What will we remember about the 2022 F1 season?
The much anticipated 2022 Formula One season has come to a close. Time to look back at the season. This year's season was the start of a completely new set of car/aero design guidelines, presented by the FIA back in October 2019.
The cars look much better and the racing also improved. What hasn't been improved by several teams is the handling. While all F1 odds where always on the Mercedes team to be fastest in previous seasons, the strongest team in F1 history got it all wrong this year.
End of the Mercedes F1 era?
Finally after 8 consecutive F1 titles and a shipload of Grand Prix wins, the German team from Brackley hadn't done their homework good enough and after a few decades, the word porpoising was back in F1.
A lot of heads turned when Lewis Hamilton drove out the garage during winter testing with the radical 'no-sidepod' car concept and all teams feared they overlooked the rule-book and would get smashed again by a dominant Mercedes W13.
After a few laps of bouncing around the Bahrain circuit that fear was gone. Hamilton was all over the place and the car was bouncing like a rabbit. The Mercedes W-car with the 'lucky' number 13 still needed a lot of work to become competitive. Ferrari and Red Bull already had a much more stable and faster car and were soon designated favourites for this season's title battle.
In the first race however the Ferrari F1-75 showed it was the fastest and the team scored their first 1-2 in ages. Even Hamilton climbed the podium on P3. But that was able to happen because Both Red Bulls had to retire. The 'Bulls' were also very quick but a fuel pump issue caused both drivers to retire.
This early success was great for Mercedes, but after Red Bull had fixed their minor issue, they knew the only way to score a podium was a DNF at Red Bull or Ferrari.
The team really had to work hard to get back to the top and fix the issues of the W13. The biggest problem was the porpoising in combination with the low ride height to get as most downforce as possible. In Azerbaijan the car had became so stif that Hamilton almost couldn't get out of his car after the race. The Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff even called the car a "shitbox" during broadcast.
But Mercedes kept the 'no-sidepod' high drag concept and in the end of the season, after 21 races, Mercedes finally won their first Grand Prix in Brazil. As former Formula 1 driver Karun Chandhok said in an interview: "You have to fix things, things don't fix themselves. I think they have understood the fundamental flaws of their concept and design, and why it hasn't worked for them this year."
Mercedes ended up on P3 in the F1 constructors championship, their worst result since 2012. They only came 39 points short on Ferrari, but ended a whopping 244 points behind title winners Red Bull Racing. The final race of the season showed it looks like it will be a three teams fight next year between Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes..
Also the end of the Hamilton F1 era?
Will Lewis Hamilton also return to the top? He clearly had to dig deep to get up to the level of his new teammate George Russell this season. The record holder of the amount of 103 race wins and pole positions, didn't even win a single pole position or GP and experienced the worst season of his 16 seasons F1 career. At McLaren his lowest championship finish was 5th, but he always managed to score a pole position and win at least one Grand Prix.
This 2022 F1 season Hamilton clearly got beaten by his new teammate George Russell. His thirteen years younger teammate proved to be even more consistent than the most consistent driver in history. Although Hamilton had a much better second half of the season, Russell outscored the seven times WC with 35 points to end up on P4. Hamilton ended up on P6, which is his worst championship result ever. He did score more one more podium than Russell.
Next season both British drivers remain teammates. Hopefully the W14 won't have the same drag problem as the W13 and can it keep up with the Ferrari SF23(?) and Red Bull RB19. It will also be interesting to watch what the aero and technical geniuses of the teams have come up with next year.
As for Hamilton? He says he never gives up, so next year he can really show us what he is made off.
Clash between Verstappen and Pérez
A lot more happened of course this season. Ferrari was quickest in the first part of the season, but made some stupid strategical mistakes and what about the budget cap saga? I won't start about that. But one of the most commented posts on this website was after the clash between Verstappen and Pérez, right after the finish flag had dropped at the 2022 Brazilian F1 Grand Prix.
Verstappen who had received some great support from his teammate Pérez, wasn't able to give Pérez a sixth place finish to try and finish 2nd in the 2022 F1 drivers championship. A result the Red Bull Racing team never had accomplished. Verstappen told his team on the radio he wasn't amused about the request and a whole load of 'not so nice' social media posts were the result. Red Bull put in a lot of effort to end the row. They already had a lot enough bad publicity from the budget cap saga.
Chandhock thinks Verstappen was a bit short-sighted and said: "On one hand, he's a racing driver, and inherently racing drivers are all selfish. The great ones are even more selfish, the Sennas, the Schumachers. But there come certain moments where you have to think of the long term and the big picture. Next year, more than likely, Max is once again going to be the championship contender in that team, not Checo. But there will be those two or three weekends in a year where he might need a bit of help."
The former F1 driver also said: "When I watched that situation unfold, considering they were battling for sixth and seventh, my brain immediately went back to Suzuka ‘91 and Suzuka ‘92. In ‘91 with Senna and in ‘92 with Nigel Mansell, it was a similar situation. They had both become world champions that year, they both had a bit of help from their teammates at certain key moments, and they both gave up the race lead and the victory for their teammates to say thank you, and also ensure a bit of loyalty for the future."
It will be interesting to see how this spat has changed the relationship between teammates Verstappen and Pérez in 2023. I would not be surprised if Pérez won't be as supportive as before, next time he is asked by the team to move over...
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