The Bahrain F1 pre-season test is just around the corner, and the anticipation is palpable. A new season with a new generation of cars will begin in the Gulf state this month. For F1 fans starved for action, the race couldn't come sooner.
Before the race, however, there is still business to attend to. The teams still have a three-day F1 test in Bahrain where they need to work on their cars and fine-tune them to be in the best shape possible for the season.
The first test at Barcelona did give a glimpse into the upcoming season, but there are still some questions that need to be answered. In this piece, we take a look at these questions.
#1 Who will bring major upgrades?
Since the regulations are fresh, the keyword for this season is going to be 'development'. This development is going to involve teams bringing a huge number of upgrades to their cars.
After the first F1 test at Barcelona, teams like Red Bull and Mercedes spoke about bringing major upgrades to the second test. Ferrari, on the other hand, has maintained that it won't be bringing anything major to Bahrain.
Beyond these teams, dark horses like McLaren, Alpine F1, and Aston Martin could be looking to sneak in there and spring a surprise. At the Bahrain test, it will be interesting to see who brings what because that could determine who holds the edge at the first race of the season at the same venue.
#2 How fast will F1 cars be as compared to last season?
F1 managing director Ross Brawn has already talked about the surprise pace revealed by the teams already. In essence, the new regulations were supposed to make the cars slower by almost 3 seconds. If early estimates are to be believed, however, the gap might be in the vicinity of a second by the time we reach the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The first test didn't feature much progress in terms of lap time over the three days. In the second test, however, since the teams have gained a better understanding of their cars, we could see that happening. It will be interesting to see where the teams find themselves as compared to the lap times achieved by the previous generation of cars last season.
#3 Will Red Bull show their hand?
Red Bull has maintained a true-to-character subdued demeanor throughout the pre-season. The team went about its business in the first test, clocked the laps, ran a very heavy fuel load, and didn't make an attempt to run the car in anger. On the surface, though, the car seems to be one of the more dynamic solutions on the grid.
While it's hard to imagine Red Bull pivoting too much from its original stance where it doesn't go for any low fuel runs, it will still be interesting to see how the team fares when it attempts a race simulation. Will it be the fastest car on the grid? The first indication of this could be revealed during the test.
#4 Can Alpine resolve its car issues?
Alpine came out of the test at Barcelona with a somewhat underwhelming result. The team ran the car heavy and opted not to engage DRS on the straights. To add to this, a minor issue spoiled their third day entirely. The feeling about the team was not positive externally, although Alpine itself came out and said that the timings did not reveal the true picture.
Having said that, Alpine was by some margin the slowest on the straights, not having engaged the DRS. The French team will be hoping for a cleaner start this weekend as it tries to seamlessly go through its testing program.
#5 Will Ferrari fall back due to lack of major upgrade?
Ferrari was one of the standouts in the first pre-season test. For the Bahrain test, however, the team is not bringing any major upgrades (according to its team principal).
In a season where regulations are fresh, could it have an impact on the pecking order for Ferrari if teams like Mercedes and Red Bull bring an upgrade while it doesn't? This will be interesting to see during the test as the other two have claimed that they are going to bring major upgrades to Bahrain.