The Formula 1 pre-season closed in Bahrain on Saturday night, and through the haze of testing uncertainty came one seemingly irrefutable fact: Red Bull Racing is the team to beat.

It’s notoriously difficult to deduce an accurate competitive order from pre-season testing times. It’s impossible to know for certain fuel levels and engine modes, and with lap times being set at different times of day, when the track is in different conditions, no two laps can be directly comparable.

But after six days of testing at two different tracks we can begin to sketch the basic outline of the field ahead of next weekend’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, and some undoubted winners and losers are starting to take shape.

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The first of the final three days of F1 testing is in the books, but all anyone wants to talk about is Mercedes.

The Silver Arrows unveiled a dramatically updated package in the Bahrain pit lane, impressing and stoking controversy in equal measure in what could be the sport’s first flashpoint of the year.

Further down the pitlane, Italy’s two teams performed strongly, with Pierre Gasly setting the day’s fastest time, while Valtteri Bottas’s new team, Alfa Romeo, finally got a clean day of running in the books after a difficult first test in Spain.

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When Kevin Magnussen bowed out of Formula 1 at the end of 2020, he seemed almost happy to be done with the sport.

The season had delivered him a career-worst result of a solitary point, though the paltry return wasn’t for a lack of trying. Haas was in steep decline and struggling to keep its head above water, and Magnussen and teammate Romain Grosjean extracted just one points finish each over 17 rounds.

In the end Haas dismissed both its drivers in favour of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin, two rookies who could inject funding into the team.

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Formula 1 closes its pre-season campaign this weekend, with three days of testing beginning Thursday (tonight) at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Just 30 hours of crucial track time remains before the first round of the season, and while some teams will be aiming to build on decent foundations laid during February testing, several others are already playing catch-up thanks to reliability problems.

Once the sun sets in Sakhir on Saturday night we’ll have a rough understanding of the competitive order, but with the first race taking place at this same venue, expect some teams to keep at least a card or two close to their chests for another week.

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Nikita Mazepin says he’s lost “trust” in his former Haas Formula 1 team after it sacked him without warning in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The axed star, who was replaced by former Haas driver Kevin Magnussen, also said he intends to set up a foundation to help Russian athletes banned from international competition due to the war.

Nikita and his father, Dmitry Mazepin, were subsequently specifically named and added to a European Union sanctions blacklist overnight owing to their close ties to Vladimir Putin.

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We sit down with oldmates Rod Gordon and Zach Priest from Superlicense to have a chat about the F1 hot topics of the moment only to discover most of the discussion was immediately out of date shortly after recording it.

To mark International Women’s Day, Sky Sports F1 presenter Natalie Pinkham and Krystina Emmanouilides, Australian CFD engineer for the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Orlen, join hosts Matt Clayton and Michael Lamonato to discuss how they got their starts in Formula 1, the importance of women supporting other women working in the sport, the responsibility of mentoring and providing role models for young women looking to pursue an F1 career and the impact of the increased female representation within the Formula 1 fanbase.

For a driver with 22 starts, no points and a highest finish of 14th to his name, Nikita Mazepin has attracted an extraordinary amount of attention in his single year in Formula 1.

And a single year is almost certainly all he’s likely to get after he was summarily sacked by Haas on Saturday.

Sanctions levied against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine forced the issue, and a growing number of national motorsport bodies, including Motorsport Australia, have moved to ban Russian licence-holders.

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MotoGP was at its unpredictable best in its first weekend back for 2022, with Enea Bastianini opening the season with an emotional maiden victory with the independent Gresini team.

The sophomore rider was a rare bright spot for Ducati on an unexpectedly difficult weekend for the Italian manufacturer — indeed expectations throughout the field bore little resemblance to the outcome of the race in Doha, with the form guide blown wide open.

Perhaps the sole exception was Fabio Quartararo, who would be taking no pleasure in discovering his dire pre-season predictions for Yamaha’s stinking form have proved true.

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The 2022 Supercars championship got off to a chaotic start in Sydney, where debilitating humidity and intermittent rain challenged drivers on their first weekend back in the cockpit.

So tricky were conditions that even reigning champion Shane van Gisbergen wasn’t immune, with a pair of high-profile Sunday offs derailing a hitherto imposing weekend.

These are the key talking points from a sometimes wet and almost always wild weekend in Sydney.

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Max Verstappen enjoyed a well-deserved break as the new world champion during the off-season, but there’s clearly been no such rest for his lawyers.

Before a wheel had been turned in anger in 2022, Red Bull Racing and its new world champion announced they’re extending terms until 2028.

Reports from the Netherlands place the value of the deal at around $A75 million per year — Lewis Hamilton-tier cash for a driver almost 13 years the Briton’s junior.

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Lewis Hamilton and new world champion Max Verstappen will resume hostilities in a new season of Formula 1 later this month, but the blows from their brutal 2021 showdown are still reverberating.

Last December motorsport fans were treated to the closest finish in Formula 1 history: Hamilton and Verstappen, tied on points, in a final-lap duel to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the world championship.

A late-braking lunge on fresh tyres catapulted Verstappen down Hamilton’s inside at turn five. Shod with older rubber courtesy of a late-race safety car, the Briton was powerless to fight back, and the Dutchman became the first driver to beat Hamilton to the crown in five years.

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MotoGP returns for 2022 with a record-breaking calendar, three world champions with points to prove and a field as wide open as ever.

Fabio Quartararo will attempt to defend his maiden championship, but the Frenchman has had barely a good word to say about Yamaha’s prospects after preseason testing. Meanwhile, Marc Marquez gets closer to full fitness with each passing day after two seasons of injury. And Joan Mir will be eager to prove his 2020 title was no COVID-influenced fluke.

There are two Aussies to keep an eye on too, with Jack Miller in desperate need of a strong, consistent showing to prevent a Ducati reshuffle among its mammoth eight-bike contingent, while Remy Gardner continues his year-long rivalry with nemesis turned teammate Raul Fernandez.

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Nikita Mazepin’s chances of clinging to his Formula 1 seat have received a boost after the FIA declined to ban Russians from international motorsport despite IOC recommendations.

Mazepin will be allowed to race under the FIA flag subject to “adherence to the FIA’s principles of peace and political neutrality”. The FIA also confirmed the Russian Grand Prix has been cancelled for 2022 for reasons of “force majeure”.

But the Haas driver’s future in the sport is far from certain. His position in the team dependent on the backing of Russian chemicals company Uralkali, in which his father, Dmitry, is a shareholder. Dimity Mazepin has ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin, whose invasion of Ukraine is now in its seventh day.

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The Supercars will fire up for 2022 at a floodlit Sydney Motorsport Park this weekend with just one crucial question in mind: can anyone catch Shane van Gisbergen?

The challenge of title defence will be as hard as ever in the final year of the Gen2 regulations. It’s a truism in motorsport that the longer the rules stay the same, the closer the field becomes, and the pandemic-induced delaying of Gen3 til 2023 has gifted Van Gisbergen’s would-be usurpers a final opportunity to hone their attacks to steal the crown.

But momentum counts for a lot in Supercars, and getting the campaign off to a strong start was key to Van Gisbergen’s title last year. Can he do it again this weekend in Sydney?

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It’s rare for there to be so much buzz around Formula 1 testing, but 2022 is no ordinary pre-season.

This year the cars are new — and we mean new new. The technical rules have been completely rewritten by a specially-assembled team of crack engineers not simply to look more exciting, but to improve the racing over what will be a record-breaking 23-round season.

To level the playing field spending is restricted to a base level of around $190 million per season — less than half the pre-pandemic spending of some of the biggest teams. The lowest-ranked teams in the championship are also allowed more time in the wind tunnel to try to equalise performance, similar to a football draft.

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Izabella Rekiel was excited to join Extreme E as its inaugural impact correspondent, but to take part this globe-trotting Australian DJ would have to change her life by spending the entire season aboard the St Helena. 

In telling the story of the ship, its crew and their voyage around the world Izy saw firsthand the devastation being wrought by climate change and human behaviour but was inspired by a new perspective​ on​ the natural world and the growing number of people determined to save it. 

James and Michael caught up with Izabella at the end of the 2021 season to hear about her year aboard the ship that makes Extreme E tick. Just don’t call it a boat.

As a teenager Christine GZ knew she loved motorsport. She had only one problem: she didn’t know what it was. But a chance meeting with an A92 Corolla in Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands set her on a cross-continental odyssey that would eventually lead her to Extreme E.

Along the way she taught herself to weld, became a mozzarella dealer, went to mechanic school, dabbled in tow truck ownership, sold everything she owned and jumped aeroplane wings in the Mojave Desert in an unlikely story of energy and perseverance.

GZ sat down with James and Michael at the 2021 Jurassic X Prix to recount her overwhelming journey to establish herself in international motorsport.