Written by Sasha Macmillen, Edited by Harshi Vashee
The 2022 Formula One Season has been long-awaited, with the sport experiencing its largest overhaul of the technical regulations in decades, with a primary focus on creating closer racing. The order of previous seasons has been thrown out the window, and we start from a blank slate. The previous major regulation changes in 2014 and 2017 saw Mercedes reign supreme, yet the scale of these new alterations go far beyond those years. After a thrilling 2021 season which saw Max Verstappen secure his first drivers' championship in controversial circumstances, Formula One looks set to deliver a fine spectacle once again on the global stage as ten teams battle it out for glory.
23 races gives us plenty of points on offer, and with teams sure to develop their cars, it's likely that the pacemakers in Bahrain aren't going to be the ones at the top come Abu Dhabi. Some teams will have hit the nail on the head, possibly exploiting a lucrative loophole in the regulations. These frontrunning designs will be adapted by other teams, and as the races fly by, we'll see a number of shifts in the packages that teams are bringing to the circuits.
The Official Pre Season Test in Bahrain saw Red Bull appear as the strongest package, with Ferrari also seeming to have decent performance. Mercedes meanwhile, running their new innovative sidepod-less design, never looked fully dialled in, and their handling issues were never resolved. The team and drivers have come out to openly state that they are struggling and weren't going to fight for wins, although the authenticity of that claim is dubious.
Throughout the field, it's extremely difficult to read through the times and work out who is fast. McLaren suffered in Bahrain with brake issues, but their performance across both pre-season meetings seems to suggest they shouldn't worry too much. The likes of Alpine, Aston Martin, and Alpha Tauri are difficult to predict, as all have shown potential at points. Alfa Romeo had a far more positive run in Bahrain than Barcelona, completing a lot of laps and showing decent pace. Williams and Haas are two of the hardest teams to read, as both have shown promise at times. Haas however have shown a few issues with reliability that could plague them in 2022.
Of course 2022 is one of the hardest seasons to predict, with such opportunity for huge changes, yet I still expect the usual suspects to be fighting it out at the front, this time including Ferrari and possibly McLaren. However, the nature of car development means that it's extremely difficult to foresee the trends later in the season. However, I have tried my best to put together my predictions for 2022, starting with the champions.
Drivers' Champion : Max Verstappen
This is an extremely difficult pick. You can never quite count out Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes, and George Russell certainly won't be a slouch. But in 2022 I do believe that Mercedes' issues extend further than they did last year. There can't be a quick and easy solution, and their issues coupled with the double-pronged challenge from both Red Bull and Ferrari this year will cause problems. The two challengers won't be standing still, so any inroads on a proposed pace advantage may prove difficult.
Now being a world champion, Max Verstappen has all pressure off his shoulders when it comes to proving himself. He'll be driving without any worries in his mind, and I believe that he and Red Bull will just have the ultimate advantage over a possible Ferrari title hunt. I'm sure this won't be Verstappen strolling to a consecutive title, and he may have to fight as fiercely as he did last season. The prospect of a three-team title fight is tremendously exciting, and the top drivers are really going to prove their worth.
Constructors' Champion: Scuderia Ferrari
Once again it was difficult to shy away from the Silver Arrows here. I would be mightily surprised if they aren't fighting for the title, whatever issues they may experience in the opening stages. However, the Ferrari package coupled with an excellent driver pairing is enough for me to predict them as the constructors' champions.
I feel that Sergio Perez won't quite have enough to support Red Bull points-wise to the double title, and Mercedes will fall agonisingly short in the three-way battle that I imagine taking place in 2022.
Disappointment of the Season: Williams
Williams certainly did not look perfect across the two pre-season tests. In Barcelona they ran largely anonymously, and in Bahrain they were hit hard by Nicholas Latifi's fire at the beginning of day two, but didn't look exceptionally fast throughout. There has been plenty of talk of the Williams rebuild project in recent years, but their pre-season showing didn't do anything near enough to convince me of progress. I expect another long season spent largely outside the points.
Surprise of the Season: Haas
After a difficult Barcelona test, and tumultuous world events leading to the removal of their title sponsor Uralkali and in turn, Nikita Mazepin. Haas announced the shock return of Kevin Magnussen, and from then on enjoyed a greatly successful Bahrain test. Their pace looked respectable, with good car stability. They have suffered a few reliability issues, which is a concern, but their positive pace is enough encouragement to possibly see some points finishes in 2022, a far cry from the struggles of 2021. They have a good chance of lifting themselves off of the floor of the constructors' championship, with Mick Schumacher sure to develop in his second F1 season.
Driver Market Prediction: Sebastian Vettel Retires
I can't see Aston Martin being exceptionally competitive this year, and I feel that Vettel will assess his situation in F1, and having considered retirement in previous seasons, I think we will see Sebastian Vettel hang up his helmet at the end of 2022. It would be a desperately sad event to see a legend go, even though he may not quite be the same driver that won those four consecutive world championships.
Those are my five main predictions, which I'm sure I'll revisit come the end of November, after a busy 23-race season, compressed to fit into the timescale before the FIFA World Cup kicks off, with Abu Dhabi being the final race on the 20th of November. Formula One in 2022 promises to be a season full of drama, excitement, and controversies, with fans across the sport optimistic for a great seasons' racing.
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This article was double posted atsashatalksf1.com