Now that the 2021 Formula 1 season has come to an end, the eyes are already fully focused on 2022. The next Formula 1 season will traditionally be kicked off with the winter test days. However, these will look different than we are used to. In this new special we explain what has changed.
The 2022 Formula 1 season will kick off with the Bahrain Grand Prix from March 18 to 20. However, before we can start racing, there is one more big test that needs to be done. During the winter test, the teams can check whether the new cars work properly and remove any teething problems before the season. In addition, the drivers also benefit a lot from the test. Of course, by the time the season starts again, they haven’t driven a Formula 1 car for a long time. Also, if the car has been rigorously changed, they can first get used to the changes. When a driver changes teams, this is also the perfect time to get used to the working methods and habits of his new team. After all, every team does things in its own way.
In recent years, it was common for the winter test to consist of about six to eight test days, during which one car was allowed onto the track at a time. This allowed the team to divide the hours between the two regular drivers and, if necessary, the reserve and test drivers. In 2021, only three test days were planned due to the corona pandemic. Formula 1 wanted to keep costs as low as possible and, given the small number of changes to the car, did not consider it necessary to organize a long test. Afterwards, there was a lot of criticism from the drivers and the teams. In particular, the drivers who had changed teams had more difficulty adapting as a result.
Sergio Pérez during winter testing in 2021
In 2022, the technical regulations will be overhauled, which means that Formula 1 cars will look very different from that moment on. These new cars had to be built from scratch, which means that the teams still know relatively little about what to expect. Of course they already have enough data from the wind tunnel at their disposal and simulations have been done, but that is of course something different from the real thing. The teams will therefore need the winter test days to collect as much data as possible and to prepare the cars for the season.
Formula 1 test days 2022
That is why Formula 1 has opted for a different format this season. The winter test will be split in two next season. At the end of February, the entire Formula 1 circus will travel to the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya in Spain, where the first three days of testing will be held. During these days, the teams can collect as much data as possible and see in which areas there is still work to be done. They are then given a number of weeks to solve the problems found in the factory. A second test moment will follow in March from the Bahrain International Circuit, where the first race of the season is also scheduled a few days later.
Winter test in Barcelona in 2020
Why this new format?
But why was this chosen? Traditionally, in recent years, testing has always been done in Barcelona, which the teams have generally been happy with. The circuit is easy and relatively quick to reach, allowing the teams to easily fly in new parts from the factories in Italy and Great Britain. Last year, due to the pandemic, the test days had to be held in Bahrain, which the teams also liked very much. The problem, however, is that it is much more difficult to fly parts to Bahrain. The big advantage of this format is that the teams can take any parts they still wanted to test – as a result of the first test session – directly to Bahrain, so that logistics are less of a problem.
The main reason for splitting the test days is the fact that completely new cars are of course being used. Teams are of course not allowed to send their cars onto the track on their own, except during one of the two film days. Furthermore, they are only allowed to test at the times designated by the FIA. If you’re building a new car that has never been on the track, you don’t know exactly how it will function on the track. The chance is therefore relatively high that you will run into problems during the first runs. If – as was the case in the past – you test in one location for two weeks, then you have to solve those problems relatively quickly, otherwise you are really just out of luck. Now, however, the teams can extensively look for solutions and then extensively test them again before starting the new season.
It is of course not desirable for the teams to have to travel to the same circuit twice and keep building and dismantling the garage there. That is why it was decided to do the second test session immediately at the place where the season will kick off, so that everything is immediately ready for the first race weekend of the year. By testing on two different tracks, the teams can also see how their car reacts to different conditions. In other words, a win-win situation for all parties involved.