Red Bull, Mercedes have ‘significant upgrades’ coming

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton moody shot in testing. Barcelona February 2022

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton moody shot in testing. Barcelona February 2022

With the first pre-season outing done and dusted, Red Bull and Mercedes will both reportedly head to Bahrain with “heavily upgraded” cars.

Last year’s championship rivals played second fiddle to Ferrari and McLaren on the opening two days of testing, so much so that seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton finished Thursday’s running at the Circuit de Catalunya slowest of all – not a position where Formula 1 is used to seeing the Mercedes driver.

But 24 hours later it was all change as the Briton laid down the fastest lap on the third and final day of the opening test, his 1:19.138 a tenth up on his team-mate George Russell’s fastest time.

Red Bull also went for performance runs with Sergio Perez P3, a further three-tenths off the pace, while reigning World Champion Max Verstappen was fourth on the day.

Red Bull and its RB18’s radical sidepods was one of the focal points in testing as the team deliberately kept the car and all its secrets hidden until the very starting of testing.

But what was seen out on the on track in Spain won’t be the car that tests next month in Bahrain.

“It has emerged that this is only an early iteration,” reports journalist Lawrence Barretto.

“Sources say Red Bull will bring a significantly upgraded car to Bahrain, as was always the plan, and after a reasonably productive opening test focused on reliability and system checks, they’ll turn their attention to chasing performance next week.”

Red Bull had hinted at this when the team launched its livery in early February, Helmut Marko saying that the car they brought to Spain would be different to the one they test in Bahrain. And that too will be different to the one that eventually takes to the track at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

As for Mercedes, they too will be putting a very different car on the track at the second test at the Sakhir circuit.

Barretto added: “Mercedes, who looked marginally better than their main rivals Red Bull in Barcelona, brought improvements to the car across the three days in Spain and are widely expected to bring a heavily upgraded car – again as planned – to Bahrain, in a strategy we’ve seen them employ several times in the previous years.”

The world champions were in such a comfortable position on Friday, they were able to turn their attention to low fuel runs on soft tyres and a few longer stints on high fuel to simulate race runs.

Don’t, however, expect the same from Ferrari.

The F1-75 that tested in Spain will be almost the same as the one that runs in Bahrain. Ferrari won’t change much.

“Mattia Binotto tells me Ferrari’s F1-75 won’t change that much for Bahrain,” tweeted Barretto.


The upside for Ferrari fans, though, is that while the Scuderia showed good pace in Spain they weren’t going for the lap times, reliability was the sole focus.

Barretto added that in Bahrain they will “focus on chasing performance after an encouraging start in terms of reliability and mileage in Barcelona.”