Red Bull – After breaking Mercedes’ dominance in the hybrid era, albeit just in the drivers championship, Red Bull will need to give continuity to their performances with a completely different car and without the support of Honda through the season.
Despite being forced to start from zero due to the new regulations, Red Bull looked comfortable in testing and managed the fastest lap overall with Max Verstappen.
If Sergio Perez adapts to the car quickly for the coming season, Red Bull may well be considered favourites to win both titles.Embed from Getty Images
Max Verstappen – 2021 was his year. He won his first championship with 10 race victories, and this makes Verstappen the man to beat.
He is extremely fast, in all conditions, qualifying and race, wet and dry. He also proves to be very good at maximising results when in a comfortable position, despite having a few crashes with Hamilton over the course of the season. Once struggles kicked in, Verstappen seemed to crack, but eventually came out on top.
After showcasing his talent and being considered as a future champion ever since his debut, the Dutchman won on his first real title challenge. There will be many unknowns, but for sure a quick and reliable car can make him the absolute favourite.
Sergio Perez – He wasn’t brought in to win the championship, but to be a strong number two. He partially did so, even if his season had more downs than ups.
In 2021 he finally had the chance to compete for wins and podiums, but it all went under the radar, with Verstappen and Hamilton going all out.
Considering the struggles that Red Bull drivers had since Daniel Ricciardo left in 2018, it was a promising first season for Sergio Perez, but now it will be the time to deliver more and to show that he is, in fact, a top driver.Embed from Getty Images
Mercedes – They will want to bounce back in 2022 more than anyone, after being stripped of the drivers title on the last lap of the last race, with a controversial decision by race director Michael Masi.
Mercedes have one of the strongest pairs on the grid and are reigning constructors championship. They finally promoted their young driver George Russell alongside Lewis Hamilton, but testing wasn’t as fine as we could expect from a team that won 15 out of 16 titles in the hybrid era.
We are used to seeing them at the top, but new regulations may see them drop behind and in the position of underdogs, in which they haven’t been for so long.
Additionally, inter-team clashes may develop should Russell be a threat to Hamilton. Mercedes will be very interesting to watch ahead of 2022.Embed from Getty Images
Lewis Hamilton – He was so close to winning title number eight, which could have seen him surpass the record he shares of most titles. Hamilton is 37-years-old and that may well have been his last chance if Mercedes don’t deliver a title winning car.
Speculations over his retirement have been going on for years, but Hamilton had no reason to do so. He made mistakes in 2021, but still competed at a higher level than Valtteri Bottas and was Mercedes’ only gun.
Now, he has to face Russell, who in turn is considered such a promising driver. Will he be able to maintain the dominance within the team?
George Russell – The chance of a lifetime. Russell finally earned his promotion to Mercedes, but it came at the wrong time, given the regulation changes.
The Brit is still exceptionally young and has a long career ahead of him. This season will perhaps not be about winning the title straight away, but at least showing that he can deliver great performances in a top team.
It will be a big step and a chance not to lose if he wants to prove his worth to the world. Coming up to Hamilton has never been easy, not even to champions like Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg, but Russell is fast and will likely put up a challenge to his teammate.Embed from Getty Images
Ferrari – 14 seasons without winning a drivers title. Their second longest-ever drought may come to an end if Ferrari show that their performances in testing reflect their real position in the pecking order.
After spending most of the time at the top of the standings and completing the running without main issues, Ferrari prepare themselves to return to the front.
With Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, they probably have the best pair of drivers on the grid, even if none of them yet fought for a title. How will they do should they find themselves in the mix, and will they be obligated to favour one over the other?Embed from Getty Images
Carlos Sainz – In 2021, Sainz proved he really is a top driver. He came face to face with Leclerc with a new car and finished in fifth place, as best of the rest.
A proven reliable driver and one of the best at maximising results, Sainz perhaps lacks the raw speed to really be considered amongst the favourites by the critics.
He may finally have a car that can regularly compete for podiums, which will be a new challenge for him. Despite facing prospects like Lando Norris and Leclerc in the same team, he always showed that he is no number two.
Charles Leclerc – 2021 may have been a hard awakening for Leclerc, who for years was Ferrari’s prospect, yet who finished behind Sainz.
On pure pace, the Monegasque was faster and if they find themselves with a race-winning car, this may be determinant. Leclerc won all head-to-heads, apart from the most important one: points.
Coming up to his fifth season in the sport, Leclerc will have to minimise the unforced errors which have sometimes alternated to excellent and consistent performances.Embed from Getty Images
McLaren – A vain chase towards the top keeps on for this historic team, who despite making improvements after their woeful spell with Honda, still lacked a car that could compete for regular wins.
2022 could have been a great chance, but tests showed the gap is still present and that McLaren will need to watch their back in order to confirm themselves in the top four.
