Here is a look at the key talking points to follow through the 2022 F1 season that commences with the Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend (18-20 March).
It’s easy to agree that the 2022 Formula 1 season is the most awaited season in recent times. After all, the ‘formula’ of Formula 1 has gone through significant changes — the cars, tyres, budget cap and more. Here is a look at the key talking points to follow through the 2022 F1 season:
As it is with pre-season testing, the six days on track in Barcelona and Bahrain didn’t reveal the true pecking order of the teams. The first time we will see a pecking order be established will be during Qualifying for the opening round in Bahrain. However, the pecking order could change a few times during the season given the long calendar, teams getting a tighter grip on the new regulations, budget cap and sliding scale aero regulations.
Typically, the first year of a new regulation era could see larger performance gains or losses among teams as they explore newer solutions to their package thereby affecting the pecking order.
Our pick for Bahrain: Red Bull Racing vs Ferrari with Mercedes & McLaren not too far behind.
Let’s look at the top-10 distance covered by drivers in the 2022 pre-season. Drivers from Haas, Alfa Romeo and Alpine have failed to make the cut in the top-10 list. Among Haas, Alfa Romeo and Alpine, who will be on points at the Bahrain GP?#F1 #F12022 pic.twitter.com/4lIl167an0
— Pits To Podium (@pitstopodium) March 17, 2022
The biggest talking point of 2022 is the cars and will continue to be so. Apart from how stunning all the 10 cars look, the key focus will be on their ability to race close to each other. The 2022 regulations were written with one key objective in mind — allowing cars to be engaged in wheel-to-wheel battles without much drop in performance.
The drivers sent positive signals after pre-season testing but the Sunday of the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix would be the first true test for these cars and the regulations. Let’s hope Formula 1 has a backup plan in case the regulations backfire!
The other headline for the season would be the rate of development for the cars. For the first time in the history of Formula 1, the rate of development would be controlled by the annual budget cap & the sliding scale aero regulations. The budget cap would require teams to work harder before committing to upgrades or changes in design direction. Similarly, the sliding scale aero regulations would dictate the amount of time teams have to develop their car in the wind tunnel and via CFD.
Just like the days of unlimited testing are over and done with in Formula 1, so are the days of unlimited budgets and development time. This change is expected to keep the grid tighter and closer.
Mercedes’ innovations in the last 3 seasons:
1. 2020: DAS (dual-axis steering)
2. 2021: “Silverstone” upgrade; lowering the ride height at high speeds via car setup
3. 2022: “zeropod”
— Kunal Shah (@kunalashah) March 14, 2022
Pirelli has introduced 18” tyres for the 2022 Formula 1 season. While this sizing is closer to road car tyres, the change is also expected to add to Formula 1’s objective to improve the racing spectacle. In the previous seasons, tyres have been a limiting factor in wheel-to-wheel battles with the Pirellis overheating when put under stress.
The signals from pre-season testing have been mixed with some drivers complaining that the tyres offered lesser grip than before. It is expected that Pirelli will be able to improve their tyres as the season progresses and here’s hoping that the tyres are as ready for battle as the drivers, cars and fans are.
The opening round in Bahrain is a semi-night race and so the cooler conditions should hopefully not trouble the Pirellis too much.
Two-time world champ Fernando Alonso, however, said: “I honestly don’t care.
“It was what it was, right or wrong. In that moment, race direction felt right. And in over the season, we could agree or not agree. We move on.”
— Kunal Shah (@kunalashah) March 18, 2022
Max Verstappen vs. Lewis Hamilton was an absolute blockbuster in 2021 and it could continue in 2022 as well. But could a new pecking order throw up new rivalries for fans to follow? Mick Schumacher vs Max Verstappen or Fernando Alonso vs Lewis Hamilton, anyone?
Apart from the inter-team rivalries, there will be intra-team rivalries to look out for. George Russell’s debut season with Mercedes — just how much could he trouble Hamilton? Will Daniel Ricciardo have the answer to Lando Norris’ pace after a troubled 2021? If Ferrari is a title contender, will the team be able to manage a Carlos Sainz Jr vs Charles Leclerc rivalry? Will teams resort to the ever-unpopular number 1 and number 2 driver classifications to manage expectations?
Our verdict for Bahrain: Verstappen vs Sainz for the race win
The Formula 1 season is around the corner and after looking at different sites, Caesars Sportsbook app previously reviewed by Sports Betting Dime is clearly offering the best value on the odds to win the Championship over his competitors with Hamilton at +138 over Verstappen +275.
