By Robert Haile
That’s a wrap for the final testing session before the start of the Formula One season.
While the Russian invasion of Ukraine has lead to the cancellation of the Russian Grand Prix and Haas’ decision to remove Nikita Mazepin as their driver and title sponsor Uralkali.
Focus switched back to the track before a return to Bahrain for the first Grand Prix.
While testing results do not mean that is how it will be in the first race but it does show who’s teams have got to grip with the regulation changes and there have been plenty for 2022.
First up Mercedes and Red Bull, will we have a rematch between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen?
The sound coming from the Mercedes’ drivers is it is not a great car even though George Russell finished fourth fastest on the final day with a 1:32.759.
Russell said: “We were trying to get every last bit of performance out of the car and push the limits and when you’re doing that, you’re bouncing around a lot.
“It’s not the most comfortable but I don’t really care about comfort as long as the performance is there.
“At the moment, we seem a step behind our rivals and we have a lot of work to do between now and next week to better understand the car.
“There’s a lot of potential in the W13 and I believe our guys are going to get to the bottom of it, we just need to find a way to unlock our performance.
“The bouncing is affecting our ability to put the car in the right window and the team are working incredibly hard to find solutions for this.
“This is a long game and I do believe our performance is there, we’ve just got to find it.”
Lewis Hamilton finished the final day in seventeenth ahead of Kevin Magnussen a late addition to the grid at Haas.
Lewis Hamilton admitted: “I’m sure everyone can figure out that we are not the quickest at the moment. There is potential within our car to get us there but we’ve just got to learn to be able to extract it and fix some of the problems, which is what we’re working flat-out on.”
Though is confident that come the race weekend that they will be in a better position.
“There’s a confidence within the team that we can always work through whatever problem we’re facing and that’s what we’ll do. I have all the faith in the men and women back at the factories to get on top of our issues.
“One thing is for certain, we’ll be bringing our fighting spirit to the first race next weekend.”
Defending champion Verstappen finished top of the pile with Sergio Perez in seventh for Red Bull.
With on eye on next weekend Verstappen said: “The main focus today was testing the tyres we are going to use next week. The car felt alright and we completed the programme we set out to do, so that’s always positive.
Perhaps the most worrying comment made from the Dutch driver was: “No one gives full beans or goes to qualifying spec at testing, so we can’t read too much into the timing screens.
“The new parts we tested today worked well which is what we always hope for.”
If this wasn’t Verstappen at full throttle then how fast could Red Bull be this season and there is still time for new updates to be applied.
Are McLaren and Ferrari set to battle for third place?
Ferrari beat McLaren to third place in the constructors championship last season and with McLaren driver, Daniel Ricciardo testing positive for Covid-19 only Lando Norris would be driving for the British based company in this testing session.
Norris finish in ninth less than a second away from Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc in second.
The Monégasque driver, who has been with Ferrari since 2019, set the time in the morning session compared to Verstappen who set it in the evening.
Carlos Sainz, having moved from McLaren to Ferrari, was down in thirteenth over two seconds behind his teammate.
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal & Managing Director : “We cannot draw any definite conclusions, because it will take a few races before we can get a picture of the pecking order among the teams.
“However, what we can say now is that these past few days have been positive for us.
“We were well prepared for these test sessions, as can be seen from the fact we were able to run consistently, without any significant issues, which allowed us to complete more laps than any other team.
“Our main aim was to gather as much data as possible to understand this completely new car, correlating it with what we had from our tools back in the factory, primarily the simulator.”
Binotto continued: “It’s very hard to say where we are in performance terms and there’s no reason why the frontrunners from last season should not once again be the favourites.
“We will try to be ahead of the chasing pack, which I hope to be very evenly matched.
“Our car is a good basis on which to build and to maximise its potential given that, with such a long season, car development will play a vital role.
“Charles and Carlos came into these tests in great shape and they have made a major contribution to us getting the most out of these days.
With the new regulations that have been brought in Binotto said: “Finally, it’s great to see so many different interpretations of the rules among all the teams. We can expect a very interesting season.”
Will Alpine or AlphaTauri make a step into the top three?
AlphaTauri surprised a lot of people last season with how competitive and consistent they were as Pierre Gasly made the top ten shoot out with Yuki Tsunoda, in his rookie season, picking up a respectable points haul.
Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon both performed well for Alpine finishing tenth and eleventh with seven points between them, Ocon picked up a Grand Prix win as well.
In Bahrain there doesn’t seem much between the teams Alonso finished third with Tsunoda sixth and Gasly in twelfth.
Ocon was top on day two but Alonso set the fastest time for the team.
Gasly said: We’ve had a pretty smooth test from our side, we completed all the program that we had planned for the three days here.
“We had a lot of question marks coming here and we’ve already managed to get some answers to these.
“I think we still need to sit down for a few days and review all the data we’ve collected, to try and put the puzzle together, so we can get the best possible car for next weekend.
“Obviously, it’s a new car so there are lots of things to learn, I would say there are still areas that we need to improve for the season but that’s part of the game when you have such a big change in F1.
“We have a rough idea of where we might be in the midfield, but we still don’t know where we’ll be until next week.
“Following definitely felt like an improvement to the previous car so that’s a big positive for the upcoming season, racing should be quite fun this year.”
After finishing sixth in the constructors championship AlphaTauri could make the step to the front of the midfield.
Former two time world champion Alonso said: “It was a good day of testing for us building on Esteban’s strong work yesterday.
“We’ve learnt a lot with the car and completed many laps, so I’m pretty happy. We are all still learning about the new cars and set-ups.
“We’ve tried several things with some clear results, and that’s what you want from testing. It was very productive.
“We don’t know what the others are doing, what programme they are following and how much fuel they have, and we need to wait until next Saturday to know.
“We’ll focus on ourselves and our plan is to arrive into next week with 100% effort.”
With both drivers performing well over the weekend could Alpine not just jump to the front of midfield but mount a challenge for podium places.
It all comes down to reliability and consistency as to who will be where with twenty two races over nine months one or two miss steps can make or break a season, just look at last season.