With pre-season testing now over, we asked some members of our Divebomb team to give us their predictions for the upcoming 2022 Formula One season. Read on to find out what our head of editorial, Morgan Holiday, thinks will happen this year as the next part of our newest series! Also, be sure to check back over the next few days to hear from more of our team regarding their season predictions.
Written by Morgan Holiday, Edited by Umut Yelbaşı
Although the 2022 regulations are set to bring the teams closer than ever in performance, it’s not likely we’ll see a driver’s championship fight as close as last year’s. Still, there’s a greater chance that even more drivers will be in the fight for the title, as teams like Ferrari or McLaren, or really anyone, will be hoping to make the leap that puts their drivers in contention. As much as everyone would love to see that, the most likely outcome is that the fight will still be mostly between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, with maybe Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz lingering on the outskirts of the top places. Mercedes and Red Bull will use their expertise to put their teams at the top of the pack again, and with both teams having clear number two drivers, neither George Russell nor Sergio Pérez will be allowed to fully challenge for the title.
Who will take it in the end? I’ll play it safe and predict Lewis Hamilton to take his eighth title in 2022. We have all seen how hard he can fight, especially after a loss like the one he suffered in 2021 when Verstappen broke his title-winning streak. It’s the most likely outcome that he will be performing at another level for the whole 2022 season, and reclaim what he believes is rightfully his.
I’ll get right to the point with this one, and say that I firmly believe that having a clear number two driver hinders teams rather than helps them. Ferrari’s ethic of allowing their drivers to fight for position on equal terms paid off for them big time in 2021, and may have also played a huge part in their performance leap from their 2020 season. When teams like Red Bull and Mercedes give one of their drivers precedence over the other, the other driver falls behind almost by default, and has less of an incentive to perform well. This problem has plagued Red Bull specifically for years, with Daniel Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly, and Alex Albon all falling victim to the second driver mentality.
I believe that this mentality will hinder Mercedes and Red Bull in their fight for the Driver’s Championship, and that Ferrari will be the ones to swoop in and claim their first Constructors’ title since 2008. With a strong lineup (the strongest of any team, in my opinion) of Leclerc and Sainz, who have been allowed to fight with each other every single race for the number one position, they’ll likely be more consistent with both drivers higher up in the points more than any other team. This ethic, along with their new car, will be what earns them their title.
Given that the Haas F1 team finished dead last with no points in 2021, almost anything they will do in 2022 will be an improvement. Still, given all their recent problems, it might still be controversial for me to predict Haas to be the most improved in 2022. Losing a title sponsor and a driver just a week before pre-season testing may be indicative of struggles to come, but I prefer to see these changes as a new beginning for Haas. Surely just the return of Kevin Magnussen will bring the team more hope, with an experienced driver who knows the team having better opportunities to score points. But on top of that, Haas mainly wrote off 2021 and focused most of their time developing the 2022 car, and I believe that will show in 2022 as the team begins to fight in the midfield once again.
Another shout for most improved is AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda. His debut season in Formula 1 was full of highs (scoring points on debut, finishing fourth in Abu Dhabi) and lows (crashing out of Q1 in France, spinning out of a points finish in Turkey). Despite having decent pace for most of the season, his frequent mistakes and emotional outbursts lead many to write him off. But there was a glimpse of better things to come for Tsunoda with his P4 at the season closer in Abu Dhabi, and I believe that performance to be indicative of the step up he has taken since the beginning of his rookie season.
To say it again, the hope is that the 2022 regulations will bring performance gaps to a minimum, which will hopefully mean that a number of teams and drivers can fight for podiums and wins who previously were not able to. So it’s highly likely we’ll see at least one new race winner this season, some of them easier to predict, like Lando Norris or Carlos Sainz. But if I had to predict a race winner that would truly shock the Formula 1 audience, my bet would be with Williams’ Alex Albon.
My rationale is relatively simple. Remember Pierre Gasly? Gasly struggled at Red Bull next to Verstappen and was ultimately dropped by the team. Back in a smaller team, he now had more confidence and less pressure, which allowed him to be in a place to capitalize on the mistakes of other drivers. He won in Monza in 2020, barely a year after getting demoted by Red Bull. Now, Albon is in a similar position. He, too, failed to live up to Ricciardo’s second driver standards and was replaced at Red Bull after pretty much falling apart in 2020. After a year off, he now returns to the grid with Williams, a team very much on the rise.
I think the Gasly effect will also be present with Albon, and that he’ll have a lot of impressive performances in a car that will be taking steps to fight in the midfield, and thus be in place to take a shock win when chaos breaks loose.
Struggle of the year
As I’ve just predicted Albon to be very much on top of his game in 2022, it’s only fair I award my struggle of the year prediction to his teammate, Nicholas Latifi. After making good strides to fight against (and finally outqualify!) George Russell over the past two seasons, Latifi will now be hard pressed to perform against a new teammate. Along with that, Williams (hopefully) making improvements to their car and developments throughout 2022 will allow their drivers to fight for points more regularly. The pressure hasn’t been on Latifi much since his Formula 1 debut in 2020, at a team that was unable to score points most of the time and against one of the most highly rated talents currently in motorsport.
But now he’ll have a more realistic standard of comparison in Albon, and in his third year he’ll be forced to outperform his teammate (who has been out of Formula 1 for a year) or suffer the consequences. In order to be taken seriously he must at least be on par with Albon pace wise, and I just don’t see that happening.
All the buzz around pre-season testing has proved that 2022 is set to be one of the most exciting seasons Formula 1 has seen in a long time, especially with how different all of the cars look. Really, anyone’s guess is as good as mine as to just what will happen. Only one thing’s for sure, we’re all looking forward to seeing what will really happen when the lights finally go out in Bahrain in a couple of weekends!
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