Written by Umut Yelbaşı, Edited by Morgan Holiday
As the second Pre-Season test in Bahrain nears it's end, 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 design, Umut Yelbaşı, thinks will happen this year as the next part of our newest series! Be sure to check back over the next few days to hear from more of our team regarding their season predictions.
I’ve been looking forward to the regulation change. As I only got into Formula 1 in late 2019, I’ve only seen the last couple of years of the Mercedes dominance, so it would be a bit unfair for me to go “Oh I hate the Mercedes dominance, it’s so boring”. However, I was still aware of the insane monster of a team that the German outfit had created over the turbo-hybrid era. I’m excited for that to (maybe) come to an end and for the grid to come closer. Do I think there will be a huge change in the order of the teams? I honestly don’t. But I expect to see some surprises and maybe a few teams that go up or down a couple places. Here are my predictions. (A quick note: Just assume there’s an “I think” before all the statements as I don’t want to write it over and over again. This is an opinion piece after all!)
The constructors’ championship battle will be between Red Bull, Mercedes, and Ferrari. I think Red Bull will fall behind at some point, leaving us with a Mercedes vs Ferrari duel. The Tifosi in me wants to say Ferrari will come out on top and win the championship, but I just can’t count Mercedes out. The Mercedes chassis we saw in Barcelona reminded me a lot of the W11 and W12, in that it didn’t look like it had changed too much compared to the other teams’ cars. Given that both the W11 and W12 won the constructors’ title, I think Mercedes have a huge shot at it once again. The W13 looks like Mercedes tried to keep their winning formula as much as possible, while also following the new regulations. Their nose and rear wing are all new of course, and we’re hearing rumours of a sidepodless design (I’m writing this on Wednesday, the 9th of March, so we still haven’t seen their updated car on track) which, as ridiculous as it sounds, feels like something that Mercedes wouldn’t go for if they weren’t sure it was going to make a huge, positive difference.
As to the reason why Red Bull will fall back, I think they will have issues with their power unit reliability. It’s not a complete change and Honda will still, in some way or another, be involved, but they will have some trouble adjusting. So, that’s Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull as my predicted top three.
Lewis Hamilton will be absolutely unfazed by the last season and he will be at his best. So will Max Verstappen. I’m certain both of them will be in the battle for the championship, out of which Lewis will come out victorious, breaking yet another record. There isn’t much else to say about the two, as I think they are the two best drivers on the grid and no one else will be close.
George Russell will do great things, he will win one or two races, but he won’t beat Lewis. Not yet at least - I still think he’s going to be a star one day. He will, however, be a lot closer to Lewis in races than Valtteri was. I can’t remember any defensive drive worth mentioning so I can’t really say how much of a difference he will make compared to Valtteri’s non-existent defending, but I’m almost certain that his race pace will come in handy for the Mercedes strategists. Pérez will be a huge asset for Red Bull when it comes to race pace but his qualifying will hinder their strategies. George is an amazing qualifier, and Checo will have to be at the top of his game every single Saturday so that they don’t lose too much time trying to recover places.
At Ferrari, I think Carlos & Charles will have another extremely close battle throughout the season, out of which Charles will come victorious. Last season we saw an extremely consistent Carlos and a fast but prone-to-mistakes Charles, which led to Carlos beating Charles in the standings. I think this season we’ll see less mistakes from Charles and he will beat Carlos - not by a huge margin though. If they are in the championship battle, I think Charles has a slightly better chance of getting it. Ferrari’s engine will be a beast and will win them at least one championship over the next few years until the end of the engine freeze, but I don’t see it happening just yet.
I feel like McLaren will have a disappointing season. I don’t have a logical explanation for this, and I know that sounds bad and amateurish, but I just don’t see them finishing higher than the third place they got in 2020, which was clearly only possible because Ferrari wasn’t in the mix. They had a disappointing second half of the season in 2021, and I think that will continue. Daniel Ricciardo will definitely improve and I even think he might beat Lando Norris, but as a team I don’t think they have the foundation for anything higher than P4 in the championship. It’s been said that they were one of the teams that found a good solution to the porpoising problem. If that’s true, that might propel them forwards and with that momentum they could potentially fight for P3, but I think that’s the absolute highest they can get.