They will hope to recover Ricciardo, after their great investment was shadowed by Norris, and quickly solve their mechanical issues which saw them as the team with least laps completed in the Bahrain test.Embed from Getty Images
Lando Norris – A drop in the second half of 2021, mostly due to unfortunate incidents, saw the Brit drop to sixth in the standings, after featuring in front of Bottas and Perez for a good chunk of the season.
Norris was called up to the difficult task of facing Ricciardo, but emerged as winner. He was one of the grid’s best performers, and 2022 will be the time to prove that he has potential to be one of the greats.
A lot will depend from the car, but Norris often showed he can go beyond the limits and pull surprise performances. What he really needs is a full season at his best level.
Daniel Ricciardo – For a driver past his 30s, losing badly the head-to-head with a younger teammate can be a huge blow. Ricciardo arrived at McLaren as a top driver and risks becoming one of many if he doesn’t turn things around.
He will have to do it quickly and the season wasn’t off to a good start, given he had to miss the test in Bahrain due to covid-19.
The positive of the first year was that he won a race, ending the team’s drought, but he wasn’t able to keep up the pace with Norris. 2022 is a big question mark.Embed from Getty Images
Alpine – 2022 is the year in which, according to their claims, they should go all out. It is one of the main reasons why Alonso signed at the beginning of last season.
Alpine didn’t seem to be extraordinarily fast, but didn’t appear to struggle. They now have two race winners in the form of Alonso and Esteban Ocon, who appeared very consistent in 2021.
Will Alpine finally deliver a challenge to the top places?Embed from Getty Images
Fernando Alonso – After struggling in the opening rounds of 2021, Alonso returned to the version of himself we all know: fast, consistent and clinical.
He still has it, despite two years out of the sport and that’s the most important thing. He is a proven race winner and once the youngest-ever world champion.
Now 40-years-old, Alonso’s time is quickly running out and he hasn’t competed at the front in so long. The few times he could do that in 2021, he showed great things, so his final position will very much depend to the car’s performance.
Esteban Ocon – He finished behind Alonso in 2021, but claimed the team’s only victory and the first of his career, ending the year in 11th.
Ocon’s history is one that leaves many question marks: very good things have always been said about him, yet he has never beaten a teammate in Formula One since joining in 2016.
He is showing improvements and last season his level often matched Alonso’s. However, it’s time he starts delivering big and what better condition than doing so with a world champion alongside?Embed from Getty Images
Alpha Tauri – Considering the results of Toro Rosso, Alpha Tauri finished sixth on three occasions and seventh on a further six. They seem to never get out of the midfield battle, but last year they did have a good car.
Pierre Gasly often drove it to the top of the midfield and it was only due to Yuki Tsunoda’s poor contribution that they could not manage any higher than sixth.
Through history, Alpha Tauri never seemed to make that step forward needed to climb into the top five and it looks like it can once again be hard to breakthrough.Embed from Getty Images
Pierre Gasly – He is by all means very fast and found the perfect environment at Alpha Tauri, after being dropped by Red Bull made it look like his days could be over.
He finished on the top 10 for three seasons in a row now and proved to be an excellent driver in qualifying, often converting the performances in the race, despite making a bit too many unforced errors.
Gasly was solid since rejoining the team, he made the difference in 2021 and repeating himself could earn him a promotion to a team upper on the field.
Yuki Tsunoda – He just has to do better in 2022. His rookie season was difficult, but it could be excused if he steps up the level this year and regularly competes with Gasly.
We know how tough the Red Bull environment is and Tsunoda has had too many ups and downs to establish a solid reputation as of yet. He finished 2021 in 14th, with less than a third of Gasly’s points.
He is still the youngest driver on the grid, but opportunities in Formula One must be taken quickly.Embed from Getty Images
Aston Martin – Last season was a disappointment and testing didn’t make it look like they could overturn the situation in a dramatic way.
Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll both struggled the previous year and will be hoping they could compete for more than occasional points, particularly Vettel, who is ageing towards becoming a 35-years-old.
Aston Martin were very strong in 2020, but failed to stand out in 2021. Predictions are very difficult to make and it is only the first race which will say what their realistic targets can be.Embed from Getty Images
Sebastian Vettel – When he joined Aston Martin, he hoped to be part of the team that lost third place in 2020 only due to a points penalty. However, reality was very different and Vettel only scored seven times in 22 races.
He was just 12th and it has been a few years without showing flashes of that driver who dominated the sport at the beginning of the 2010s.
Vettel will hope the team can bounce back and that he can beat Stroll race in, race out.
Lance Stroll – He deserves a seat in the sport and it is quite clear that he is not there just because his father owns the team.
