Formula 1 will get a glimpse of what the season could look like when its new generation of cars hit the track in a test session in Barcelona on Wednesday.
It will be the first pre-season session after one of the series’ biggest rule changes, and the first time drivers and teams will get a real sense of what to expect in 2022.
F1 has implemented major changes to improve racing and try to make the series more competitive, with new aerodynamics and tire requirements that will make the cars different from previous years. They will sport new rear and front fenders, as well as larger wheels, to allow riders to race closer to each other and hopefully increase the number of overtakes.
Older cars lost downforce – and their ability to corner faster – the closer they got to the cars ahead. The changes were intended to reduce this downforce loss and give trailing riders a better chance of overtaking.
“Every decision we made was to not dumb down the sport, but to make it more feasible for more teams and to have closer competition for the future while leaving it a meritocracy so that the best teams always win,” F1 motorsport boss Ross Brawn said.
The last time F1 underwent drastic rule changes was in 2014, when the turbo-hybrid era began. In 2017 F1 had already introduced design changes that made the cars wider and faster to try and make the series more exciting, although that didn’t stop Mercedes and Red Bull from dominating.
“Honestly, I don’t think the regulations will drastically change the general scheme of things,” Brawn said. “It will bring him a lot closer and I think we will see some of the difficulties that the midfield teams have. I think we will have a bigger group of competitive teams.
F1 is coming off one of its greatest seasons as Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton fought for the title until the end, with Verstappen winning with Red Bull on the last lap of the final race to end Mercedes’ seven-year dominance.
“I’m optimistic for the season ahead,” Brawn said. “Good teams will always do a good job. They have the expertise and the experience. While I would love to see it, I don’t think we’ll see any further teams all of a sudden dominate this year.
Due to regulatory changes, pre-season testing has been split into two parts, with the first sessions taking place from Wednesday to Friday in Barcelona and three more scheduled for March 10-12 in Bahrain ahead of the season opener on March 20.
“Now with the new regulations you have to get used to the car. It’s not like you jump in it and it was an upgrade from last year,” Verstappen said. many things are unknown about the car… I’m very curious to see how the car behaves on the track.”
The cars will also use a higher sustainable fuel ratio and new safety features. There will be a lower budget cap for teams and adjustments have been made to race weekends to allow drivers and teams to arrive at the tracks later.
The two practices on Friday will take place in the afternoon so that the press briefings can take place in the morning instead of Thursday. There will also be some changes to the sprint race weekends, with more points awarded to the eighth-place finisher and top qualifier on Friday being awarded from pole position for statistical purposes and not just to start the sprint of the Saturday. race.
It will be F1’s longest season to date with 23 races, with the Miami Grand Prix starting in May on a street circuit. Races in Japan, Canada, Australia and Singapore have returned after dropping out due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Michael Masi was dropped as race director following the controversial end of the final race last season. Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas will alternate as race director with the help of permanent senior advisor Herbie Blash.
George Russell has been promoted to Mercedes to replace Valtteri Bottas, who will be with Alfa Romeo alongside Zhou Guanyu, the first Chinese driver in F1 history. Russell’s place at Williams went to Alex Albon, while two-time world champion Fernando Alonso is back with Alpine at 40 – the oldest driver on the grid following the retirement of Kimi Raikkonen.
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