The final three days of pre-season testing are in the books, and for Bahrain the teams brought some major upgrades on the cars they had originally trialled just a few weeks ago in Barcelona.
So how has that changed the outlook for the start of the 2022 season, which gets underway next weekend? The only way to make any sense of it is to look through the accumulated data from the time spent on track at Bahrain.
Of course, everyone looks at the top speed to see who is looking on top form at this stage, in which case honours go to Max Verstappen and Red Bull who pulled off a brilliant late lap of 1:31.720s on the softest available Pirelli tyre right near the end of Saturday's session.
But is that an accurate picture of strengths and weaknesses? Look at who is in second place, and tell me honestly if you think Mick Schumacher and Haas are really going to be the closest threat to Verstappen in 2022:
Bahrain Pre-Season Test - Fastest laps by driver
|Max Verstappen||Red Bull||Saturday||1:31.720||C5|
|Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo||Saturday||1:32.759||C3|
|Sergio Perez||Red Bull||Saturday||1:33.002||C4|
|Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||Saturday||1:33.532||C4|
|Guanyu Zhou||Alfa Romeo||Saturday||1:33.902||C4|
|Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||Friday||1:34.064||C4|
By way of comparison, Verstappen's pole-winning time here in 2021 was 1:28.997s. The new rules and regulations mean that all teams are around three seconds slower than they were in the same test in Bahrain in 2021 (save for Haas, which speaks volumes about how bad last year's car was!) Williams was the worst hit with the new FW44 proving to be five seconds slower than its predecessor at last year's test.
While times are far from everything at this stage, there must still be some concern to see Lewis Hamilton quite so far down as he is - over a second slower than his rival's best lap. But then again his new Mercedes team mate George Russell was firmly in the top five, so maybe Hamilton just wasn't interested in showing his true speed at this stage?
So let's turn our attention to the other metrics available. In many ways the crucial objective of pre-season testing is to ensure that the new car is reliable, in which case the driver lap count is more important than raw speed. Framed that way, McLaren's Lando Norris came out top in Bahrain as the only driver to hit 200 completed laps, narrowly ahead of Russell and AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly:
Bahrain Pre-Season Test - Driver lap/km count
|Lando Norris||McLaren||200||1082 km|
|George Russell||Mercedes||198||1071 km|
|Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||194||1049 km|
|Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||187||1012 km|
|Guanyu Zhou||Alfa Romeo||184||995 km|
|Sergio Pérez||Red Bull||181||979 km|
|Carlos Sainz Jr.||Ferrari||180||974 km|
|Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||177||957 km|
|Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||173||936 km|
|Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||169||914 km|
|Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||166||898 km|
|Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo||159||860 km|
|Esteban Ocon||Alpine||153||828 km|
|Fernando Alonso||Alpine||146||790 km|
|Max Verstappen||Red Bull||139||752 km|
|Nicholas Latifi||Williams||136||736 km|
|Alexander Albon||Williams||122||660 km|
|Mick Schumacher||Haas||108||584 km|
|Kevin Magnussen||Haas||98||530 km|
But again, we have to take this with a pinch of sale. McLaren didn't exactly have a trouble free time of things and were hampered by brake issues. Norris' presence at the top of the table owes a lot to the fact that he was the only driver to take part in all three days of testing, after his team mate Daniel Ricciardo was completely ruled out due to illness that proved to be a positive case of coronavirus.
So let's shift this away from drivers and look at the data for teams, and now we see that the combined running of Hamilton and Russell meant that Mercedes came out with an impressive 385 laps this weeks, or 2083km in total. That puts them ahead of AlphaTauri, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Aston Martin:
Bahrain Pre-Season Test - Lap count by team
|Alfa Romeo||343||1856 km|
|Aston Martin||339||1834 km|
|Red Bull||320||1731 km|
By this measure, Red Bull had only the sixth highest number of laps in Bahrain - so could that point to the team handling the new RB18 with kid gloves for all its raw speed? Could it hit problems next week when it has to complete a full race weekend of track time? Or is Christian Horner perfectly content that the team doesn't have to worry about reliability problems this year?
The table does confirm McLaren's troubled week with the lowest lap count of anyone - even lower than Haas, which missed out on the first morning of testing because of a delayed freight consignment and had to make up time 'after hours' as a result (accounting for their drivers springing near to the top of the timesheets on Friday and Saturday, when everyone else was already packed up). Even Williams, which lost time on day two with a small car fire, put in more laps than both Haas and McLaren.
Bahrain Pre-Season Test - Lap count by emgine manufacturer
|Red Bull||691||3739 km|
As for the view by manufacturer, it's no surprise to see Mercedes remain on top with 1182 laps given that four teams use engines supplied by Brackley, with three equipped with power units made by Ferrari at Maranello. The legacy Honda engines used by Red Bull and AlphaTauri put in a total of 691 laps this week, while Renault's count of 299 is from Alpine alone.
So perhaps the only remaining set of numbers to look at is how the teams did in terms of distance over both of the pre-season tests. Mercedes and Ferrari are at the top, but by this measure Red Bull and AlphaTauri are also looking strong:
Barcelona and Bahrain Pre-Season Test - Total lap count
|Red Bull||3395 km|
|Aston Martin||3213 km|
|Alfa Romeo||2539 km|
Whether any of these statistics is close to predicting what will happen next week remains to be seen. It certainly looks good for Red Bull and Ferrari, while Mercedes fans will be hoping that their team is engaging in the usual practice of 'sandbagging' so popular at this time of year.
All will become clear in just a few days time. And then we'll have a whole new set of results and statistics to pour over and speculate what it means for the 2022 Formula 1 world championship as a whole!