2022 F1 Bahrain Grand Prix preview: New season gets underway

After the long winter break, Formula One returns this weekend with the Bahrain Grand Prix, which takes place at the Bahrain International Circuit.

The 2022 season brings a new car design, a new driver lineup, and a new race in Miami. We were also set for a record 23 rounds this season, though this has been scaled back to 22 rounds due to the cancellation of the Russian Grand Prix.

The new season also brings plenty of expectations surrounding the shakeup of the design rules, which was implemented to improve the competition. The biggest change was in the area of aerodynamics, aimed at reducing the amount of disrupted, or dirty airflow generated by the cars and as a result make passing easier.

All eyes will also be on British youngster George Russell, who has joined top team Mercedes-Benz AMG. China’s first F1 driver, Guanyu Zhou over at Alfa Romeo, will also be one of the drivers to watch out for, and of course also Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and reigning world champion Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing. Hamilton is chasing a record eighth title while Verstappen will be keen to prove he can score the title without the finessing of race directors.

The Bahrain Grand Prix has taken over the Australian Grand Prix as the traditional season opener, and its Bahrain International Circuit, located on a former camel farm in the desert area of Sakhir, is where the second of the two pre-season tests where held.

The 3.36-mile track has an abrasive surface and consists of a mix of high-speed straights and hairpins with heavy braking. Engine performance, traction out of the corners, and stability under braking make up the technical challenge here.

Turn 10 is one of the trickiest corners because it has a long, combined corner entry that gets tighter toward the apex, in this case a blind over a crest. Drivers begin to apply the brakes while also negotiating the wide corner arc of Turn 9 and the track drops away at the apex. All of these factors cause the front-left tire to go light and increase the risk of a lock-up.

Pirelli has nominated its P Zero White hard as the C1 compound, the P Zero Yellow medium as the C2, and P Zero Red soft as the C3. This nomination is one step harder than the selection made for last year’s race due to the different composition of the new 18-inch tires over the previous 13-inch design.

Weather conditions look to be mild for both Saturday’s qualifying session and Sunday’s race, with the peak temperature on Sunday expected to hover around 79 degrees F. Changing wind can also blow sand in from the surrounding desert and this can affect grip levels.

Teams also have to take note of rapidly changing track temperatures. The race starts at 6 pm local time, with the track temperature being the warmest at the start and cooling as the race progresses. Last year’s winner in Bahrain was Hamilton driving for Mercedes.