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Why F1's 2022 cars could look very different at the Bahrain test

Formula 1's first test of 2022 is now complete as teams prepare to leave Barcelona and head home, but the cars could look very different when they next emerge from the garages in Bahrain.

McLaren Technical Director James Key is expecting to see plenty of teams arrive in Bahrain with upgrades for next month's official F1 pre-season test, changing both how the cars look and the order in which they place on the timesheets. Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo enjoyed a positive first test at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, where they regularly found themselves towards the top of the timing tower with what appears to be a reliable MCL36. Norris joked on Wednesday evening that he feared his rapid lap times will leave fans expecting to see McLaren battle for the championship during the 2022 season, as he moved to cool expectations. George Russell did not help Norris' cause on Thursday , when he pointed to McLaren and Ferrari as the two teams currently ahead of his Mercedes in terms of performance.

McLaren expect development rates to be "very high"

But Key says little can be learned from lap times so soon, as he predicted plenty of visible changes to cars across the grid when the sport returns to action at the next test in Bahrain from 10-12 March. "I think there's a whole plethora of different types of tests going on," Key explained, speaking to selected members of the media in Barcelona that included RacingNews365.com . "These are launch spec cars and the development rates are still going to be very high at this time of year. "I have no doubt that we're going to see developments coming along anyway for the next test and the next race. "I think the important thing for us is that it's been a productive test. We've got through a lot of test items, programmes, measurements and various other things you need to do with something so fresh and new to us."

McLaren's plan ahead of F1's Bahrain test

In typical Mercedes fashion, Russell's high praise of McLaren and Ferrari was followed by the Briton beating them both to the fastest time of the test, before his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, lowered the benchmark even further . But it wasn't about lap times for Key, who was happy to have seen McLaren achieve all they aimed to do in Barcelona. "It's nice to hear [the comments] from Mercedes of all people, obviously, but I honestly think we can't read anything into what we're seeing at the moment," said Key. "The pecking order, I think, is extremely difficult to establish right now and, to be honest, we haven't really been looking at that. I think everyone should be focused on themselves and that's certainly as a team what we're doing. "We'll find out [who's quickest] in qualifying in Bahrain; that's when we'll really know."

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