Once upon a time, a three-month winter break for Formula 1 was not uncommon – it was the rule.
The season would typically end on the final weekend in November, with teams and drivers re-emerging from their winter hibernation in the middle of February for pre-season testing before the action got underway.
But as the calendar has snuck into December over recent years, a championship finishing in the middle of November – as was the case in 2022 – seemed unusual. However, thanks to the unique circumstances of a winter FIFA World Cup taking place, the change needed to be made.
Now the winter break is nearly over, with cars set to hit the track on Thursday for the first of three days of pre-season testing in Bahrain.
But why is F1 pre-season testing in Bahrain and not its traditional location of Barcelona?
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F1 pre-season testing in Bahrain
2023 is not the first time that pre-season testing has been held exclusively in Bahrain.
Back in 2021, with cars largely being a carry-over from 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a single three-day test was run at the Sakhir circuit.
In 2022, a shakedown, private test was held in Barcelona before everything was transported to Bahrain for a second test before the season-opener.
This time however, there is no stop in Spain for testing, although Alfa Romeo did conduct a shakedown of the C43 at Barcelona.
Why testing is in Bahrain
There are two major reasons why F1 pre-season testing is taking place in Bahrain and not Spain as has usually been the case.
Firstly, the venue allows the teams access to consistent, representative weather conditions.
The climate in Bahrain is largely hot and dry, with the teams knowing this is unlikely to change.
By contrast, in Barcelona and the European winter, the weather can be unpredictable with cold air temperatures, rain, fog and even snow which hit the Spanish venue in 2018.
That unpredictability doesn't make for the consistent data-logging the teams are craving at this time of year.
The second reason why F1 pre-season testing is in Bahrain is due to the logistics and costs involved, given the circuit is to host the season-opener on 5 March.
In switching testing to the 3.3-mile circuit, costs and environmental concerns are able to be controlled, with all the equipment needed not being moved around and instead remaining in Bahrain for the first race, which it will hold for the fifth time after 2006, 2010, 2021 and 2022.
Ahead of the 2023 F1 season, RacingNews365.com journalists Dieter Rencken and Michael Butterworth look back on a winter break laden with intrigue and controversy.