Pre-season testing for the 2022 Formula 1 season starts today, as all ten teams take to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya to properly run their newest creations for the first time.
However, the test dubbed as a ‘Pre-season Track Session’ will not have live coverage but will be conducted behind closed doors, with F1 fans having to wait until the “official” pre-season test in Bahrain between March 10 and 12 to see their favourite drivers wrestling their newest-generation F1 cars on a race track, with proper running unlike the glimpses provided from the team’s filming days.
And that actually is a disappointment…
Now the reason behind not covering the first test is simply because it is not classified as an official pre-season test. In 2021 the testing days were limited to three over one session that was covered live with live timing, but with the new rules and new cars, the teams were given an extra three-day private test at Barcelona to help the teams get to grips with their new F1 machinery.
But at the end of the day, the cars will be running, and we won’t be watching, so has F1 missed a trick here?
The low-key F1 Testing is a missed opportunity for valuable exposure
I previously mentioned that F1 should keep the fans – especially the newly attracted ones courtesy of last year’s thrilling season – engaged with the sport over the winter break, as it is not healthy for such a global sport to go under the radar for a long time.
But then comes the first chance of giving the fans a taste of the 2022 F1, the Barcelona test, and surprise surprise, it is not broadcasted live, and for me that is a missed opportunity for all parties involved, teams, fans, and of course F1.
First of all, more air time for F1 is always beneficial, especially that these days, many people around the world are working out of their homes ever since the Covid-19 pandemic graced our planet, and most of them if not all will be having their TV’s on as they follow the news in sports, politics, economics, and other areas.
They are watching the Olympics in Beijing, so they might as well watch F1 testing, and slowly get up to speed with the new cars, the new regulations ahead of the season launch.
The teams are set to benefit as well from a broadcasted testing session with most of them, if not all, announcing new partnerships, and sponsors over the course of the winter break, and you would imagine that all ten F1 teams will be eager to showcase their new sponsors/partners at the earliest opportunity. Again, this is not the case.
A missed opportunity to move on from the baggage of 2021
Now the next reason as to why the first pre-season track session should have been open to the public is, for me, the most important, because it would have been the first real chance for the sport to “heal” and move on after what happened after the conclusion of the 2021 F1 season.
After the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and the manner in which the race ended with a mismanaged safety car period following Nicholas Latifi’s crash, the F1 community went into a frenzy of hate, conspiracy theories, and extreme polarization of fans between Lewis Hamilton’s who deserved a more dignified defeat, and Max Verstappen’s, the deserving 2021 F1 Champion.
With the FIA deciding to remove Michael Masi from his Race Director role offering some sort of closure, one would have thought that the time was right to turn the page and move on, but the virtual bickering between the fans and keyboard warriors would not go away.
Not even the 2022 car launch season was able to silence the obnoxious commotion around what was simply a sport officiating mistake that was dealt with and sanctioned, and pre-season testing was the perfect chance to move on for real, put everything behind, gather around our beloved sport and start the actual healing process, because we really need to heal after the scarring experience the sport and its fans endured.
Nothing would have been better than watching the new – good looking by the way – cars running in anger at Barcelona, watching the teams working, and the drivers getting used to their radically different rides to try to understand how they handle, to really take our minds off last season’s controversy, and set our focus on the season ahead.
But we have been denied that opportunity, which is a pity…