A intriguing two-and-a-half days of pre-season testing in Sakhir revealed little ahead of the season opener at the same venue, meaning there are plenty of unanswered questions going into Round 1.
And while we’re unable to predict who might fight for the Championship, we can tell you when to watch and what to look out for…
WHAT TO EXPECT
2022 will mark the sixth season of Formula 2, which returns with its biggest calendar to date, featuring 13 rounds and 26 races.
Only four drivers from 22 will start the new season in the same seats they began with in 2021, with a total of 10 rookies. But it was the familiar name of Liam Lawson who led the way in testing, setting the fastest time by nearly half a second.
The New Zealander has switched from Hitech Grand Prix to Carlin for his second season of F2 and will be hoping to fight for the title. He made the top five in all but one of the sessions, finishing first on the morning of Day 1, as well as overall on Day 2.
Although he wasn’t a regular at the front in pre-season testing, ART Grand Prix’s Théo Pourchaire enters the season as a hot favourite for the title, as the highest placed returnee on the grid.
All eyes will likely be on how 2021 F3 champion Dennis Hauger steps up with PREMA, but the rookie that shone brightest in testing was Lawson’s new Carlin teammate, Logan Sargeant. The American Williams junior clocked in the quickest time of any rookie with a 1:41.133 on Day 2 and was the only driver in the field to finish all five sessions inside the top 10.
FROM THE GRID – LIAM LAWSON (CARLIN)
“I'm feeling good about coming back to Bahrain, I like this circuit a lot. It's a track where we as a Championship do a lot of testing so everybody is always in a pretty good position with driving and car set-up for the races. I'm looking forward to driving here again. Last year we had a very good start to the season here. This year I'd like to have that same kind of start but keep it consistent throughout the year as well.
“In terms of the track itself, I like driving it and, in the past, I've had some pretty good results here. I think the most unique thing about this place is the tyre degradation and how abrasive the surface is. It's very, very aggressive, but it's also very hot so tyre wear is probably the highest on the whole calendar and it's always pretty exciting during the races. In terms of the actual layout, it's just a fun track, it's got a mix of high speed and low-speed sections with the big main straight so it's just a nice circuit to drive.
“Turn 1 is the biggest overtaking opportunity, it's a big straight into a hairpin, but there are a few others too. There's Turn 4, which is an opportunity after the DRS Zone, there’s also an opportunity at Turn 8 on the inside there. There are plenty of opportunities to overtake.
“It was a reverse grid race that I won in Bahrain last year, so ideally, we want to be qualifying higher and doing it in the Feature Race. That's definitely the target for the opening weekend.”
LAST TIME OUT – PRE-SEASON TESTING
After clinching the title in his rookie season with six wins, five poles and 11 podiums, 2021 champion Oscar Piastri will be a tough act to follow. Although it revealed very little, pre-season testing did at least give us a glimpse of who might have the most pace.
After two years with Carlin, Jehan Daruvala will race in PREMA colours for the first time since contending for the F3 title with the team in 2019. The Indian was one of only three drivers to come within half a second of Lawson’s quickest overall time, setting a 1:42.074 to top the charts on Day 1, ahead of Calan Williams.
Liam Lawson contended for the F3 title with Piastri in 2020 and finished eighth in his rookie year of F2. The New Zealander was the only driver to break the 1m 42s barrier in Bahrain, beating Campos Racing’s Ralph Boschung and ART Grand Prix’s Théo Pourchaire on Day 2, who set identical laptimes.
With a sandstorm cancelling the afternoon session on Day 3, third-year Felipe Drugovich topped the final timesheet of testing. The Brazilian driver, who returns to MP Motorsport after a year with Virtuosi, notched 1:44.911 finished ahead of his new teammate Clément Novalak.
For the opening round of the season, F2 will use hard and soft Pirelli compounds.
Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport Director
“Bahrain will be an important weekend for Pirelli with the debut of our 18-inch tyres in Formula 1: A change that was already made with success in Formula 2 two years ago. Since then we’ve watched drivers such as Mick Schumacher, Yuki Tsunoda and Guanyu Zhou gain valuable experience with the larger size, and we look forward to seeing which talented young drivers will excel in F2 this season.
"For Bahrain we have nominated the P Zero White hard and P Zero Red soft tyres. This is the same selection as last year, except that the hard compound has been modified for 2022. In addition to providing better resistance, this new compound increases the performance gap to the medium, with the aim to create more exciting strategic options during races.
"In fact, during the pre-season tests, we’ve noticed a huge gap between the new hard and the soft, and this could lead to unexpected race strategies. As always in Bahrain, the difference in track temperature between the day and night provides an extra challenge, although the teams and drivers gained some experience of this during the recent pre-season tests.”