F1 returns: new cars, faces and challenges

"Obviously Red Bull looks ridiculously fast at the moment, and the Ferraris, but we are the better team, ha

“Obviously Red Bull looks ridiculously fast at the moment, and the Ferraris, but we are the better team, hands down,” seven-time world champion British driver Lewis Hamilton said after pre-season testing. Formula 1 in Bahrain, ahead of a new campaign in the ‘Great Circus’ that presents new candidates for the drivers’ and constructors’ titles. In addition to new car designs and new technical regulations, the F1 calendar and seats have undergone changes, some of them marked by the international political context.

Liberty Media is getting closer to its goals of making F1 competition more even, with more overtaking on the track. Before the start of the season, with the Bahrain GP, the pilots have had two test sessions, each one of three days in Barcelona and Sakhir. Feedback from drivers such as AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen have indicated that it is now easier to stay behind another car without losing as much downforce, making it easier to overtake.

The new regulations have also given signs that hierarchies are destabilizing in F1. Mercedes, which has dominated the constructors’ championship for the past eight seasons, has underperformed during the three days of testing at Bahrainnow with porpoising problems.

“At the moment I don’t think we compete for victories. However, there is potential within our car for improvement. We just have to extract it and fix some of the problems,” said Hamilton at the Bahrain test.

However, the refreshed cars make the new generation of drivers excited. After tests in Bahrainthe fastest cars were the Red Bull of the defending champion, Max Verstappenand the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, both 24 years old. Red Bull seeks to remain the team to beat and Ferrari wants to get out of the mid-table teams. Until the tests, the Italian team has been the one with the greatest leap in quality.

On the other hand, a litter of youngsters like lando norris, alexander albin and George Russell They are in search of consolidation this season. The 22-year-old Norris was sixth in the drivers’ championship last year with four podium finishes, although it won’t be easy in a scenario where in the week before the 2022 season opener his team, McLaren, found various faults that it locates “behind where we want to be”, as the British pilot said.

For its part, George Russell, 24, arrived at Mercedes after four seasons linked to Williams and serving as a test driver for the German team. The Briton came to replace veteran Valtteri Bottas, who after five years there decided to leave for Alfa Romeo. In turn, Bottas will take the place left by Kimi Raikkonen, who retired from F1 after 19 seasons.

Russell’s replacement at Williams is alexander albinwho will reappear on the grid after a season of absence hoping that this will be his revenge, since he debuted in the ‘Great Circus’ in 2019 with Red Bull, but without achieving the continuity he wanted.

One of the new additions to the circuit was 22-year-old Chinese Guanyu Zhou with Alfa Romeo. Zhou was one of the great talents of Formula 2 and the Alpine academy. He will be looking to emulate his performance now in the premier class and will be the first Chinese driver to race in the top class.

For its part, the Haas team remains with Mick Schumacher, 22, in his seat and although the idea at the beginning of the year was to also keep Nikita Mazepin, 23, the latter was affected by the sanctions due to the international conflict between Russia, his country, and Ukraine, and therefore he was fired from the team. Haas faces the severe test of also losing its main sponsor, Urakali, to being Russian.

Mazepin’s place will be taken by Kevin Magnussen, who made his F1 debut in 2014 with McLaren and was with the Haas team from 2017 to 2020. Outside of F1, during 2021 Magnussen competed full-time with the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA). , the American endurance championship, in addition to the 24 hours of Le Mans.

Red Bull, McLaren, Aston Martin, Alpine, Ferrari and Alpha Tauri remain unchanged in their seats.

Mexican Sergio Pérez, 32, is about to start his twelfth campaign in F1 with greater confidence: “Now I know exactly how the Red Bull team and philosophy works; that makes the difference”, said the man from Guadalajara, who has a contract until the end of this season.

Another novelty this campaign is the calendar, in which the Miami Grand Prix will debut on May 8. In turn, F1 will return to Australia, Canada, Japan and Singapore, events that were canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic; Those who will be left out are Qatar, Styria, Portugal and Turkey, which came on top of these. On the other hand, due to the war between Russia and Ukraine, the FIA ​​decided to cancel the Russian Grand Prix to be held on September 25 and all future editions.