I’m biassed towards Aston Martin because I love Seb and the Aston Martin brand itself, so I’ll try to be as objective as possible. Obviously they will win the champ–
Let’s try that again. I try not to look at testing times, but the fact that Seb was consistently around P4-P5 gives me hope that Aston Martin has built a decent car. I think both Seb and Lance will bring the team closer to P5 or even P4 in the Constructors’ championship. As much as F1 fans loved joking around with his name, I think Mike Krack is a solid choice for the Team Principal position, and has a clear goal and determination that will bring the team forward. His success with BMW is a testament to what he can do, and I think (and hope) that he can bring that success to Aston Martin with him. Lance and Seb will work together well if Lance stops shoving Seb into walls (I’m just kidding Lance fans, I rate him highly) and I think Aston Martin will be one of the teams where the driver performances will play a huge role in determining where the team finishes the season. I also think they will get more podiums than they did last year, especially if they found a suitable candidate on LinkedIn for their strategy department.
I’ve always taken Renault/Alpine as a direct comparison to Racing Point/Aston Martin, but I think that ship has already sailed this season. I haven’t heard a single positive thing about Alpine so far, and their engine troubles don’t look good either. Fernando is an amazing driver, but I don’t think even he can make much of a difference if the car isn’t good enough. I think Fernando and Esteban will have a fight with Williams and Alpha Tauri ahead of them for P6.
For me, it’s impossible to judge where Alpha Tauri will be because they keep surprising me. I don’t think they’ll be bad, but I don’t think they’ll be ahead of Aston Martin. They might finish ahead of Alpine, which I think has a really high chance of happening if Red Bull has a decent engine, but I doubt they’ll finish lower than P7. I think Yuki will bounce back from a season with highs and lows, and Pierre will perform at a high level again. Where they finish will depend completely on how good the car is - I’m sure both drivers will push whatever machinery they have to the limit.
Haas, who is going through chaos right now, just announced that Kevin Magnussen is back, which, considering Kevin said he wouldn’t come back to race at the back of the field, might be a good indication that they might be one of the most improved teams. They had the most amount of time in the wind tunnel and their aero parts look decent on the car, so if they can manage to find a working cargo plane I think they’ll be very close to Williams, maybe even ahead. I definitely think they’ll be ahead of Alfa Romeo.
Williams will be well clear of Haas and Alfa Romeo. Their car looks great, they were quick in testing, and they have a pretty decent driver lineup in Albon and Latifi. Since 2019 they’ve been on an upwards trajectory and I don’t see them losing that any time soon.
Ah yes, Alfa Romeo. I want to love this team, I really do, but their performance over the last year was hilarious. Their pit stops were bad, their strategy calls didn’t make any sense most of the time, and the car was just not competitive. I feel like they’ve been on a steeper decline than any other team on the grid (not counting Haas because, well, they’re just full of chaos aren’t they). I think Alfa Romeo will be at the bottom of the order this season. I don’t think the Ferrari engine will help them at all, and I can’t see them holding off Williams and Haas much longer. Their livery and team kit looks amazing though.
Valtteri Bottas has always been one of my favourites. I’ve seen his performances in Williams as well as Mercedes, and I think he is a beast when he has the full support of those around him, as well as personal motivation. Even though I would’ve loved him to continue driving a competitive car, I think switching to a team where he is the primary driver will be extremely beneficial for him, and it will positively impact the fans’ opinions of him (which we can already see). If Alfa Romeo can give him a decent car (huge “if” there), I think he’s going to wipe the floor with whoever’s in the cars around him. I expect a clear win against Zhou, not because I think Zhou is a bad driver but I think Bottas is just top quality.
I’ll admit I don’t know much about Zhou’s previous racing career, and I don’t want to base my prediction on the opinions of F1 Twitter, so I’ll just say I think he won’t disappoint while also not performing at his best. Having Alfa Romeo as his first team is going to be really challenging, maybe even worse than what Mick & Nikita had at Haas. I think he has a great mentor in Valtteri and if their Instagram posts together are actually genuine, I think we’re going to enjoy the two working together, regardless of the team’s performance on track.
So there you have it, my 2022 predictions. I’m really curious to see how these predictions pan out, and I’m very excited for the season ahead of us.
Follow DIVEBOMB on all our socials: