Hello McLaren fans. With testing complete, we’re ready to go for the first race of 2022. Has it really been three months since the end of the 2021 season? That hardly seems credible. While there may have been a (short) off-season for the garage crew, the winter months have very definitely been the on-season at the McLaren Technology Centre, with production of the MCL36 going absolutely flat-out to have the new – in every conceivable sense of the word – car ready for its racing debut this weekend at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
To set the scene, we’ve got thoughts on the season ahead from McLaren F1 drivers Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, as well as those of Team Principal Andreas Seidl. Not only that, we’ll give you the lowdown on what to expect this weekend and, to get you in the mood, some suggestions of what to wear... courtesy of the McLaren Store.
|Where||Bahrain International Circuit|
|When||18 - 20 March|
|Follow||TEAMStream and the McLaren App for LIVE commentary and team radio|
What they say
“I can’t wait to jump back into the MCL36 and go racing. We’re coming off a tricky test in Bahrain, but I’m feeling positive for the season ahead. The team has been working incredibly hard to address the issues we had at testing and make sure we’re ready to battle it out on track this weekend.
“I’m really looking forward to the close racing and exciting battles that the new regulations will bring. I’m not sure what the order will be but it’s going to be a close fight heading into the first qualifying session of the year and across the entire season. I can’t wait for the challenge ahead.
“I’m excited and prepared to be entering my fourth season in Formula 1 with the team. I’m looking forward to building on the progress we’ve made together over the years and I’m ready to hit the ground running. The tests in Barcelona and Bahrain have taught us a lot about the car but there’s still more for us to understand and work on. I want to thank every person in the team for their hard work and dedication in building the MCL36 so we can go racing this season. Hopefully we can have a strong start to the year.”
“I’m glad to be back, feeling better and ready for the Bahrain Grand Prix and season ahead. I was disappointed to not be in the car last week but despite being unwell, I’ve been able to keep in touch with the team, chat to Lando about the car and prepare as best as I can for the race weekend. I want to maximise the Free Practice sessions to better understand the car and fine tune everything ready for qualifying and lights out on Sunday. It’s hard to know where we’ll be on the grid but it's going to be competitive and I’m hungry to get back in the car and go racing.
“Heading into my second year with team, I feel more confident and comfortable than ever. I’m determined to build on last year’s performance and use everything the team and I learned from the highs and lows to make this season one of our best. A new iteration of cars is something I’m no stranger to and comes with a lot of excitement. I’m looking forward to the battles out on track with these new cars, particularly at Bahrain with its overtaking opportunities. Let's get some great results for the team!”
“After a busy winter, we’re kicking off another exciting season of Formula 1 and the team is ready to go racing under the new regulations. Our aim is to continue to build on our progress from 2021, further closing the gap to the top and bringing the fight to our competitors.
“The entire team and our colleagues at Mercedes HPP have worked incredibly hard to build a car under new regulations and delivered a good platform to start the season. We continue to understand the car after a mixed pre-season test and the team are working hard to address the issue we encountered, in preparation for the first race.
“Daniel’s season preparations were compromised by him being unable to drive during the test in Bahrain, however he got some good laps in at the Barcelona test. Daniel is fully recovered, and we look forward to having him back in the car this weekend.
“Thank you to every single member of the team for their dedication this winter to prepare us to go racing alongside Lando and Daniel. I also want to thank our incredible McLaren partners and fans for their continued support. The competition around us will be incredibly tight; it’s hard to predict the pecking order at this stage but we are excited for very close racing, fierce on-track battles and a thrilling season ahead.”
What the stats say
McLaren holds the record at the Bahrain International Circuit, with a lap of 1:31.447, courtesy of Pedro de la Rosa in 2005 (not the most antique record on the current calendar, but certainly getting up there). The minutiae of F1 track records is a fickle beast. Pedro’s time was over a second slower than that set by Michael Schumacher the previous year – but realigning the kerb at Turn Four (everyone’s favourite ‘track limits’ corner) automatically rewound the stopwatch.
In McLaren colours, the Bahrain International Circuit was also the venue for Jenson Button’s 250th Grand Prix in 2014, Stoffel Vandoorne’s F1 debut in 2016 and the first track at which a young lad called Lewis Hamilton started a grand prix on the front row, all the way back in 2007.
In terms of results, it’s been a bit of a mixed bag. Across 17 attempts since the race made its debut in 2004 (no race in 2011) this is a grand prix we’ve never won and never started from pole. Our best result is P2 for Lewis in 2007 though perhaps our best race is Kimi Räikkönen’s charge from 22nd to third in 2005 after an engine blow-up required him to start at the back. Also, Lando would like us to point out he was unstoppable, irrepressible and generally triumphant on this circuit in the Formula 2 feature race back in 2018.
While we’ve only raced at the one venue in the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Bahrain International Circuit has proved endlessly adaptable, providing three different track layouts over the years. The majority of races have been held on the 5.412km Grand Prix Circuit we’ll be using this weekend. 2010’s Bahrain Grand Prix went large, running on the 6.299km ‘Endurance’ layout, which veers left after Turn Four, and adds nine extra corners before Turn Five. We also had the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix on the ultra-quick Outer Circuit which, to put it crudely, skips the fiddly bit in the middle and zips from Turn Four to Turn 13 like an arrow (albeit not a particularly straight one)
|Free Practice 1||15:00 local / 12:00 GMT / 08:00 EDT|
|Free Practice 2||18:00 local / 15:00 GMT / 11:00 EDT|
|Free Practice 3||15:00 local / 12:00 GMT / 08:00 EDT|
|Qualifying||18:00 local / 15:00 GMT / 11:00 EDT|
|Race||18:00 local / 15:00 GMT / 11:00 EDT|
What to watch out for
This year’s Bahrain Grand Prix is the most intriguing race in… ever? No-one really knows what to watch out for with an all-new aerodynamic package and all new tyres. A big regulation reset always brings with it a change in the pecking order – and this has been a very big reset, so who’s quick and who’s in trouble is something that we really won’t find out until qualifying concludes on Saturday evening – and perhaps not even then.
The race has had drama by the bucketload in recent years, with plenty of scope for strategy. It’s one of the few venues where the abrasive tarmac and the nature of the layout have combined to make a two-stop race – usually biased in favour of the harder compound tyres – the preferred option. It’s been a terror for the rear rubber, especially when the wind is blowing – and it can really blow here – making the car snap and slide around. That tends to spike the temperatures in the rears, which in turns limits the amount of grip a car has until they cool down.
Interest this weekend is likely to be on how good these cars are at following closely and overtaking. While the evidence of the last few years would suggest this is a circuit where overtaking is feasible, the statistics don’t really support that point of view. In 17 Bahrain Grands Prix, the winner has never started from beyond the first two rows, and only seven times has a driver finishing on the podium starting outside the top six. If these new cars are much better at following than their predecessors, then we might see the action more evenly distributed around the circuit. Traditionally, overtaking has been restricted to the braking zone at the end of the long main straight, leavened with the occasional long-range yahoo into Turn Four. It’ll be a sign of things to come this year if anyone’s throwing shapes at the end of the lap into Turn 14.
What to wear
Well, obviously you look great in anything… but if you were thinking of starting the season with a race day wardrobe refresh, may we suggest sir or madam take a browse in the McLaren Store? This season’s all-new collection has something for everyone. There’s our new 9Forty papaya Team Cap, a lovely lightweight hoodie in our papaya and black 2022 scheme for adults, and a seriously playful blue one for junior drivers. In keeping with the minimalist, stripped back aesthetic for 2022’s cars, we also have our minimalist range of core essentials, including this comfortable women’s tee.
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