans understands that it is not being actively considered. Jerez is rumored to be an alternative, although it will mean a long trip from southern Spain to Singapore for the next round.
The international circuit of Sepang in Malaysia, another place mentioned, seems better suited geographically. However, F1 is not under pressure to appoint a replacement immediately, and as the pandemic seasons have demonstrated, it is now well trained to stage replacement events.
The “real” start to the season?
F1 has officially described the first test of the season in Spain as a shakedown event and calls the second test starting tomorrow the first of the new season. However, the two events are the same from a regulatory point of view; this is just another test, the only difference is semantics.
The series also intends to showcase the new cars when they return to action. “The real presentation and launch of the new cars will be in Bahrain and not in Barcelona,” said AlphaTauri Team Principal Franz Tost. “We will have a big announcement and then show and camera crews in Bahrain. That’s what the teams, the FOM and the FIA have decided.”
The decision to hold a launch event for the cars everyone has seen before is a curious one. What will probably interest most fans more is that this test, unlike the previous one, will be televised.
Who is in front?
The single question everyone most wants answered in pre-season testing – which team is the fastest – is likely to be the hardest to answer. Only if a team has found a decisive advantage of the order of a second or more per lap is it likely to be noticeable through the many variables that cloud test times.
A succession of different teams have succeeded in leading the time in Spain. Expect to see the same over the next three days and don’t expect a realistic picture to emerge until the first qualifying session of the year wraps up a week later.
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