Formula One is Back!

After three days of pre-season testing, Hannah previews what is set to be the longest season ever in Formula One history.

We are heading into the longest season in Formula One, so here is all you need to catch up on before enjoying the Championship opener in Bahrain this weekend.

 

What are the regulation changes, if any for this season?

 

The floor edges have been raised to try and stop porpoising and there are also some new tyres as well, but overall there has not been a huge change to the car regulations for this upcoming season, and it is largely the same regulations that were introduced last season.

 

The rule changes this year are so minimal for this season, and so all the car concepts have carried over from last season which suggests that all the teams will be chasing down Red Bull, who look to continue their dominance at the end of the last Championship.

 

Red Bull Driver Pairing (Max Verstappen, left and Sergio Pérez, right). Photo Credit: [Oracle].

Are Red Bull firmly at the front?

 

The fear after testing is that Red Bull will be so dominant this season to the extent of the 2002 or 2004 Championships that were completely dominated by Ferrari. 

 

In three days of testing, it seemed like barely anything went wrong for the team and the car looked so good from the get go. The Red Bull way looks currently the best way to be and the team could barely contain their smiles throughout the duration of testing.

 

For most teams they give each driver a day and a half in the car and ideally you want to be in the car in the last day, as the track has warmed up and the adjustments to the car have been made. It looks like Red Bull are giving Pérez the opportunity to get as comfortable with the new car as he can as he took the car for the last afternoon of testing. 

 

Can Ferrari chase Red Bull? Only time will tell.

 

Ferrari are the team that look like they will be Red Bull’s closest rivals and we will no longer be seeing Mattia Binotto as team principle as Fred Vasseur has moved from Alpha Romeo to the Ferrari garage, making a punchy start. The first thing Vasseur did when he came in was recognising that there were strategic errors that undoubtedly played a part in losing points last season and in doing so, he swiftly removed the head of strategy Inaki Rueda to a factory-based role whilst promoting Ravin Jain to replace him. This was a stark difference to previous team principle Binotto who refused to publicly come out and recognise that there were any issues with the team’s strategy.

 

Ferrari boss Fred Vasseur. Photo Credit: [Ferrari F1 newsroom].

Will it be Mercedes or possibly even Aston Martin chasing down the top two teams?

 

Towards the end of last season it became Mercedes that became a threat to Red Bull and it looked like they had become competitive, but unfortunately for Mercedes fans it is not looking like they will be at the front in the first part of the season.

 

Team principle Toto Wolff used the term “eventually” to describe when he thought the team would be competing at the front with Red Bull and Ferrari. Wolff said that he was contemplating which word to use for 15 minutes at the press release, he also said, “On one side you want to say: ‘We will be competitive.’ But on the other side you want to stay humble and so you say: ‘I hope at the midway point we will be competitive but we just don’t know when.'”

 

To emphasis this, it was fairly obvious in testing that Mercedes will not be competing consistently at the front of the grid. 

 

The Mercedes data suggests they are anywhere between 3 tenths of a second to a second slower than Red Bull, but they do have developments coming. The team has currently stuck with their side pods design but Wolff said there is new side pod design coming soon, so it does suggest that this car at the beginning of the season is some interim step towards where they hope to be throughout the season.

 

On the other hand, Aston Martin have had a revamp over the winter. Dan Fallows, who was Red Bull’s head of aerodynamics, moved over from Red Bull and this is the first year he has put his own stamp on the car. They have also signed Fernando Alonso and he seems as hungry as ever.

 

Fernando Alonso. Photo Credit: [Aston Martin].

Lance Stroll has been in a cycling accident and so he was not at pre season testing, which meant that Alonso had more time in the car, which is looking fast. There are some who feel they will be pushing Mercedes for the third fastest team but we will have to wait until Bahrain to see if they are as quick as the Silver Arrows. What a story it would be if 41-year-old Alonso is battling it out consistently near the front in the top six positions.

 

Aston Martin are being very coy about Lance Stroll’s injury, which they described as a “minor bicycle accident”, but it was serious enough to keep him out of the car for three full days of testing which suggests that their reserve driver Felipe Drugovich, who is the current Formula 2 World Champion, will race the car in Bahrain if Stroll is deemed to be not fit.

 

Is it a French mess for Alpine?

 

Alpine did not look too promising in the three days of testing, however, they do seem confident that they are where they expected to be and their clear target for this season was to close in on the top three, finishing fourth. It would be assumed that they were running with more fuel than other teams in testing as they did seem slower than expected.

Source: [Instagram].

The French manufacturer have also got an exciting and somewhat unpredictable new driver pairing. Pierre Gasly has made the move from AlphaTauri and joins fellow Frenchman Esteban Ocon who used be be the best of childhood friends. Tensions between the two have fractured throughout their careers and it  will be intriguing to see how their relationship, which is seemingly frosty, plays out throughout the course of the season.

 

 

 

Will we see McLaren at the back of the grid in the first few races? Possibly.

A familiar story for the McLaren team. Just like testing last year, it seems like they are in all sorts of trouble. Immediately, at the launch of the car, the team admitted that they had, disappointingly, missed some of their development targets. Coming out of the garage, it appears that in four or five races’ time they should have some upgrades for the car, however throughout testing it did not look hopeful and the car looked very slow. Rumours are that this car could be right at the back of the grid, which is one thing that McLaren fans want to hear.

 

Not ideal for their rookie driver Oscar Piastri or their star man Lando Norris who has not seemed to have had a car which matches his driving potential.

 

Oscar Piastri on the left and Lando Norris on the right. Photo Credit: [McLaren].

What about off the track?

Off the track, it has certainly been a controversial winter, as the FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem informed the drivers of an apparent ban on freedom of speech, which he has since backtracked on. He has also made some questionable comments, which have emerged along the lines of misogyny, and this has all led to him taking a step back from the direct running of the sport.

 

There is certainly a lot to discuss, both on and off track, and so this weekends’ Championship opener is one that is eagerly anticipated.

 

If you are interested in Formula One, the University of St Andrews Motorsport Society have viewings of all of the races in Sandys Bar in the Student Union.
For more information follow them on instagram @moto_soc or find them on Facebook to keep up to date with race viewings as well as Karting trips!

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