F1 Today – Barcelona Test Prixview – 22/02/2022

F1 Today

Alpine launches the A522

Alpine has launched its 2022 car revealing a striking blue-and-pink livery on the A522. The French manufacturer has changed its livery following the sponsorship deal with the Austrian water company BWT, this season the team are looking to take another step forwards.

In an added twist, it was revealed during Alpine’s launch that the colour scheme will ‘flip’ for the first two races of the season, meaning a dominant-pink look for Bahrain and Saudi Arabian Grands Prix.

Alpine was the ninth team to launch its 2022 car ahead of the start of testing on Wednesday, with the new regulations designed to revolutionise wheel-to-wheel racing. They say the car unveiled in Paris was a show car, with the team to shakedown their ‘real’ challenger in Barcelona on Tuesday before the winter test.

Last season the team finished fifth in the constructor’s championship, largely thanks to Esteban Ocon’s unlikely win in Budapest. The Frenchman will again be partnered by two-time champion Fernando Alonso, who returned to sport last season, says that success for the team maximising what was possible under the new regulations.

Alonso said, “I came back because of this regulation. I think the team did an amazing job, so we are all very motivated.” The regulation changes aren’t the only changes, with Otmar Szafnauer joining as team principal from Alpines main rival Aston Martin and the promoting of technical director Pat Fry to chief technical officer.

Szafnauer said, “I look forward to helping them beat not just the Aston Martins of this world but everybody else on track.”

Alpine’s launch means nine of the ten cars have been launched, while even Alfa Romeo – whose official reveal date is on Sunday and after pre-season testing – have completed a shakedown in their car.

 

Alpine is moving in the right direction

Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi says they can be future title contenders and were moving in the right direction following their victory in Budapest last year. The French manufacturer has finished fifth in the constructor for the last three years and are hoping the signing of Otmar Szafnauer can see the team move further up the grid.

Rossi said, “We are going in the right direction and we want to carry on our climb to the summit. In 2022 we want to show constant progress with comprehensive developments across all sites to ensure we are contenders for the title in the future.”

The team have an unchanged line up of two-time champion Fernando Alonso and Frenchman Esteban Ocon.

Ocon, who took the team’s first win since Melbourne 2013, said “That feeling and responsibility is truly unique and very special. I feel prepared, I feel ready physically, so let’s hit the track and see what we’ve got in our hands this year.”

 

Norris experimenting with driving style

Lando Norris says he has been experimenting with his driving style for the 2022 cars and is conscious that he might need to adapt to the new McLaren. This season the sport has introduced the biggest regulation changes since 2009, with cars that feature completely overhauled aerodynamics designed around ground effect.

Official pre-season testing begins in Barcelona tomorrow, however, several drivers have sampled their new equipment in the virtual world with plenty of hours in the simulator. Speaking about how he used his time in the sim, Norris says he used his time to change his driving style, in case the new car needs a different approach to get the most out of it.

asked by Motorsport.com, if he’s mindful of having to adapt his driving to the 2022-spec cars, the Englishman said, “Of course, that’s in the back of my head. On the simulator, I’ve been spending a lot of time not just driving the car but being prepared to drive it in different ways and being ready to drive in different driving styles because of this.”

“I would say our car has been quite specific in the last few years in how to drive it and how to get performance out of it. That showed through Daniel [Ricciardo] coming to drive the car. I think it is the case that some cars are easier to adapt to than others.”

2022 is seen as the reset for McLaren’s drivers, after Ricciardo appeared to struggle against Norris. However, Norris is aware that every driver on the grid could find themselves in the situation Ricciardo had last year, although the Briton is confident in his ability to quickly get used to new machinery.

He says that for all the drivers, it could either suit their driving styles or be hard for them, but they have to deal with it. He explained, “Before F1 I had to deal with it in every category I did, and I spent one year in every season and each year I had to adapt something new and try to make the most of that.

“It has been proven by champions and race winners that an F1 car is not an easy thing to get your head around and get in the zone, which I felt I did more last year and that is what Daniel struggled with.”

But naturally, he was hoping the car was going to suit him while accepting there might be some compromise.

 

“Successful decade” in Business ahead – Brown

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown believes Formula One} is set for a “successful decade” commercially amid an influx of big sponsorship deals for teams. In recent weeks a wave of North American sponsors have been announced, aided by the Netflix series Drive to Survive and the fight between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

Ahead of the 2022 season, several teams have announced a major new partnership, including an influx of companies relating to big tech and cryptocurrency. McLaren has also added several new partners to its portfolio in recent times, prompting Brown to hail a strong period to come for F1 on a commercial level.

