After the utterly farcical conclusion to the 2021 championship it should have been nice to look forward with anticipation to the start of a new era in F1. OK the first “test” – known as a shakedown and therefore not allowing any TV coverage – did not really provide any clear indication of the cars relative performance, it did give some hints. And those hints suggest that things may not stay quite as they have been over the last eight years. And this can only be good for the sport. Unfortunately a lunatic decided that the best way to ensure peace in Europe was to go to war, and the death and destruction in Ukraine casts a dark shadow over the enjoyment of any sporting contest.

Ferrari's beautiful F1-75


  Fortunately, for once, the FIA has shown enough balls to tear up the Russian Grand Prix contract – unlike their pitiful groveling to the Bahraini government in 2012 when they allowed the race to continue despite the brutal crackdown by security forces on demonstrators, including the shooting and arrest of health workers attempting to save the injured. Perhaps the fact that F1 is now “owned” by a US company – Liberty Media – has had some role in this. If so, kudos to them. Even so, the FIA still hasn’t done themselves any PR favours by allowing Russian teams and individuals to participate under a neutral flag. What a bloody joke. Yet again, they should be following the lead of the International Olympic Committee and other sports in banning their participation completely. The FIM (motorcycles version of the FIA) have done so. Several nations, led by the UK and Germany have also barred anyone with a Russian or Belorussian license from competing in any event in their territory. Actually, the FIA should be leading these sanctions not following, but what can you expect from this organisation with its history of just chasing the cash? While I feel for some athletes who have condemned their own countries actions, I have no sympathy for those who haven’t.  

  Kudos too, to the Haas F1 Team for cancelling their sponsorship deal with their Russian sponsoring company and their contract with Nikita Mazepin, whose father owned said company. Any time a team takes a moral stand that costs it many millions of dollars it must be applauded. It has been announced that team reserve and test driver, Pietro Fittipaldi, will fill in for the test at Sakhir coming up later this week. Whether or not he gets the race seat for the rest of the year is still to be decided as the team may want a driver with more experience to help with the car’s development. Names that have been bandied about include Ferrari backed Antonio Giovinazzi, if they can get him out of his Formula E commitments, and Nico Hulkenberg who currently has a reserve driver deal with Aston Martin. We should know by the end of the week.  

Aston Martin AMR22

  One of the pleasing aspects of the regulation changes this year is the appearance of the cars themselves. With all the high and stepped noses and the hideous clutter that abounded on F1 cars for the last decade or so, they were just immensely ugly. When the first images of a real 2022 car, not the computer generated or show cars used in the initial launches, I was delighted by their beauty. First the Aston Martin which looks way better without the pink was a stunner. Then came the McLaren and the Williams, which has taken an entirely different take on the sidepod area than the others. This was hidden in the launch photos under a standard gently tapering sidepod bodywork, but when it got on track the sidepod was almost eliminated rear of the air intake at the side of the cockpit. Whether this works or not is still to be seen but its still very pretty and its nice to see that not all the cars will look identical this year. And then came the Ferrari.

  Wow, is about the best word I can use without swearing. Stunningly beautiful. Not just the shape of the nose and the delightful scooped sidepods with the ventilation gills but with the discontinuation of Phillip Morris (read Marlboro) backing they have gone back to their traditional dark, almost blood red, colour. None of the others have disappointed either so at least this year will be a visual feast.

Williams FW44

  It will be interesting if the teams sort out the ride height problems, known as porpoising, come this weeks test. Porpoising was a fairly common phenomena back in the late seventies and early eighties with the initial versions of ground effect cars. Basically this occurs when the downforce created by the cars undertray sucks the bottom of the car onto, or so close to, the surface of the track causing the airflow to stall at which point the downforce is lost and the car rises to the highest point of its suspension travel. The downforce then is regained and pushes the car down again until the airflow stalls once more. Sort of the way you can see a porpoise swimming in the wild, hence the name of the effect.  In extreme cases this rise and fall can happen every five or so seconds which not only leads to a very uncomfortable ride for the drivers but can cause stability problems if the loss of downforce and therefore grip occurs just when the car needs it most, ie through a very fast corner. McLaren seem to have not suffered nearly as much as some of the other teams while Mercedes and Ferrari were some of the worst. Not as bad as Alfa Romeo though, whose porpoising was so bad it was causing damage to the cars floor and resulting in vastly reduced running. Indeed, apart from Robert Kubica’s measly 9 laps on the first morning, the driver with the lowest laps in the test was Valtteri Bottas who managed just 54 laps. Guanyu Zhou didn’t fair much better, 4th lowest amount with 112 laps.

Ferrari's beautiful F1-75


 For full results of the shakedown test at Catalunya go to - 2022 F1 (mmmsport.com.au)


 Sam Snape