F1 2022 Season Preview


A new F1 season begins this week. (Courtesy of Twitter)

After weeks of waiting, I can finally say: it’s race week. This week, the 2022 Formula 1 season kicks off with the Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit. After last year’s titanic battle, this season brings in a variety of new changes to the sport, such as the new technical regulations of the cars that have been completely redesigned from last year, signaling a new era of Formula 1 cars. There are also new and old faces joining the grid for the upcoming season. Considering how last year ended, everything is to play for this year. In addition to that, it will be one of the longest seasons in history with 22 races currently scheduled on the calendar.

The race weekend has the main race on Sunday, but there is more to it than that. On Friday and Saturday, there are free practice sessions for the drivers and teams to become accustomed to the track and make sure that their cars are perfectly set up. There is also a qualifying race on Saturday which will decide the order of the grid for the race. 

As for the race, there are certain requirements. There is no refueling during pit stops, so drivers need to manage their fuel so they don’t run out before the end of the race. Another regulation is that each driver must use two different dry tire compounds in the race. Each weekend there are three compounds with varying durability and grip. The tires with the most grip have the fastest lap times but degrade at a rapid pace in comparison to the low-grip tires. The teams have to perfect the strategy to balance what type of tires to put on the car and the number of pit stops since they can lose a massive amount of time and fall behind with each stop. 

The biggest change from last season is the technical regulations. These new regulations have the sole purpose of creating better racing conditions, achieving it through a radical new car design. This was achieved by reducing the effect of what is known as “dirty air” when a car is following another car. Since they are right behind another car, the air is already affected by the front car’s aerodynamics, which makes the second car lose huge amounts of downforce. However, this year, the front and rear wings have been significantly changed to help reduce the effect of dirty air. 

Race organizers have also changed the floor of the car to create more downforce without changing the airflow behind. All of these changes will make it easier for the chasing car to keep up with the front car, hopefully increasing the amount of overtakes and the wheel-to-wheel battles during a race. 

The tires have also been changed, from 13-inch to 18-inch tires. This dramatic change to the regulations could causea huge shakeup in the pecking order, with all 10 teams going in different directions in their designs to extract the maximum performance from the cars.

All of the teams have spent the winter break perfecting their cars to ensure the best start to the season possible. However, after seeing the pre-season test last week, there is already a new pecking order that has appeared, with some teams too close to call.

At the front of the pack, there are four teams that have the potential to fight for both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ championships. I’ll start off with Red Bull, who have kept their pairing of reigning Drivers’ champions Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez. They have looked strong during the preseason testing and look ready to mount another car that can compete for the championship. 

Another team that looks particularly strong is Ferrari. Like Red Bull, they have kept their driver pairing of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. They have had a flawless preseason, completing their programs without any mechanical faults and look like a real force with which to be reckoned. 

The reigning Constructors’ champions Mercedes also look great. They have kept seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton, partnering him with George Russell, who joins from Williams. It will be interesting to see this new dynamic with Russell being the “young gun” who has the talent to not only win races, but become a world champion. It will be interesting to see how Hamilton reacts to someone with that desire. 

Another team that looks good is McLaren. They have retained their drivers Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, and after winning a race last year and grabbing a couple of podiums along the way, they will be looking to do better in this new era in F1.

Like last year, the midfield looks tight and these teams will be fighting for points and occasionally the odd podium. Alpha Tauri have retained their driver pairing of Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda and after finishing sixth in the Constructors’ last year, they will want to improve on that. Alpine is another team that will be in the midfield battle, also retaining their driver pairing of Esteban Ocon and two time champion Fernando Alonso. After winning in Hungary with Ocon and Alonso getting a podium in Qatar, they will want to bridge the gap to the front of the pack and retain fifth in the Constructors’. 

Another team in the midfield is Aston Martin, who like most of the grid, has retained their drivers Lance Stroll and four time champion Sebastian Vettel.

As in every sport, there will be teams that occupy the back of the grid and score very few points in the season. Hass originally had retained their drivers Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin, however after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Hass removed Russian driver Mazepin and replaced him with Kevin Magnussen, who drove for Hass from 2017 until 2020. 

Another team is Williams who have retained Nicolas Latifi, but with the departure of George Russell, have replaced him with former Red Bull driver Alex Albon. Last but certainly not least, Alfa Romeo is the only team to completely change their drivers, welcoming Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas and rookie Guanyu Zhou.

With all of this out of the way, it’s time for my season predictions:

I believe that Alfa Romeo will be last in the Constructors’. With a brand-new driver pairing, including a rookie at the wheel, there is a huge learning curve, especially with the new regulations. Plus they had several mechanical problems during the preseason testing, which is never a good sign. I believe that Williams will be next in ninth. They made huge improvements last year, but I just don’t think that will be enough, and with Russell leaving, I don’t think that any driver could extract as much as he could on a race weekend. Hass will be eighth. They didn’t develop last year’s car so they could primarily focus on the new regulations, but I don’t see them beating any of the other teams ahead of them.

As for the midfield, it’s too close to call. I believe that Aston Martin will finish seventh, followed by Alpine in sixth and Alpha Tauri in fifth. The Alpha Tauri looked quick in preseason testing and with Gasly as the team leader and Tsunoda having matured, I believe that they will finish fifth. I have to reiterate that this will be way too close to call and the balance of power will change every weekend, depending on the track and how it suits each of the cars.

I believe that McLaren will finish fourth. They looked good in preseason testing but had some slight issues. I know that I said earlier that they could be title contenders, but if not, they should comfortably be ahead of the rest of the midfield and finish at least fourth. As for third, I believe that the Mercedes streak of eight consecutive Constructors’ will come to an end. Their car during the preseason tests has not looked particularly strong, especially with their radical design that turned heads during the testing. Even Hamilton said that their car will not be immediately fighting for wins with their current package. Despite this, they will rapidly develop their car to fight for the championships. In fact, I believe that Hamilton will be outscored by Russell. Russell has the potential to become a champion in the future and with his first chance at a team that is near the front of the field, I expect him to give it his all to beat his legendary teammate. 

As for second place, it is a toss up for me, but I will say that Red Bull will finish second in the championship. They looked very strong in testing, with Verstappen setting the fastest time. However, coming in first and winning their first Constructors’ in 14 years will be Ferrari. They looked incredibly strong throughout the testing and some data suggests that they were sandbagging, which means that they were not showing their true pace. This suggests that they have a few tricks up their sleeve to increase their pace. In addition to that, their driver lineup is strong with both drivers complementing each other. 

As for the Drivers Championship, it’s too close to call, but I predict that Verstappen will retain his title and win back-to-back championships. In my opinion, the reason Red Bull will not win the Constructors’ is because the Ferrari duo is better than the pairing of Verstappen and Perez.

Take all of my predictions with a grain of salt because there is no way that I will get everything right. This season, the regulation changes mean that any team could be the champion. The midfield battle will be very tight and any of those teams could finish from seventh to fifth. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hass outperforms this year. They didn’t develop last year’s car to focus on this year and even posted the second fastest time in the preseason test, but I think that was at their max pace where other teams didn’t reveal their true pace. Also expect the four teams at the top to be swapping positions as the season goes on, with all four of them having a chance at the title. Mercedes have a history of always appearing slow but come race week, they crush the opposition.

No matter what happens, we are in a new age of Formula 1. With the potential for four different teams to fight for the title, all eyes will be on Bahrain as the lights go out this Sunday, on a season that could be one of the most open title races in the sport’s history.