It’s that time again! A new Formula 1 season is upon us and this time it comes with a new set of regulations. With the new regulations creating a situation with the teams’ performance that’s almost totally unknown, everyone is making all sorts of wild predictions all over the place. With testing (which has given us a small and tantalising taster of what’s to come) over and the first Grand Prix weekend coming up very soon, I thought I’d weigh in myself and give a few predictions of how I think the 2022 season is going to go! Do you agree with my predictions? Feel free to let me know. Or to laugh if any of them age poorly…
No team will score zero points
Yes, this might sound like a bit of a crazy prediction to start things off. But, honestly, I really think it could happen. The driver lineup across the entire grid for 2022 is the best it’s been in several years. The return of the super-experienced Kevin Magnussen to Haas to replace the eternally disgraced Nikita Mazepin means that America’s only F1 team has its best driver lineup since the aforementioned Magnussen was partnered up with Romain Grosjean. Yuki Tsunoda will no doubt improve on his great but patchy form from last year. Mick Schumacher will only improve too, especially with a bit of mentorship from Magnussen. Alex Albon was one of the best choices Williams could have picked to replace George Russell, who has now gone off to Mercedes to partner the sport’s undisputed GOAT Lewis Hamilton. Guanyu Zhou, whilst being a total rookie to F1, will definitely be able to keep up with the pack too.
We have to take into account too that the radically different regulations (apart from the PUs) will mean that the grid has not only effectively been reset, but the teams who didn’t spend a lot of money and resources on developing last year’s car (such as Mercedes, Ferrari and most importantly Haas) will have a huge advantage this year as they’ll have had loads of that set aside to focus on 2022. Add in the factor of the new regulations being designed explicitly to promote closer racing and the margins in both the drivers’ and the constructors’ championships could be a whole lot closer than they were when the old cars were being run.
With the combination of both of these things, I think it’s safe to say that I can’t imagine a situation where none of the teams will finish the season without scoring a single point. There may be one or two drivers who don’t score any points (the most likely to be in this situation unfortunately being Zhou, as he’s a rookie in a car that looks like it could be a backmarker), but I can’t see any teams as a whole not even getting a single point in the constructors’ championship.
Haas will not be last
Again, this might be somewhat wishful thinking. But, the return of Kevin Magnussen, some promising times in testing and the team having what is obviously already the most developed car out of any of the teams thanks to its strategy of just not even bothering at all in 2021 could finally get Haas out of the doldrums. Whilst I’m not expecting a 5th place finish in the constructors’ championship like in 2018, I think Haas will absolutely not be last.
The driver pairing of Mick Schumacher and Kevin Magnussen is just too good to be languishing at the back of every race, especially in a car that is already showing signs of being something more than one that’s there to make up the numbers. How well the team will do beyond that is something I can’t really guess, but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Magnussen manages to pull off some absolute heroics with that car and get a top 5 or even a podium finish at one or two races.
Sir Lewis Hamilton will win his 8th Drivers’ Championship
Look, it just has to happen this year. I know Ferrari are likely going to do very well (we’ll get to that in a little bit!), but Sir Lewis will be a man on a mission this year. No other driver becomes stronger in the face of adversity than Hamilton and, considering everything that went wrong in that shocking Abu Dhabi finale last year, he will be battling for another title like a man possessed. He may be one of the oldest drivers on the grid now, but just resigning himself to that elder statesman driver life is not the Lewis Hamilton way of doing things. He will be fighting just as hard as his younger peers and that, combined with an innovative Mercedes design that could work really well and his proven record of being nigh-on unbeatable when everything lines up right for him, will take him all the way to smashing the record he holds jointly with Michael Schumacher.
Yes, George Russell will give him a bit of competition. But, whilst Russell is the second coming of Jarno Trulli when it comes to qualifying pace, he isn’t as good in the races as Lewis Hamilton is. Furthermore, those two Ferrari drivers won’t give him an easy ride. If Sir Lewis does what I think he’ll do and put his entire self into delivering the season of his lifetime, he will have the title race wrapped up before the final race of the season. Yes, I’m willing to be that confident in him. Got a problem with that?
Ferrari will win the Constructors’ Championship
Ferrari returning to winning ways is something every Formula 1 fan wants to see. Sebastian Vettel was right when he said that everyone is a Ferrari fan, after all! If you’re a hardcore member of the Tifosi, I think that 2022 will be a year you’ll have a lot to celebrate about. The new car has already shown positive results in testing and it’s being driven by what is arguably one of the best driver pairings on the grid in Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz (affectionally dubbed as C squared by the Scuderia). Leclerc has more than proven his top driver status over his time in F1 and Sainz has emerged as one of the dark horses of the series, just quietly putting in brilliant and consistent performances every race weekend.
With the pair of them doing what they do best in a car that’s finally deserving of the prestige of the prancing horse, it’s safe to say that not only will C squared both be legitimate contenders for the Drivers’ Championship, but Ferrari will also break Mercedes’ 8-year streak and win the constructors’ championship for the first time in a very long time. Sure, Mercedes has the undisputed GOAT Sir Lewis Hamilton and the king of qualifying George Russell, but I don’t think the two of them are going to work as well as a team as C squared will. Formula 1 is a team sport at the end of the day. The constructors’ championship is the one that counts the most when it comes to money and, whilst a Mercedes driver will win the drivers’ championship, Ferrari will have a stronger driver team that’ll get them that more vital constructors’ gold.
Red Bull will have a shocking year (relatively)
Sorry, Orange Army. You’re not going to like this, but somebody has to tell you at some point. Red Bull is not going to have a good year at all. In fact, it could have a relatively shocking year compared to its performance over the last few years. Why? The team put most of its eggs in the single basket that was 2021. Yes, Max Verstappen won the championship… but at what cost? The sport’s credibility lay in tatters and (more crucially, in this case) Red Bull spent too much of its money and resources on a car design that wasn’t going to be legal after that year. A strategy of “Max Verstappen and hope” (I can’t 100% remember who I got that quote from… don’t get mad at me, please!) will not pay dividends for Red Bull in the long run. Considering that Verstappen’s signed a headline-grabbing new deal to keep him at the team for the majority of the current decade too, the man himself might have to face some difficult choices when all is said and done…
I know Adrian Newey is a design genius. I know that he also has experience working with ground-effect designs in the past. But, even geniuses get things wrong sometimes. They especially get things wrong if they just aren’t given enough money, time and resources to get their genius ideas to work. That is exactly what I think has happened at Red Bull and, unfortunately for both Verstappen’s fanatical fanbase and his veteran second driver Sergio “Checo” Perez, it’s going to mean that the Milton Keynes-based outfit is going to have a relatively bad time.
Of course, if this ends up ageing very badly I’ll take it on the chin. But, I just have a very bad feeling about the Bulls and that’s a feeling that’s been around for a good while now. I really, really don’t think this is going to be Red Bull’s year.