— Kunal Shah (@kunalashah) March 12, 2022
Formula 1 has seen an influx of younger talent in the last many seasons. The seasoned old drivers such as Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo will be in the spotlight. In fact, one could add Sergio Perez to this list. Alonso returned to Formula 1 with the hope to fight for the title in 2022; likewise for Vettel and his move to Aston Martin and Ricciardo’s to McLaren. Could they move on from Formula 1 if 2022 doesn’t bring them back to their winning ways?
As for Perez, his role at Red Bull Racing is to support Verstappen’s title bid — but performance-wise he was further away from Verstappen in 2021 than most expected, Perez included. Will he persist in a wingman role or would Red Bull Racing give Pierre Gasly another shot alongside Verstappen? We expect several teams to change driver line-ups after 2022.
Guanyu Zhou is the only rookie driver this season. After spending three years racing in Formula 2, the Chinese driver used his favourable position to attract sponsorship to grab a seat at Alfa Romeo. Alexander Albon is making a comeback with Williams after missing out on a race seat in 2021.
The two most-promising rookies from last year — Mick Schumacher (Haas) and Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) will continue with their teams. Zhou, Schumacher and Tsunoda will have their respective team-mates Valtteri Bottas, Kevin Magnussen and Gasly as competitive benchmarks. The key headline will be for the rookies to be competitive against their team-mates and use that as a platform to build a longer term for their career in Formula 1.
In the spirit of offering maximum racing opportunities to our stable of young talent, we have agreed that @McLarenF1 may call upon BWT Alpine F1 Team Reserve Driver @OscarPiastri in the event one of their drivers is unable to race. pic.twitter.com/etmryT1UrJ
— BWT Alpine F1 Team (@AlpineF1Team) March 12, 2022
After the fiasco in Abu Dhabi last year, the FIA announced a new structure for Race Control from 2022. This includes replacing Michael Masi with two alternating Race Directors (Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas) while also bringing back the much-experienced Herbie Blash. Additionally, the Virtual Race Control Room will be in action from 2022.
These changes are to make the FIA’s decision-making faster and more-consistent. If Formula 1 is engineering itself to have more wheel-to-wheel battles, the FIA’s sprucing up of Race Control is much-required, too. Let’s hope that the FIA’s inconsistency in adjudication of racing situations is a thing of the past.
COVID-19 + Russia-Ukraine Impact
We’re yet to begin racing and two drivers have already missed track time due to contracting the COVID-19 virus. Ricciardo missed the second pre-season test while Vettel will miss the opening round in Bahrain. As the world progressively opens up, could more drivers end up contracting the virus and miss out on races?
The threat of races being cancelled due to the pandemic may have reduced but the threat still exists. And finally, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has cut short Nikita Mazepin’s Formula 1 career and impacted Haas’ balance sheet for the immediate future. But could races (for example, Azerbaijan) be impacted due to their proximity to the war zone?
Who else remembers when #F1 teams were concerned that the 2022 cars would look very alike with the new regulations?
Bold act by Mercedes to go down the “zero pod” route. Now whether it makes the performance cut or not is another thing altogether. #InsideF1
— Kunal Shah (@kunalashah) March 10, 2022
Formula 1 is attempting a historic 23-race calendar in 2022 — making it the longest in the history of the sport. The cancellation of the Russian Grand Prix has opened up one slot already; but as questioned above, could a race or two join this list?
It is expected that Formula 1 will fill up the vacant slot(s) for 2022 with backup circuits such as Turkey or Sepang. But in the long term, the slot vacated by Russia could see Formula 1 announce a third race in the United States of America.
F1 TV Graphics
With every passing season, Formula 1 and its partner AWS have introduced new graphics to simplify the proceedings of the race. Just as the Formula 1 cars, AWS’ machine learning algorithms have evolved from 2021 to 2022, too. Here’s looking forward to the accuracy of the existing TV graphics and the new ones that Formula 1-AWS will release through 2022 and the conversations they will trigger.
The Mumbai-born Red Bull Junior Driver starts his third season in Formula 2 this weekend. Arguably, he’s racing for the best team on the grid — Prema. A title win is the least that is expected of him, by his fans and Red Bull Racing. Should he triumph, a seat in Formula 1 would be closer than ever — a seat at AlphaTauri in 2023, we reckon? (Read: How Jehan Daruvala Plans To Get His Foot In F1’s Door)
This post was first published on Firstpost