Formula 1: What teams should expect in preseason testing

Bahrain, Formula 1 (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Bahrain, Formula 1 (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) /

Preseason testing is always an exciting and fascinating time for us Formula 1 fans. Effectively, it is officially the first day of the new season. With this season’s venue being Bahrain instead of Spain, what exactly should the teams expect from just three days?

For the first time since 2014, preseason testing will be held outside of Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. With the usual hot temperatures in Bahrain, the teams and drivers for the 2021 Formula 1 season should not expect any of the weather difficulties at Bahrain International Circuit that are usually a factor when testing was hosted in Spain.

Until 2019, preseason testing was not aired live, meaning that any new inventions onboard the cars could not be spotted until the opening round of the season. However, with that having changed, secrets are now even more difficult to keep.

The infamous Dual Axis Steering (DAS) on the Mercedes W11 was spotted by the onboard cameras during testing last year. In previous years, Mercedes would have gotten away with it, but not anymore.

Speaking of the reigning champions, they have been prolific in not letting their foot off the throttle, so to speak, and obviously this year should be no different.

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With Red Bull once again closing the gap toward the end of the previous season, Mercedes should expect their mirrors to be filled with the Red Bull livery.

But that might not be all, with the rise of McLaren, which now have a fancy new Mercedes engine in the back. They could also provide new competition, along with Ferrari, which should theoretically be back fighting for the top prize.

Actually, the goals of Mercedes and Red Bull goals are relatively simple: beat the other. It is almost unimaginable to think that the two frontrunners in Formula 1 are going to slip back, although the same could have been said for Ferrari before last year. But Ferrari do have a history of having an off year or two.

The hardest job in Formula 1 is maintaining your place at the top with the second hardest being the role of the ones chasing. For multiple reasons, Red Bull need to stop chasing.

Reliability improves year on year, especially with these hybrid engines powering the cars. Last year, a staggering amount of laps were completed throughout the two test weeks, and don’t expect that to be different during testing this year.

The cars really should be impenetrable, as it is the final year with these regulations. A car which does not live up to its full potential in this final season after all these years is basically inexcusable. Every car should now be competitive and able to compete for the targets set at the beginning of the season. No excuses now.

Ferrari have a lot to make up for this season. The first glimpses to see if they have made significant steps forward should be noticeable. They were so off the pace last season that any gains will be crucial.

And, come to think of it, so will the car, with the strangely odd patch of green on the engine cover. Anyway…

A lot of excitement is being focused on the new Aston Martin team. But expectations should not be too high. It is important to remember that they are mainly the former Racing Point team with a different name and color — oh, and driver.

It will be interesting to see how much progress the team can make on the leaders. With significantly more backing and the existing Mercedes partnership, every step forward has to be significant if they want to make a dent on the top teams.

Another team Aston Martin should be cautious of are Alpine, formally known as Renault. Alpine are looking to pick up where Renault left off. Multiple podium finishes last season was acknowledged as a success for the team. But this season, that should not be enough.

With the return of Fernando Alonso, who naturally finds the cameras, an uninspiring performance in testing would not open many doors going forward for the team, especially since taking on a returning driver is always a risk in Formula 1.

AlphaTauri find themselves coming into preseason testing in a bit of no man’s land. Where they sit is a bit of an unknown. Sometimes they are able to compete at the front of the midfield bunch and sometimes they fly relatively under the radar.

Being able to maintain lap times during multiple runs against teams such as Alpine should be a good marker for AlphaTauri. A boost like that during testing should provide a large morale boost going into the opening races.

Now to the rear end of the field. There always has to be some at the back. Haas are in a tricky spot. After looking promising in their early years in Formula 1, they have found a steep downhill slope and hopped straight on it.

Importantly, Haas find their name in multiple headlines for multiple reasons. A good reason is having the Schumacher name printed on the car. All the other reasons, not so great. They have to ensure from their first lap out the pits in testing that people talk about them purely based on their performance and nothing else.

Alfa Romeo and Williams were also a part of the regular lot found at the back of the grid last season, and it is tricky to see otherwise this year. However, Williams tend to show more potential than the Alfa Romeo team, which tend to stagnate.

Unless something significant is found either in the lap times or on the car, it is difficult to see anything different coming from Alfa Romeo. However, Williams have a chance. The famous team did indeed take a step forward last season. With another year of combining their Mercedes partnership with George Russell, are points in the cards?

Preseason testing is always the first time the new cars can be pushed on track, meaning not everything will be perfect. But the limited amount of testing time this season, just three days rather than six, should not be a big problem. These three days need to show specific factors for every team: reliability, consistency and intensity.

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There is no excuse for failing to obtain all three factors, especially with a major rules and regulations overhaul coming to Formula 1 in 2022. But one thing is for certain: the necks of the drivers will be non-existent come Monday.