F1: Nobody knows what to expect as all 20 drivers return at pre-season testing in Barcelona

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Over three months have come and gone with Formula One fans now salivating for their fix of on-track action, in the wake of Max Verstappen’s controversial 2021 title triumph over Lewis Hamilton in Abu Dhabi. 

All off-season points of contention have now been answered: Would Hamilton stay in F1? Would race director Michael Masi be removed? Could the new regulations give us an even better season than 2021? Yes to all three; let’s get back on the road. 

This week, all 20 drivers return to action, with mystery and intrigue in the air at the behind closed doors pre-season event at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the traditional Formula One testing venue. 

F1 action returns for the first time since the controversial end to the 2021 season in Abu Dhabi

F1 action returns for the first time since the controversial end to the 2021 season in Abu Dhabi

All 20 drivers return at the behind closed doors pre-season test event at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the traditional Formula One testing venue

All 20 drivers return at the behind closed doors pre-season test event at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the traditional Formula One testing venue

It is the first of two testing events, with the second taking place a week before the season-opener in Bahrain next month at the same track in Sakhir, which hosted last year’s pre-season testing.  

2022 – F1 TEAMS AND THEIR DRIVERS  

Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton & George Russell 

Redbull: Max Verstappen & Sergio Perez 

Ferrari: Charles Leclerc & Carlos Sainz 

McLaren: Lando Norris & Daniel Ricciardo 

Alpine: Esteban Ocon & Fernando Alonso

AlphaTauri: Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda 

Aston MartIn: Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel 

Williams: Alex Albon & Nicolas Latifi

Alfa Romeo: Valttieri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou

Haas: Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin

Bold indicates new driver  

All 10 teams will have three days, starting on Wednesday, to test their 2022 cars amid the biggest overhaul of regulations in F1 history as the sport aims for more competitive wheel-to-wheel racing and overtaking opportunities. 

The aerodynamic changes should make cars easier to follow, resulting in tighter racing, while a move to 18-inch rim tyres from 13-inch tyres mean the car’s design is vastly changed. 

Cost-cap measures and windtunnel development time have also been altered in a NFL-esque style format to bridge the gap between teams, with the worst performing team last year – Haas – given the most windtunnel time and the best team the least. 

With nine out of 10 teams having already launched their spanking new models – Alfa Romeo will use an interim livery in Catalunya before their launch on Sunday – the talk of the town is to expect the unexpected. An anticipation in the sense of the unknown.  

To Hamilton first, as he returned to the limelight at Mercedes’ launch of their new W13 car last Friday at their HQ in Brackley.  

The seven-time world champion only returned to social media, for the first time since Abu Dhabi qualifying, at the beginning of February, easing rumours about a dramatic exit. 

Though he admitted he ‘lost a little bit of faith’ after a record-breaking eighth title was snatched from his grasp at Yas Marina, the 37-year-old looked rejuvenated in front of the cameras and ready to go again. 

Alongside him in 2022, 14 years his junior, is George Russell after his long-in-the-pipeline move from Williams. The dynamic between the pair will be one of the storylines of the season – and testing this week gives a first glimpse on the track.  

Lewis Hamilton returns to Mercedes with a new team-mate 14 years younger in George Russell

Lewis Hamilton returns to Mercedes with a new team-mate 14 years younger in George Russell

Red Bull will be looking to follow-up their game-changing 2021 campaign in style this year

Red Bull will be looking to follow-up their game-changing 2021 campaign in style this year 

As for Red Bull, still gleaming from Verstappen’s last-lap triumph, it’ll be more of the same after a game-changing 2021 campaign in which they matched Mercedes stride-for-stride.  

Traditionally, not too much should be read into testing, especially with over three weeks until the start of the season, with teams often satisfied with not revealing the true potential of their new motors. 

However, amid the new rules, drivers and teams will want to squeeze out every chance to test their new cars. For the likes of Ferrari, McLaren and even Alpine, it represents the first opportunity to see if a title tilt is a realistic target this season.

Lower down the field, AlphaTauri and Aston Martin will want a consistent spot in the midfield, while Williams, Alfa and Haas hope the revamped cars give their drivers a bigger chance then years gone by to shape their own destiny.  

So, how much will we actually witness this week? Well, in a move most unlike the all-access appeal F1 has pushed in recent years, not a lot. 

For the likes of Ferrari (pic, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz) and McLaren, testing sees a first chance to see if a title tilt is realistic

McLaren drivers Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo

For the likes of Ferrari and McLaren, testing sees a first chance to see if a title tilt is realistic

Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso pose with Alpine's A522 2022 car at their Paris launch

Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso pose with Alpine’s A522 2022 car at their Paris launch 

Aston Martin drivers Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel will be targeting spots closer to the top

Aston Martin drivers Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel will be targeting spots closer to the top

To the dismay of F1 fans everywhere, the testing won’t be televised live. In fact, you won’t even be able to see live lap times during the three days of testing from 8am-5am (GMT). 

Furthermore no fans will be present in the stands – not due to Covid-19 restrictions either – unlike testing events at the home of the Spanish Grand Prix in years gone by.

Why? This testing event has been classified as a shakedown by Formula One, essentially meaning it’s a trial run for all the teams to get to grips with their cars on a circuit used for testing due to its combination of low and high speed corners. 

For once, the teams and their drivers want privacy. No wall-to-wall coverage. No commentary. No atmosphere. 

Instead, a final timing classification will be publicised at the end of the day, as well as a highlights and round-up show. Clips on social media will make up a huge portion of the coverage too. 

No fans will be present in the stands unlike testing events in Barcelona in years gone by

No fans will be present in the stands unlike testing events in Barcelona in years gone by

Sky Sports pit wall reporter Ted Kravitz will be on hand with his popular Ted's Notebook show

Sky Sports pit wall reporter Ted Kravitz will be on hand with his popular Ted’s Notebook show

The ever-popular Ted’s Notebook show on Sky Sports will also be aired. Kravitz doesn’t miss a beat.  

Quite possibly, the end-of-the-day standings could be completely random. Avid fans would be sensible not to read too much into the placings of their favourite drivers.  

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said last week that he is ‘not discounting any teams’ from running at the front in 2022, with 40-year-old two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, at Alpine, openly admitting he is still in the sport because of this year’s changes

Consequently, the likely conclusion from this private event in Barcelona will be one of total haphazardness. That, however, is exactly what Formula One is striving for this season.  

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