Brown told Motorsport.com, “Formula 1 is in a very strong place commercially. [We have] more Grands Prix than ever with continued demand on TV, digital, and with Netflix, the overall exposure for the sport is very strong.

“[There are] a lot of corporate partners coming in. We’ve been having a lot of success for some time. We’re at over 45 partners now between our car and licensing and over a dozen joined us last year, some of the world’s biggest companies. [it is] great to see others in the sport raking in first-class global organisations.”

Brown believes that the sport is in a very healthy state, both on track and financially meaning the racing should get closer. He predicted a successful decade.

Red Bull announced earlier this month it had agreed a new title partnership with US tech giant Oracle, reported to be worth $100m per year, and a separate deal with Bybit claimed to be worth $50m per year.

Asked if those reported figures were a help for other teams when it came to pointing to the value of F1 and discussing sponsorship deals, Brown felt it was only a benefit to the series’ ecosystem. Brown said, “It’s great to have big brands and big companies like that joining the sport. It’s clearly a very significant investment, so I do think it’s a good story. Whether the actual number [for Red Bull] is accurate, I don’t know.

 

Looking ahead to testing

Sixty-seven days since the chequered flag dropped on testing in Abu Dhabi, the new era of F1 is to begin tomorrow in Barcelona with the first test. Coverage of testing will be restricted for this ‘behind closed doors’ test, but it could be an important step in understanding what these cars are like for the teams.

Barcelona is a circuit drivers and teams know well, as it’s a good all-round circuit a long main straight and sweeping corners and a technical final sector, this circuit has been used for testing for decades. All the drivers know the 2.905mi circuit well, as teams are used to the various different challenges the circuit presents.

Don’t expect to get much information in the public domain, teams will want to keep as much information under wraps as possible. The first few days of testing is about reliably and normally its Mercedes who have set the benchmark on reliably over the last eight years, they also won’t show speed until probably the last few days in Bahrain.

One of the themes from last years test was how close it was between McLaren and Ferrari, it will be interesting to see if they can make the jump to join Mercedes and Red Bull. This is what is expected, but there is nothing to say they will get the regulation changes right, but the expectation is that the front runners will be still at the front but can anyone join them?

The test is going to be about learning how these cars work, and Barcelona is the perfect place to do this. Remember this is the biggest technical overhaul, but the aim of improving wheel-to-wheel racing and overtaking won’t be answered until we start racing. We are all eager to see how their new cars perform and where they stand on the timesheets.

It will be an informative three days for the teams but also the drivers, who after more than two months away – during which their F1 driving has been consigned to the simulator – can get back up to speed with all-new cars.

These are brand new cars and tyres, both a different concepts to last year, and we will see a lot of progression over the six days of testing, with the first qualifying session on 19th of March answers will come in time…

 

Ferrari took “open-minded” approach

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto believes it was important for the team to be “fully open-minded” and chase innovation when designing its new car under the 2022 regulations.

This season many of the teams are hoping that this year’s regulation changes can see them make progress, Ferrari are hoping as well they can challenge again for victories after two seasons without a win. Last week, the team unveiled the most radically looking cars compared to others.

Asked by Motorsport.com about the level of innovation on the new Ferrari car, Binotto explained that he wanted the team to pursue radical design routes and to be open-minded before settling on a direction to go in.

Binotto explained, “It was important for us to be fully open-minded in the way we approach the exercise. It was not a matter of simply continuing the concept of the previous car, and adapting them to the new rules.”

“When reading the new regulations, since the very start, we tried to have a completely open-minded approach, trying to understand where we may have improved the aerodynamics and the overall performance of the car.” He says the design of the car was aerodynamically driven with mechanical choices being the consequence.

The aerodynamic changes and increased weight of the cars will see the handling of the cars change, with the target being to improve on-track racing and allow cars to race closer wheel-to-wheel.

Ferrari made clear early in 2021 that it would be focusing the majority of its resources and development on the 2022 car, meaning last year’s SF21 did not receive any aerodynamic updates after the British Grand Prix.

It’s poor 2020 has given it an advantage compared to its main rivals, the regulations gave it more wind tunnel time, which Binotto said they used to try all possible directions before settling on one which they believe is best for the final performance.

He added, “When we went to the wind tunnel at the very start, we tried all the possible directions, and then we picked the one that we believed was the best for the final performance.”

