Max Verstappen has dominated the opening 13 races of the 2022 F1 season and looks to be on course to win his second drivers’ title.
Ferrari have made Red Bull’s life easier with a series of driver errors and strategic blunders, allowing Verstappen to open up a mammoth 80-point lead ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of this month.
Mercedes have joined the fight in recent rounds making for a mouth-watering second part to the season with six cars potentially in the fight for victories.
Crash.net F1 Editor Lewis Larkam and journalist Connor McDonagh reflect on the season so far and what to expect after the summer break.
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Which driver has impressed you the most?
Lewis Larkam: Verstappen has found another level in 2022. The impressive Dutchman has been ultra consistent, staggeringly quick and pretty much flawless on his way to pulling out a seemingly unassailable championship lead. He has also added an element of control and patience to his trademark aggression this year. Despite suffering two retirements, Verstappen has still won eight times in 13 races and is well on his way to a second world title.
Connor McDonagh: Lando Norris has been consistently impressive for McLaren. Despite not having the fourth fastest car for the majority of the season, he heads the midfield pack behind the top three teams. In the right machinery, there’s no doubt he could compete with the likes of Verstappen, Leclerc and Hamilton.
Which driver has disappointed you the most?
LL: Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian has endured a hugely difficult 18 months that has left McLaren looking to drop him a season early for the highly-rated Oscar Piastri. The expectation was for Ricciardo to kick on after his struggles of 2021 but he has continued to be dominated by younger teammate Lando Norris. Can Ricciardo dig deep and find a response to the increased speculation and uncertainty lingering over his F1 future in the second half of the season?
CMD: After a very impressive 2021 campaign, Pierre Gasly hasn’t really kicked on. While it’s fair to say the AlphaTauri package isn’t as competitive as last year, we’ve seen the likes of Norris and Sebastian Vettel really excel in midfield machinery. Gasly needs to turn it around or finding a better seat outside of AlphaTauri after 2023 will be a tricky one.
LL: Fernando Alonso’s bombshell switch to Aston Martin and the repercussions on the driver market. It was a move no one saw coming, not least Alpine, sending shockwaves through the F1 paddock. The consequences of Alonso’s 2023 swap have triggered further dramatic and fascinating movements that are yet to be resolved.
CMD: Sebastian Vettel joining Instagram and his subsequent retirement. Seeing Vettel on social media was a massive shock in itself given that he’s stayed away from such platforms for the duration of his career. His retirement is less so but given that his performances this year have been impressive, it’s a shame to see a legend of the sport leave.
LL: There’s a few for me, including Verstappen’s fightback victory in Hungary, Leclerc’s excellent drive in Austria, and Mick Schumacher scoring his first points at Silverstone. Hamilton’s recovery in Spain was also mightily impressive, but I will go for a slightly left-field selection in Alex Albon’s excellent drive to P10 in Australia. Thanks to an extraordinary 57-lap stint on hards before making his mandatory pit stop on the penultimate lap, Albon was able to drag the slowest car on the grid into the top 10 and score Williams’ first point of the season.
CMD: It’s hard to look past Verstappen’s most recent win at the Hungaroring. Starting from 10th on the grid, he executed Red Bull’s strategy perfectly to take the victory despite Ferrari having the quicker car and track position.
LL: The British Grand Prix is right up there (the last 10 laps alone were epic), while Saudi Arabia delivered a spectacular fight at the front, and Austria was also enjoyable, but I am going to pick the Bahrain Grand Prix. There was huge anticipation and excitement surrounding F1’s new era, which got off to a thrilling start as Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen battled it out for victory in a brilliant back-and-forth duel that kept everyone on the edge of their seats. There was great wheel-to-wheel racing and plenty of drama from start to finish in a season opener which sparked initial hopes of a classic title fight.
CMD: The British Grand Prix was exciting for many reasons. The battle between the Ferraris, seeing Hamilton in the mix and being a genuine contender for the victory combined with Sergio Perez’s remarkable recovery drive. A great race at Silverstone.
Will Lewis Hamilton win a race in 2022?
LL: Yes. The rate of Mercedes’ recent improvements, coupled with Hamilton’s improved form, would suggest at least one victory is possible before the end of the season.
CMD: Given his recent form and Mercedes’ upwards trajectory, it would be foolish to bet against Hamilton winning a race. So yes!
Can Ferrari win either title still?
LL: Such a feat appears beyond the realms of possibility given Verstappen and Red Bull’s imperious form, and Ferrari’s remarkable habit of spurning golden opportunities. 2022 has a Red Bull championship double written all over it.
CMD: No chance. The Verstappen-Red Bull combination is too formidable. Plus, we’ve seen even when Ferrari have had the fastest car, they fail to capitalise on it.
One bold prediction for the second part of the season...
LL: Hamilton to end the year as runner-up in the drivers’ championship, behind Verstappen.
CMD: Perez to finish sixth in the drivers’ championship.
Alpine or McLaren?
LL: Alpine hold a slender upper hand at the minute, but I am backing McLaren to ultimately prevail. Norris is performing superbly, and if Ricciardo can step up in the second half of the season, I think McLaren can get the job done, but it will be close.
CMD: Alpine have two drivers capable of consistently scoring big points. Unfortunately for McLaren, Norris can’t carry the team on his own so I expect the French outfit to come on top provided reliability remains on their side in the second part of the year.
Predict the constructors’ finishing order
LL: 1) Red Bull, 2) Mercedes, 3) Ferrari, 4) McLaren, 5) Alpine, 6) Alfa Romeo, 7) Haas, 8) AlphaTauri, 9) Aston Martin, 10) Williams
CMD: 1) Red Bull, 2) Ferrari, 3) Mercedes, 4) Alpine, 5) McLaren, 6) Alfa Romeo, 7) Haas, 8) AlphaTauri, 9) Aston Martin, 10) Williams