F1 testing in Bahrain: Max Verstappen primed, Ferrari make move and Lando Norris ‘mind games’

The 2022 Formula 1 season is almost upon us with the second round of testing in Bahrain set to tell us more about the runners and riders a week out from the opening Grand Prix.

F1’s new rules and regulations are designed to shake up the competition that was dominated by world champion Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton last year and the early signs are promising.

Ferrari and McLaren could join Red Bull and Mercedes on the podium week to week, with new updates and developments each day as we approach the first race.

With Verstappen committing his long-term future to Red Bull and Hamilton’s return alongside what the Silver Arrows will view as the future in George Russell, the F1 powerhouses look primed to fight it out for both the drivers’ and constructors’ titles once more.

Here are some of the talking points ahead of next week’s testing in Bahrain:

Ferrari set for shot at breaking up Mercedes and Red Bull dominance

Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz enjoyed consistency on the track in Barcelona,

But while Hamilton and Russell topped the fastest laps leaderboard, with Perez third and Verstappen seemingly sandbagging down in fifth, there is increased optimism that the Scuderia can land on the podium more frequently than last year.

There were no wins for either Leclerc or Sainz last season and just one podium for Leclerc in second at the British Grand Prix, while Sainz landed second in Monaco and picked up three third-place finishes in Hungary, Russia and Abu Dhabi.

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But if you recalculate the best times of every driver and adjust to the C4 tire, with The Race reporting that Pirelli state one second faster than the C3, with the C5 0.4 seconds faster still than the C4.

The variable, of course, is the fuel load differences, but in terms of painting a picture ahead of next week, we can see that Leclerc (1:18.689 adjusted) and Sainz (1:19.072 adjusted), both using C3 tires for their fastest laps, end up with faster adjusted times than Red Bull’s Verstappen (1:18.756 adjusted), in the C3, and Perez (1:19.556), whose fastest lap came in the C4. While Hamilton and Russell used the C5 tyres, meaning their adjusted times to the C4s are slower at 1:19.538 and 1.19.633 respectively.

Charles Leclerc and Ferrari look to take a step up in 2022

(Getty Images)

The porpoising effect

It was one of the most eye-catching elements of testing in Barcelona as slow-motion shots showed the cars oscillating up and down from the track. Porpoising quickly entered the vocabulary of many with teams in a spin as to how to counter it permanently. With the car pressed closer to the ground on the straights, airflow stalls to cause havoc in the process of generating a downforce through the track.

Alfa Romeo technical director Jan Monchaux admitting the development left them “taken aback”, while Geroge Russell insists it is a “real safety concern”.

Next week will tell us who could have a dilemma regarding a solution and whether it applies to both qualifying (where DRS is deployed in every zone) and a race (when it is only permitted when in the vicinity of another car in front).

Verstappen ready to make statement after bumper new contract

Max Verstappen got paid. After landing his maiden world title, Red Bull were left with little choice but to elevate the Belgian-Dutch driver to the Lewis Hamilton salary tier with a new deal running until 2028.

In doing so they have also squashed any speculation about a switch to the Silver Arrows once the Briton calls it a day.

So as his title defense nears, Verstappen, with his future clarified, maintains his performance in the second round of testing will be “completely different”.

“It’s difficult to rate. What was positive is the car was running smooth, I was happy with the balance – but Bahrain is going to be completely different, so heading into race one, the car will be completely different as well.

“So for me, I just focussed on doing a lot of laps and trying to really nail down every single aspect of the car.”

As detailed earlier, the lap times can often be misconstructed, with Verstappen Adamant that is the least of his concerns until qualifying a week later: “I don’t know, I don’t really pay attention to the lap times yet; we will look into that in Q3 in Bahrain.”

Max Verstappen prepares to drive during F1 Testing at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya

(Getty Images)

Another preview into more frenetic racing in 2022

There is much speculation about how exactly the new regulations will impact racing and the final product each Sunday. But Barcelona offered a glimpse at a more furious style of racing with pictures suggesting cars will indeed get closer and provide a more exciting product.

“It is quite interesting,” Charles Leclerc told Motorsport.com, “because I’ll say from three seconds to one second behind the car in front, you actually can follow closer. Then from one second to five-tenths I will say it’s similar to the feeling I had last year.

“And then from five tenths to extremely close, then this is much better than last year. It’s nice, it’s interesting. I mean, I’ll have to do a few more laps behind a car, but it’s looking good for now.”

Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton during testing


Drama on and off the track

Last year’s season finale elevated Formula 1 into the mainstream with the characters and the hype surrounding the race as discussed as the cars’ performances on the track.

Hamilton and Verstappen’s rivalry has fizzled out somewhat, but pure competition could reignite that soon in Bahrain. Likewise, Toto Wolff and Christian Horner took center stage at times last season and are only too willing to speak their minds.

But two outstanding talents in George Russell and Lando Norris offer a fascinating subplot to the season and beyond as the two British drivers’ journeys unfold. Some believe Norris should have been the pick for Mercedes alongside Hamilton, not Russell.

Norris’ laid back nature and sense of humor has provoked his good friend Russell after stating: “George obviously topped the timesheets [in the morning session of Day 3]so if he thinks we’re strong, we’re going to think he’s strong.”

“I can’t be bothered with mind games, it’s too much effort,” Russell emphatically responded. “No, there are no mind games. We’re just working on our own program and, to be honest, it is absolutely unrepresentative what we’ve seen during testing. Maybe Lando is playing mind games, but we’re not.”

We’ll see how testing in Bahrain impacts that, but the talk away from the track is here to stay and only adding to the drama surrounding F1.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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