However, Stroll is consistent, sometimes even too much. He lacked that standout performance. Vettel had more ups and downs, but occasionally competed for podiums, getting one in Azerbaijan and having one taken away in Hungary.
Stroll scored more times, but was behind in the standings. To thrive forward, it’s time Stroll shows he can finish in front of a four-time world champion.Embed from Getty Images
Williams – It’s about time that a successful team like Williams finds the way back from its steady decline since the start of the hybrid era. After ending the year in last place for three successive seasons, 2021 saw them compete for points at times.
The fresh start under the new regulations offers them a great opportunity, but they lost their main driver George Russell and will have to field a returning Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi.Embed from Getty Images
Nicholas Latifi – It took time, but Latifi seemed to adapt a lot more to Formula One cars in the second half of 2021 and finally started to feat ahead of his teammate after a year and a half.
Latifi has a lot of financial backing and that helped his cause, but if he wants to leave his name in the sport, he needs to stand out. A more competitive car could help him, but finishing steadily behind Albon will be a thing he must avoid.
In 2021 he scored points on two occasions, but it was certainly his teammate Russell who stood out. Latifi’s time may soon be over if he doesn’t turn things around.
Alex Albon – His second chance to drive in Formula One arrived when Williams came to the rescue and called up this driver who wasn’t able to get the best out of his 18-months spell at Red Bull.
For Albon, 2022 will be a step into the unknown, after being off for one year, but everyone will have to adapt to different cars, so, for him, this could be an advantage.
Albon will rather need to hope that Williams can offer him a car in which he can show good things and set his career back on track. Performing outside of the Red Bull environment may give him the chance to have less pressure on his shoulders.Embed from Getty Images
Alfa Romeo – The only team with a fully new line-up shows up with many unknowns. Since they entered the sport to replace Sauber, they weren’t able to fulfil the expectations and spent the last few years at the back of the grid.
Guanyu Zhou will need to be nurtured and Valtteri Bottas for sure can offer a lot of experience, but will the two drivers be able to carry the team on their shoulders?
Bottas is expected to redeem himself, Zhou is a winner in junior categories, but the season may once again be hard if their car is underperforming.Embed from Getty Images
Valtteri Bottas – His Mercedes experience ended and it didn’t go as planned. He always won the constructors championship, but failed on his mission to win the drivers title.
Bottas is off a season in which he only twice finished better than third and has showed a steady decline. Will Alfa Romeo see the same driver that struggled with the Mercedes, or will they welcome somebody who will give his everything to bounce back?
Let’s not forget Bottas is a race winner and stepped on the podium multiple times with Williams, before joining the Silver Arrows. He knows how it feels not to drive a championship winning car and did so diligently, even if it seems such a long time ago.
Guanyu Zhou – China’s first-ever Formula One driver comes straight from Formula Two, where he finished third on his third season in 2021.
Zhou was expected to be the favourite, but failed to bring a serious title challenge. Stepping up in the Alfa Romeo environment might mean there is less pressure to perform straight away, but Zhou will quickly need to prove his worth, particularly considering he is a pay driver.Embed from Getty Images
Haas – They featured in the news almost more than anybody else during preseason, particularly due to their relationship with Russia, that led to the replacement of the main sponsor Uralkali and their driver Nikita Mazepin.
Losing Mazepin may not be a blow, considering his performances in 2021, but the Russian was bringing a lot of money on his behalf. They openly said at the start of last season, they would solely focus on developing the 2022 car under the new regulations.
Whilst Barcelona testing was extremely hard, they seemed particularly competitive in Bahrain and this may be a surprise. With the support of Ferrari, Haas are serious candidates to leave the bottom places and bring a challenge to the midfield.Embed from Getty Images
Mick Schumacher – He made a few serious errors in 2021, but he was fast, consistently ahead of Mazepin and showed a lot of good things.
He will be hoping to leave the bottom two places and finally have a car that can compete with the others. Mick Schumacher’s chance to demonstrate how good he is may come in 2022 and it is one he will need to take, given that Haas were miles behind last year.
Facing up to somebody like Kevin Magnussen could be a real challenge and the eyes will be on the young German, whose target will be to score his first points in Formula One.
Kevin Magnussen – The Dane wasn’t expected to be part of the 2022 grid and was signed only recently, with the team desperately needing a driver. Magnussen is almost a veteran, who rejoins Haas after featuring from 2017 until leaving the sport in 2020.
A fast, very aggressive driver, Magnussen knows all about being the underdog and having underperforming cars. A fan favourite for his determination, he also attracted attention for pushing the limits.
Still, his return was welcomed by many, who will feel somebody like him shouldn’t have been let go in the first place. He hasn’t stepped on the podium since his very first race in 2014 and will hardly do so this season, unless Haas perform a miracle.
Is he still the same driver he was before leaving, or will he encounter any struggles?Embed from Getty Images
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