Mario Andretti has praised F1's field of drivers for 2022, saying that the sport is as "rich as ever" when it comes to driver talent.
The 1978 World Champion picked out a few names in particular that he felt had performed exceptionally well throughout 2021, and says he will be keeping a close eye on them in 2022 to see how they adjust to F1's new regulations and, in some cases, their new teams.
Asked to pick out the drivers he believes are ready to make the next step in performance, Andretti was without hesitation.
"I think Lando [Norris] is at the point where he could be a force to be reckoned with," Andretti said in an exclusive interview with RacingNews365.com, before choosing one of the Ferrari drivers as his next contender.
"I think Carlos Sainz has really shown some promise; he's shown to really be coming into his own, in his own comfortable position there, with Ferrari. I think he has pushed Charles Leclerc a little bit and made him a bit nervous at times – you could see [it].
"Daniel Ricciardo has [also] shown tremendous ability to be up at the top with a top team."
With most of F1's 10 teams now having at least one driver on a long-term deal, and with well-populated driver academies behind them, Andretti says they aren't short on options.
"Overall, the top teams are really well armed with talent," he commented. "If it's not one, it could be the other."
F1's wealth of talent: "There's so much to look forward to!"
While Andretti has earmarked the likes of Norris and Sainz as his top talents for 2022, he went on to mention a host of other drivers that have caught his eye, with plenty of unanswered questions to be addressed this season.
"Everyone expects Williams to keep showing better. I was happy to see Alex Albon get his opportunity to come back in," he said.
"We'll see what Alpine will do with Esteban [Ocon]. Esteban is certainly not afraid of Fernando [Alonso]. There's so much to look forward to here. And look at [Pierre] Gasly's performance throughout the season – that was brilliant."
Realising just how many drivers he had picked out, Andretti said: "You can go up and down the entire field! There's always something interesting to look forward to.
"There's lots of talent, incredible talent out there, no question. At this moment, Formula 1 is as rich of talent as ever."
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