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F1 2022

Five F1 drivers who need a strong 2022 season

While all F1 drivers need to perform at their best consistently over a season, some are under more pressure than others in 2022.

Vettel Mexico
Article
To news overview © Aston Martin

The 20 drivers lining up on the Formula 1 grid in 2022 all face unique pressures. Some are on long-term contracts representing big manufacturers, some are in the twilight of their careers while coasting on past successes, while others are bright-eyed rookies trying to make their presence felt.

While all drivers have to worry about putting in performances to impress their employers, some need a big year in 2022 to convince the sport not to leave them behind. Here are five drivers that need to impress this season...

Sebastian Vettel

It may sound strange to think that a once-dominant, four-time World Champion needs a strong year, but that's the situation Vettel has found himself in.

While Vettel's 2021 was quite good, with high points like Azerbaijan and Hungary (even if he was disqualified later), rumours still abounded that he was in danger of losing his seat for 2022 as the confirmation of his deal dragged on far longer than one might have expected.

While he was, eventually, confirmed, Vettel will still be the first of the Aston Martin drivers to be dropped the instant the team wants a change. Lance Stroll merely needs to be competent in his seat to be in no danger of being axed while his dad owns the team.

Vettel needs to have a strong season in order to be able to convince Aston Martin to keep him for 2023. If he doesn't show some of the form that made him so peerless for so long in the past, it's hard to see another team scrambling for his services.

There are also question marks over just how hungry Vettel still is. While he is still clearly enjoying himself in F1, his demanding (but highly private) family life is difficult to balance alongside such a grueling F1 calendar.

With 2021 showing how his priorities have changed as he's aged, a poor 2022 season may convince him it's time to walk away.

			© Aston Martin
	© Aston Martin

Yuki Tsunoda

Tsunoda managed to get a stay of execution in 2021, doing just enough to convince Red Bull that his progression as a driver is heading in the right direction.

The Japanese rookie had a very troubled first season, with AlphaTauri team boss Franz Tost attempting to keep the self-proclaimed "lazy b*****d" focused by moving him to Italy to be near the team factory.

This proved a turning point in Tsunoda's season, while Red Bull gave the mature Alex Albon the task of acting as a type of driver coach for the very young Yuki. Tsunoda rewarded Red Bull with a season-best fourth at the final race, showing that he appears to be putting the pieces together.

Having been given the chance to take on a second season alongside the seasoned Pierre Gasly, Tsunoda has no excuses this year. The car may be new, but that's the case for the entire grid. He's on a level playing field now, and the tracks are no longer new and scary for him.

With the likes of Juri Vips and Liam Lawson waiting in the wings for the nod from Helmut Marko, Tsunoda needs to convince Red Bull that there's no need to look elsewhere.

Daniel Ricciardo

While Ricciardo is still coasting on the momentum of what he's achieved in the past, a lot of that momentum dissipated over the course of a poor 2021.

Lando Norris frequently dragged the MCL35M to high points positions and podiums, but Ricciardo struggled for form and consistency for most of the season.

Although the Australian got it together on occasion, most notably at Monza, his poor performances arguably cost McLaren third place in the Constructors' Championship as Ferrari came on song in the closing races with both of their drivers firing on all cylinders.

Ricciardo is one of the highest-paid drivers on the grid, and remains under contract until the end of 2023. But should his performances fail to step up a gear under 'The Great Reset' of the technical rules this season, McLaren will surely evaluate whether to cut their losses.

			© McLaren
	© McLaren

Alex Albon

Albon returns to F1 having made the most of his demotion from a race seat. Rather than be bitter about the situation after Red Bull dropped him from either of their team line-ups, Albon brushed himself off and threw himself into the role of Red Bull's reserve and test driver.

Doing all the late-night, far-from-glamorous simulator and testing work, Albon's contributions were widely praised by Christian Horner and Helmut Marko – his work having a direct impact on Max Verstappen's title victory.

Red Bull have rewarded him, going to bat for him on the driver market and landing him a seat with the Williams team. It's telling that Red Bull haven't cut ties with Albon, keeping him on the back burner while allowing him to get another chance as a race driver.

But Albon still needs a big year, having been given this second opportunity. Paired up with the solid, if somewhat unspectacular, Nicholas Latifi, the Canadian represents a known reference point for Albon to stack up against.

Albon has proven his worth as a diligent, behind-the-scenes test driver. Now he needs to show that he has the mettle to succeed on the race track. Should he fail in 2022, he is doomed to become this generation's Luca Badoer or Pedro de la Rosa.

Mick Schumacher

Mick Schumacher had the ideal scenario for his rookie season in Formula 1. While his name and pedigree carries a weight of expectation, Haas' unique 2021 campaign meant that the German only had to worry about beating one driver throughout the year.

With the Haas nowhere near quick enough to be realistically expected to latch onto the midfield, Schumacher's occasional rise above P19 during a qualifying or race meant that it was particularly eye-catching and beneficial for him.

But that relatively easy ride comes to an end for this year. Schumacher, as well as Nikita Mazepin, were both expected to find their feet during 2021 in order to be ready for the new regulation cycle in 2022, as Haas focused all their development efforts on the new era.

While Mazepin's position is protected somewhat by the large sponsorship package that his father brings through Uralkali, Schumacher doesn't have that buffer.

Still part of Ferrari's Driver Academy, Schumacher has a future mapped out in front of him with the Scuderia's backing – provided he gives them a reason to back him.

A poor 2022 could scupper all of that, meaning there's huge pressure on Schumacher's shoulders this year. Like Tsunoda, there are no excuses to fall back on for 2022.

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