F1 testing: Gasly fastest, Mercedes raises eyebrows


Day 1 in Bahrain came to a close prematurely as Sergio Perez spun his Red Bull with 10 minutes left in the session, but this proved to be no issue for Pierre Gasly as he set the fastest lap time of the day on the soft compound tire with a 1’33.902.

The Ferrari duo of Carlos Sainz and Charles LeClerc finished the day in 2nd and 3rd positions with LeClerc setting the fastest time of the morning session. As in Barcelona, Ferrari seem to have figured out how to remain fast and consistent given the drastic changes in climate from one test to the next. The radical design of their F1-75 appears to be giving them an edge over much of the competition that they have sorely lacked since Vettel’s title attempt in 2017, when the Scuderia came their closest to a drivers championship.

Lance Stroll brought home his Aston Martin AMR22 with the 4th fastest time after a red flag event early on in the morning session, when the aero rakes that were mounted to the car collapsed, littering the long back stretch with debris. Despite the issue, Stroll was able to come back into the pitlane where the AM crew went to work fixing the issues and sending him back out with a fast car.

Related Link: Stroll’s aero rake collapses

Williams and Alex Albon went 5th fastest on the day running a respectable 104 laps, but set a time 1.168′ off the pace of Gasly’s fastest lap. This lap time was still three-0tenths of a second fastest than Lando Norris went in his troublesome McLaren. Norris was not originally scheduled to drive today, however Daniel Ricciardo was marked ill for the day and was scratched from the running, leaving Norris to jump in on short notice. Unfortunately the McLaren team only managed to run 50 total laps as a braking issue made itself known throughout the day, preventing consistent running.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the timesheets was seeing Red Bull and Mercedes struggling to maintain pace with the other teams. George Russell and Lewis Hamilton managed to complete 122 combined laps, a respectable tally on the day, but only ended up 9th and 11th fastest, sandwiching Sergio Perez in 10th spot. Perez however completed an astounding 138 laps, leaving little doubts of the reliability of that RB18.

Mercedes unveil ‘radical’ zero-pod design

Mercedes Sidepod - Barcelona
Original Sidepod Design – 2022 Barcelona Pre-Season Test, Day 2 – Wolfgang Wilhelm

The entire F1 community was surprised this morning when prior to the test Mercedes uncovered perhaps the most radical sidepod design on the grid, making Adrian Newey’s RB18 look almost pedestrian. The W13 features a vertical intake design feeding the sidepod intercoolers and radiators rather than a standard horizontal design, creating a ‘shark-like’ exterior and drastically reducing the front profile of the car. The new profile of the Mercedes is so stark in fact, that several teams have raised eyebrows at the design, questioning its legality.

However, Mercedes insist that the design is legal, going so far as state that the FIA was aware the design it was pursing. Said team boss Toto Wolff:

‘The process is very clear when you go in a specific development direction with your team, having the FIA as part of scrutinizing it, you’re exchanging CAD data and making them part of the process’

When other teams raised concerns over the design, Wolff stated without surprise that:

Zero-pod Design – 2022 Bahrain Pre-Season Test, Day 1 – LAT

‘It’s clear that sometimes when you come up with an innovation it creates the kind of debate that we’re having…that was expected’

Although the sidepods, or zero-pods as social media has begun to nickname them, are currently considered legal in the rulebook, with the changes in the FIA governance structure for Formula 1 it is possible for enough teams to vote to outlaw the design, forcing Mercedes to remove it from their car. Testing times remain to show the true pace and change of these new designs compared to the previous test in Barcelona, so it will be interesting to see how much time is truly gained compared to the already tested design.

2022 Formula 1 pre-season testing times:

PositionDriverTeamBest timeGapLaps
1Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri1’33.902103
2Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’34.3590.45752
3Charles LeclercFerrari1’34.5310.62964
4Lance StrollAston Martin1’34.7360.83450
5Alexander AlbonWilliams1’35.0701.168104
6Lando NorrisMcLaren1’35.3561.45450
7Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo1’35.4951.59366
8Sebastian VettelAston Martin1’35.7061.80439
9George RussellMercedes1’35.9412.03960
10Sergio PerezRed Bull1’35.9772.075138
11Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’36.3652.46362
12Fernando AlonsoAlpine1’36.7452.84324
13Esteban OconAlpine1’36.7682.86642
14Guanyu ZhouAlfa Romeo1’37.1643.26254
15Pietro FittipaldiHaas1’37.4223.5247