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Exclusive: Trackside observations from pre-season testing so far

Formula 1's new era is upon us, but which cars are looking competitive and which teams have work to do? RacingNews365.com photographer Michael Potts gives his initial observations from the first week of testing.

Formula 1's all-new cars hit the track together for the first time last week, as pre-season testing got underway at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. But which teams appear to have adapted best to the overhauled technical regulations? RacingNews365.com photographer Michael Potts is on hand to give his observations after the first three days of action, having captured the action trackside. Below, he splits the field into three core groups - the back of the grid, the midfield group and the front-runners - and predicts which teams will fall into each category for the start of the 2022 campaign.

Back of the grid

Alfa Romeo C42

"The Alfa Romeo appeared to be the slowest of the cars in Barcelona. It wasn't as shapely as some of the others; it had a bigger nose, a bigger coke bottle section and wasn't as well-formed. It wobbled a little bit on track and looked slow in the slower corners. I don't remember seeing any of the three drivers pushing it; it didn't look like they were attacking the corners and you could see that in the lap times. They were hit so many problems that their run cycle probably didn't allow them to get onto any faster laps. It just didn't seem to be on the track enough compared to the other teams. I think they're going to struggle this year."

Haas VF-22

"Obviously Haas have got more problems to deal with than their on-track performance. But the car didn't look terrible on the days that it ran. It's got an interesting front wing, which is quite low down and straight compared to some of the other cars. It seemed pretty well planted overall. Unfortunately for them, they're going to have so much politics to deal with that I don't think they'll be able to overcome any of the issues that they would have picked up at the first test in time. When I left the track on the final day I saw the mechanics doing stretches and exercises outside the garage, so I think they're doing a lot to keep morale up. They're probably looking at challenging for Q2; I think that would be a good result for them."

The midfield group

Alpine A522

"Alpine are one of the teams to have changed their engine design for 2022. They sounded good on track, so the new engine made it a bit louder. Across the board, every car sounded louder than I remember it last year. The actual shape of the car is pretty good as well; I quite like the nose. I'm not a fan of the mixed livery, though. Last year's livery was really good, and the all-pink livery they'll be running for the first two races is pretty good, but this half-and-half approach is unfortunate. They also didn't do as much running as they would've liked. There's probably good potential in that car, but I think they're going to have reliability issues."

Aston Martin AMR22

"Aston Martin have got a very aggressive undercut on their sidepods, but this extends at the back of the car. As per the Alfa Romeo, it makes the car appear less shapely than some of the others on the grid; it looks quite big and clunky. But the new livery design is great; the lighter green is stunning and going to lime highlights instead of pink is fabulous. They didn't get a huge amount of running in either; I don't remember them being on track as much as some other teams. But the car looked good on the whole."

AlphaTauri AT03

"AlphaTauri had a good week. They're probably one of the teams that could cause some upsets. I think Yuki Tsunoda will be a lot better this year compared to 2021. The livery design is really good; it actually looks a lot whiter than the renderings, especially from the front. It's got quite a big nose and aggressive undercuts on the sidepods, similar to the Red Bull – potentially a little bit of carry-over there. I think they're going to be punching higher than normal."

Williams FW44

"I think Williams are going to be the surprise package of 2022. The car looked very good on track - especially in the corners - and the livery is fabulous. They did a lot of running and they ran all the way to the end of the test, which is a really good sign in terms of reliability. Nicholas Latifi did a lot of flow-vis testing, where they basically covered the whole car with green paint at one stage. I think they're going to be in Q3 and scoring points fairly regularly. The car's shape is quite different; if you think of those old 'American Gangster' cars from the 1930s with the big hub caps, it's got that feeling about it. While most teams are pushing the air around the side of their cars, Williams are kind of bringing it over the sidepods. It's quite a different concept, so we'll see how that works."

The front-runners

McLaren MCL36

"McLaren's Gulf-inspired livery is a little frustrating. It's so close to being something amazing and it just falls short. But they had a really good test. The car had what looked to be one of the tightest coke bottle shapes, along with quite a narrow nose. They also appeared to be running the lowest ride height; they sparked more than anyone else, and in unusual places – corners where I've never seen sparks before. Last year, cars were giving off really big, impressive sparks, but these were more like sparklers. Maybe with the lower ride height, they're keeping the downforce in a bit better to avoid the porpoising effects."

Ferrari F1-75

"The Ferrari looked absolutely stunning out on track. It looks like a car that should win a title. It's got that 1990s vibe and feels like a Ferrari with more heritage than in recent years. The shape is really nice; it's got a beautiful nose, it's very well-balanced and very well-proportioned. I think they struggled with porpoising - one of the teams that suffered from it the most - but when I saw it running it looked like it was well-planted and in a very good space."

Red Bull RB18

"The Red Bull has a bit of a feeder series feel to it; like they put their livery on a Formula 2 car. Of course, they've got those very aggressive sidepods! It was lovely to see the number one on the car; I'm really happy that Max Verstappen has chosen to run it. They looked fast; they didn't top any days but they seemed to be there or thereabouts. They did a lot of running and each time I saw the car it looked well-planted down the straights. On the main straight, some cars - Carlos Sainz did this a bit in the Ferrari - moved off the racing line to avoid the bumps, so that the porpoising wasn't exaggerated, but the Red Bull didn't seem to be doing that."

Mercedes W13

"Mercedes have gone back to silver with their livery; it would have been nice if they'd gone for the shiny, McLaren-style silver of previous years, but that's more my hopes and dreams! They've got an interesting element on the floor, some variations of little winglets and ripples, which I didn't see on any other cars. The last car on track on the last day was Lewis Hamilton; I think he wanted to make a statement of intent. But the car looked really, really strong during the test. Mercedes, McLaren and Red Bull, on the last day, were the teams that seemed to be pushing the boundaries of the track a bit more."

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