“Then we designed and developed the car in such away. If you look at the car, there are a lot of unconventional choices in terms of aero shapes. That’s the first innovation you may see.”

Ferrari also took a similar mindset and “put a lot of effort” into the design of the power unit for the new season ahead of the freeze that will lock performance in until the end of 2025. He says the power unit was “a big innovation for us compared to the past.”

 

Bottas relishing opportunity to be team leader

Valtteri Bottas is relishing taking on the responsibility of being Alfa Romeo’s team leader after spending years in Lewis Hamilton’s shadow at Mercedes. Since the team announced that Finn would have the team ‘built around him,’ as he would be the team’s lead driver.

Bottas told Motorsport.com, he was excited about the prospect of being the team’s most experienced driver, a career-first. Saying “Alfa Romeo has a great heritage in the automotive industry and also racing, so driving for the brand is a big responsibility. Actually, for the first time in my career, I’m the more experienced driver of the team, I think it’s about time because I’m starting my tenth season.”

“So, I definitely feel like I have the responsibility to guide the team and help the team and giving everything I have.”

While Alfa Romeo is said to have great facilities in Hinwil, thanks to investment by BMW in the mid-2000s, the size is a lot smaller than most other manufacturers. Alfa Romeo effectively being the sponsor, the team is run by the Sauber Group, Bottas says when he started at the team he was but believed that could have some advantages.

Adding, “saw that they have big, good facilities, obviously from the BMW days. I think they invested quite a bit in the factory, so good wind tunnel, good facilities. Maybe what was a little bit surprising was that there were quite a few less people in the factory. It was less busy, less people in all the different departments of the factory.”

“Definitely it’s a bit smaller, but I feel like it can also have an advantage in terms of how quickly you can react to different things. You don’t need to go through 10 people, you can just go to one person and say what we need to do. So, it’s nice.”

Alfa Romeo is trying to catch up with a new simulator, which was acquired in 2019 but only started being used actively during the 2021 season due to operational delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team are still trying to resolve and develop the simulator.

Bottas explained to do that they need some on-track running, and everything they have done so far has been an estimation because they haven’t driven the car properly on track.

 

Driver line up

Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
AM
PM
AM
PM
AM
PM
Mercedes
George Russell Lewis Hamilton
Red Bull
Max Verstappen Max Verstappen Sergio Perez Sergio Perez
Ferrari
Charles Leclerc Carlos Sainz
McLaren
Lando Norris Lando Norris
Alpine
Fernando Alonso Fernando Alonso
Alpha Tauri
Yuki Tsunoda Yuki Tsunoda
Aston Martin
Sebastian Vettel Lance Stroll Lance Stroll Sebastian Vettel Sebastian Vettel Lance Stroll
Williams
Nicolas Latifi Alex Albon Alex Albon Nicolas Latifi Nicolas Latifi Alex Albon
Alfa Romeo
Robert Kubica Valtteri Bottas
Haas
Nikita Mazepin Mick Schumacher Mick Schumacher Nikita Mazepin Nikita Mazepin Mick Schumacher

Correct as of Wednesday 23rd February 

 

The week ahead

The next three days are the first chance to see the paddock together since the Abu Dhabi test, which means we are likely to get reaction from drivers and teams. But the main focus of this test is getting the cars into a good working place for when we get to the final test in Sakhir. I think there will be questions in the press conferences about Abu Dhabi.

This test is really for the teams, it will be harder to report on as we won’t get as much TV coverage for us to watch and report on. The thing is teams will naturally want to hide stuff, but there will be a lot of people in Barcelona trying to figure out what is going on. It is challenging to build stories.

I think there could be questions about the Abu Dhabi Report, but you need to ask how long can people dodge the questions? As always there will be spin as we see on a Friday evening, we need to be cautious, Mercedes always underplay expectations and we don’t see them often ‘open up’ the car until the last days of testing.

It’s also about bringing new parts, the egal eyed reporters will be seeing what has changed on the cars. These cars will change a lot before qualifying in Bahrain, its about getting the data now to allow the cars to be developed going into the season. We need to remember that these cars are also new to drivers and teams, they will want to try and make the mistakes now rather on race weekends, not that any time is the right time to make a mistake!

Testing is a trip into the unknown and we will get some answers, but how good reliable they are we will need to wait probably until we come back here in May for the Grand Prix.

 

F1 Today will be back Monday 28th February, we will have a full round-up of testing in a special edition of ‘This Week @ The Test’ on Sunday. Reports of the day’s events every night on the website, Prixview here
Jack

Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.