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Formula 1

Drivers who could lose their seat for 2022

While the season is yet to get underway, the cutthroat nature of Formula 1 ensures that a few drivers must perform at their best if they are to retain their seats beyond the current year.

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The 20 available Formula 1 seats are generally perceived to be the most coveted seats in motorsport. This means the competition for places is fierce and drivers are under constant pressure to perform. The seven drivers below in particular will need to prove they deserve their seats for 2022.

Valtteri Bottas

While Bottas has played the role of a number two driver to perfection, there are growing calls for Mercedes to replace the Finn with a driver who could push Lewis Hamilton. The biggest threat to Bottas' seat comes in the form of George Russell, who in addition to being a Mercedes junior also firmly left the Finn in his shade during their time as teammates at the Sakhir Grand Prix.

While the calls to replace Bottas with Russell hit fever pitch after that particular race, Mercedes opted to retain their tried and tested man and it is understandable why they did so. Ever since Nico Rosberg departed the team in 2016, Mercedes has looked to avoid internal conflict amongst its two drivers and has retained the somewhat docile Bottas in order to maintain balance within the team.

That being said, the team has always chosen to give their Finnish driver a single-year contract and one could make the argument that if he does underperform the Brackley based outfit would be more than ready to replace him with the younger Russell, who himself is out of contract at Williams heading in 2022.

What Lewis Hamilton does might also play a role in Bottas' future in the sport as the Englishman is yet to sign a contract with Mercedes or more realistically might retire at the end of 2021 if he does win his eighth title.

Sergio Perez

After a stellar 2020, where the Mexican was able to take his first win, Sergio Perez now finds himself at the competitive Red Bull team. The second seat at Red Bull however has represented something of a poisoned chalice as its previous two incumbents, Pierre Gasly (who himself is now a race winner) and Alex Albon struggled to keep up with the ruthless Max Verstappen.

Perez who came perilously close to losing his place on the F1 grid after Aston Martin boss Lawrence Stroll unceremoniously dumped him in favour of Sebastian Vettel, will now have the unenviable task of trying to take the fight to the Dutch Verstappen.

Given Red Bull's predilection of replacing drivers at the drop of a hat, the Mexcian will have to make the most of his one year contract in order to retain his seat for the following year. Given the sheer number of options at Red Bull's disposal with the likes of Gasly, Albon and F1 debutant Yuki Tsunoda gunning for his seat, Perez will be under severe scrutiny to deliver the results required him.

Esteban Ocon

After losing out on a 2019 drive to Lance Stroll, when his father Lawrence bought out the then Force India team, Esteban Ocon might find himself in a similar position come 2022.

The Frenchman had a difficult start to 2020 where he was comprehensively outpaced by Daniel Ricciardo. While Ocon did have his share of bad luck, even on his good days, the young Frenchman struggled to put together a string of performances that vindicated Renault's faith in him.

While Ocon would bounce back and have a great end to the year which included his first podium at the Sakhir Grand Prix, his task for the coming year will be to match the level of two-time world champion, Fernando Alonso.

With Renault (now Alpine) eyeing Pierre Gasly for one of their 2022 seats, Ocon must deliver on the promise he showed at Force India to have any shot of being on the grid come 2022.

Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly

Given Red Bull's trigger happy culture it would not come as a surprise if AlphaTauri ended up with an all-new driver lineup for 2022.

Many expected Pierre Gasly to be out of the Red Bul fold come 2021, the Frenchman though had other plans and stunned the world at Monza winning the Italian Grand Prix. His win coupled with his overall improvement across the season would see him return to the good graces of Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko, who runs the driver development program. While his seat is by no means secure, the highly-rated Gasly does have an out with Alpine if things don't go as planned at AlphaTauri.

Yuki Tsunoda who took the 2020 F2 grid by storm will be looking to make an instant impact on the sport. While Red Bull juniors are usually given two years before having their fates are decided, with the highly-rated Alex Albon waiting in the wings, anything could happen.

The onus is on both drivers to perform.

Antonio Giovinazzi

With a host of drivers from the junior formula looking to take his place, Italian, Giovinazzi has his work cut out for him in 2021.

Signed to the Ferrari Driver Academy, the aim was to have the Italian in a Ferrari car. However, with Ferrari finding their new messiah in Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz joining the team from McLaren, and the arrival of Mick Schumacher, things look bleak for Giovinazzi at least when it comes to securing a seat at the Scuderia.

Ferrari will be desperate to return the Schumacher name to their stable and Mattia Binotto himself has come out and said that the young Schumacher could be in line for a Ferrari seat come 2023.

With other FDA drivers like Callum Illot and Robert Schwartzman also looking for drives in Formula 1 the Italian must deliver in 2021 in order to retain his seat. His one respite could be in the form of Kimi Raikkonen who will be 42 by the end of the season and might want to call time on his F1 career.

Nicholas Latifi

While this seems like the least likely possibility of the lot, Nicholas Latifi must improve on his showing from 2020 in order to secure his seat for 2022.

The Canadian has not displayed any flashes of brilliance during his short F1 career and he has been comprehensively outpaced by his teammate George Russell. The influx of wealth by Dorliton Capital will also play a factor in determining his future as the team is more financially secure than they were just a year ago.

However, with Russell likely to leave Williams at the end of the year and money being the lifeblood of Formula 1, it wouldn't be surprising to see Latifi back on the grid next year even if he were to underperform.


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