Sponsored: Testing, testing… welcome to F1 2022!

Formula 1 this season will be like nothing we’ve ever seen before. That may sound dramatic, but it’s true. This season will feature the biggest rules shakeup in the history of the series, with an all-new breed of grand prix car coming to the fore.

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin AMR22

The new rules package will mean that virtually every visible part of the cars will be very different from anything we’ve become accustomed to. We should see more overtaking, closer racing and, with time, a more even playing field thanks to mandated spending caps placing teams’ budgets more in-line than ever before.

There’s a real buzz and anticipation about seeing the new generation of cars hit the track for the first time. This year F1 testing will be split between the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain, and the rather warmer climes of Bahrain. The cars will undergo their first runs at Barcelona from 23-25 February, before being shipped to the Sakhir International Circuit for the second test on 10-12 March, a week before the venue hosts the opening race of the season.

The Spanish sessions have traditionally been open to the public and made for popular pre-season viewing, but for this season the first test will be run behind closed doors, before the public will get their first chance to get up close and personal with the new-look grid during the second test in Bahrain.

Barcelona has been a staple of winter testing for a while now, and for good reason. The track features a useful mix of fast, slow and medium speed corners, allowing teams to put their cars through their paces in the most efficient way possible. The first sector is nice and fast, before things get twisty in the middle and then the third and final sector has been likened to Monaco, with its heavy stops and tight, technical final chicane.

A scenic view of the Barcelona pit straight

A scenic view of the Barcelona pit straight

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

It means teams get to trial their cars in a range of different scenarios during a single visit. Reckon the new Mercedes will look planted through the fast stuff, but the Red Bull will have the front-end to get the job done when things gets fiddly? Barcelona is usually your proof to the theory. But sadly we’ll likely have to wait until the Spanish Grand Prix in May to really judge for ourselves.

While much of the first test will pass by in private, without spectators, TV coverage or live timing, that doesn’t mean we won’t get to see anything. Given F1’s shift toward social media and a greater digital output, there will likely be a barrage of images, clips and audio leaked out – if not from F1 or the teams directly, then from the attending media including Autosport, which will still enjoy access to the first group shakedown.

That will only make the first public running in Bahrain all the more intriguing. This is when we’ll be spoiled for coverage – from TV, to timing, social media and even being there in person if you fancied splashing out for some winter sun (Bahrain has announced that tickets will be sold to the public).

While the weather in Spain can be a bit of a mixed bag – we’ve seen people sunbathing some years and building snowmen on others, so it can be a tad unpredictable – what’s entirely predictable is wall-to-wall sunshine in Sakhir – just hopefully no sandstorms like the one which briefly hit pre-season testing last year. Teams love its warm climate and fast, flowing layout, and it hosted the only pre-season running of last year. This year will be its first time hosting an open-to-the public test.

The test in Bahrain will be the one where the pressure ramps up. The new rules have forced all teams to hit reset and start from an almost blank sheet of paper with their designs. That could have the effect of turning the established pecking order on its head.

Fernando Alonso, Alpine A521 pit stop

Fernando Alonso, Alpine A521 pit stop

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Remember what happened during the last two big rules changes? During the era of double-deck diffusers in 2009, Brawn GP sprang a surprise and netted a world title against all the odds. The team’s edge was spotted during testing, and the others simply didn’t have enough time to catch up. Then in 2014 when F1 switched to V6 hybrid engines, Mercedes elevated itself from occasionally fighting for the odd race win to become the cream of the crop.

This year’s changes go far further than either of those, and Bahrain’s timing screens will be the litmus test for who got it right, and who got it wrong. Yes, the cars will have run before then but, with just a week to go until the opening race of the year, the teams will be in their final stages of preparation, meaning more track time, more upgrades, more speed and, ultimately, more of an atmosphere. This will be the test when the pecking order begins to emerge, and the strain may begin to tell on those who may have fallen behind in the early stages.

While testing this year has been limited, there are still loads of options to secure your space at any of the 23 races this year to see Formula 1’s new era for yourself. Check out Motorsporttickets.com to find the best packages to suit you at the race of your choice.

AlphaTauri AT03

AlphaTauri AT03

Photo by: AlphaTauri

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