After the most dramatic of climaxes to a Formula 1 season in its’ history just months ago, the new season has forced its’ way into the limelight once more.
For many, the memories of a dramatic and emotional final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix which saw a record breaking World Championship fall from Lewis Hamilton’s grasp in pole position on the final lap are still strongly engined throughout the sport. For an entire campaign and 22 Grand Prix’s to come down to a the final lap of the final race is unheard of. When combined with the popularity of Netflix’s documentary Drive To Survive in bringing in a new wave of modern fans to the sport, Formula 1 finds itself in a unique position with the opportunity to capitalise on the popularity and interest in the sport.
The new campaign has promised a chance for revenge for Lewis and Mercedes as they look to overturn Max Verstappen’s victory with Red Bull Racing. The dramatic events of the final race of the year has seen Race Director Michael Masi, whose controversial decision led to the final lap of the race being played out with a distinct advantage to Verstappen, lose his position for the coming season, instead being re-assigned to a role within Hospitality for Formula 1.
Despite Masi’s relocation, 4 protagonists of the 2021 season return to their original roles. Hamilton and Verstappen return to face off in a highly anticipated start to the new season, with Toto Wolff and Christian Horner returning to lead Mercedez and Red Bull respectively.
2022 Formula 1 cars
In February, the cars for the coming season were showcased to an expectant fanbase as people from all over the world were gifted the opportunity to witness the cars for the upcoming season for the very first time. Whilst there are a host of changes that can be made during testing, the first viewing provides enough to wet the appetite of Formula 1 fans around the world as the expectations rise towards the curtain raising Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday 20th March.
After the announcements and showcasing of the cars, teams were able to have 3-days worth of pre-season testing in Barcelona at the end of the month. Whilst this does not provide a definitive idea of those likely to challenge for the title, it does provide the opportunity for teams to assess their rivals whilst throwing down a challenge at the same time in their own car. For the first time (although most likely not the last) in 2022, Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes produced the quickest lap across all three days. It actually turned into a promising weekend for the team as new driver George Russell, promoted from Williams at the end of last season, claimed the second quickest time of pre-season.
As was expected by most fans of the sport, it looks as though it could well be another two-horse race for both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships this season as both Red Bull cars followed closely behind in the standings, finishing Day 3 of pre-season in 3rd and 4th place.
2022 Formula 1 Season
With a host of new rules being integrated into the sport in order to improve wheel-to-wheel racing, construction teams have had to negotiate a series of alterations to their cars ahead of the new campaign. In spite of this, early signs indicate that a rematch of the colossal battle seen throughout the duration of the 2021 campaign between Verstappen and Hamilton is on the cards; something that the majority of fans will be eager to see once more.
In what is largely accepted as the most dramatic Championship in the history of the sport, the top 4 spots in the standings were occupied by Red Bull and Mercedes at the end of 2021, making it hard to rationalise that their stranglehold on the summit of the sport will be relinquished in the coming season.
Ferrari and McLaren occupied the next four positions in the standings, dominating the space as the only likely challengers to the dominance seen from Mercedes and Red Bull. Despite the gulf in points at the end of the previous campaign, Ferrari has made some bold claims about the improvements made to their car ahead of the 2022 campaign as they look to address the shortcomings of power and aerodynamics that limited any reasonable challenge for a title last year.
Alongside them, McLaren has impressed throughout testing in Barcelona and has appeared to tackle one of the more prominent issues ahead of the resumption of competitive racing. Formula 1 bosses have dictated that teams that manage to tackle the issue of ‘porpoising’ – cars bouncing up and down on the straights due to air flow around the car – will stand a distinct advantage at the start of the season; a matter that McLaren appear to have an early grasp on.
With the final round of testing due to take place in Bahrain on 10-12 March and the opening Grand Prix at the same venue a week later, there isn’t long for teams to correct any deficiencies that came to light in Barcelona. With the eyes of the world on this season’s Formula 1 season (including a renewed deal with Netflix), the sport has an expectant crowd waiting for the curtain-raiser in Bahrain.
Whilst there is an acceptance that a repeat of last years’ dramatic and emotional conclusion is far-fetched, the story line must continue.
Hamilton is chasing an unprecedented 8th World Championship, setting him apart from the legendary Michael Schumacher. On the other side, Max Verstappen is bidding to show that he has truly earned his position at the summit of the sport after the controversial circumstances in which he claimed the 2021 title; the first ever time a dutch driver has done so.
All of the story lines are delicately balanced as we head into a tumultuous new season of racing. One thing that is assured for Formula 1 fans this year is that there will be no shortage of story lines to add to the pile in 2022.