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F1 2022

RacingNews365.com's predictions for the 2022 F1 season

With the 2022 F1 season almost upon us, RacingNews365.com's finest minds have dusted off their crystal balls to bring you their predictions for the coming year.

F1 group photo 2022
Column
To news overview © Aston Martin

The cars have been unveiled, pre-season testing is over, and it's finally time for F1's much-vaunted new era to get underway.

The action begins this weekend with the Bahrain Grand Prix for the first of 22 scheduled races (23 if Russia is replaced) across five continents to determine this year's Drivers' and Constructors' Champions.

So who will be tasting the champagne glories? Who will be plumbing the depths of despair? And who - or what - will be the biggest surprise of 2022?

RacingNews365.com journalists Dieter Rencken, Mike Seymour, Thomas Maher, Tom Leach, Anna Francis and Michael Butterworth have put their reputations on the line to bring you their predictions for what looks like a notoriously unpredictable season.

			© Red Bull Contentpool
	© Red Bull Contentpool

Who will win the 2022 F1 Drivers’ Championship?

Dieter Rencken: Max Verstappen.

Mike Seymour: I will be bold and say Charles Leclerc. Ferrari have looked competitive from the start of pre-season and I think Leclerc has the edge to win the internal battle. But I also expect Max Verstappen and Red Bull to be up there.

Thomas Maher: Lewis Hamilton. Mercedes rarely get it wrong, and Hamilton has a point to prove. Assuming the car is there or thereabouts, Hamilton will do the rest.

Tom Leach: Lewis Hamilton. I have seen nothing yet to convince me that Mercedes will not enjoy the better car for the bulk of the season – even if they appear to be behind for now. I think the glory this season will be shared across the paddock, similar to Hamilton's 2008 title win. I expect Red Bull and Ferrari to be close, along with McLaren at some tracks, and you can't rule out George Russell.

Anna Francis: Max Verstappen. If the RB18 has the promise that it hinted at in testing, the combination of that with Verstappen's confidence off the back of his first title could be a winning one.

Michael Butterworth: Max Verstappen. Red Bull and Ferrari look like the quickest two cars, but I think the Dutchman has enough to see off the twin threat of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, who will end up taking points off each other.

And the rest of the top six, in order:

DR: Leclerc, Russell, Hamilton, Sergio Perez, Sainz.

MS: Sainz, Verstappen, Hamilton, Russell, Perez.

TM: Leclerc, Verstappen, Sainz, Lando Norris, Perez.

TL: Leclerc will take second with Russell third. The two Red Bulls, who will start the season with the best car, will come home fourth and fifth, with Norris sixth.

AF: Hamilton, Perez, Sainz, Russell, Leclerc.

MB: Leclerc, Hamilton, Sainz, Russell, Norris.

			© Mercedes
	© Mercedes

Who will win the Constructors' Championship?

DR: Mercedes.

MS: Ferrari. Both drivers were on form at the end of 2021 and there is now (seemingly) a front-running car to exploit. It's a stronger line-up than Red Bull's overall, and Mercedes' W13 appears to have genuine issues – at least in the short-term. If Ferrari do have a title-challenging car on their hands, the only question is how they will manage a Leclerc/Sainz scrap.

TM: Ferrari. The combination of Leclerc and Sainz is a formidable one. If the F1-75 proves to be one of the top two cars, I believe their relentless 2021 scoring will continue on into this season.

TL: Mercedes, yet again. It would be wrong of me to predict otherwise given my top six predictions. I think their driver pairing is amongst the very best.

AF: It's impossible to rule out Mercedes, but I'm going to say that Red Bull take both championships for the first time since 2013.

MB: Ferrari. Leclerc and Sainz will score points more consistently than Verstappen and Perez, and Mercedes will take too long to catch up.

And the rest of the top four, in order:

DR: Red Bull, Ferrari, Alpine.

MS: Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren.

TM: Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren.

TL: Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren.

AF: Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren.

MB: Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren.

			© RN365/Michael Potts
	© RN365/Michael Potts

Who/what will be 2022's surprise package?

DR: Alpine.

MS: Haas. Not a complete surprise, given that they switched focus so early to 2022 and the rules reset. I can see them frequently scoring points with Mick Schumacher and now Kevin Magnussen onboard – the Dane being a great late addition!

TM: Aston Martin. Maybe it's wrong to say 'surprise package', but I wouldn't put it past Sebastian Vettel to sneak a win and semi-regular podium finishes.

TL: Haas. After seeing the lap times during testing in Bahrain, it's impossible to ignore them. They seem to have a car that is quick over one lap and are now on top of their reliability gremlins.

AF: Haas have sounded openly confident about progressing in 2022 and, with the added morale boost of Magnussen's return, I think they could at least edge back into the midfield.

MB: Not sure if this qualifies as a surprise, but I can see Fernando Alonso nicking a win at a rainy Montreal or Singapore, despite his Alpine's lack of competitiveness.

			© Aston Martin
	© Aston Martin

And the biggest disappointment?

DR: Aston Martin.

MS: Aston Martin. It was a flat return for the brand in 2021, all things considered, and I think the likes of Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes and McLaren will still be a clear step ahead on pure pace. It's a long-term project, but time quickly runs out in F1.

TM: Alfa Romeo. Valtteri Bottas wasn't amazing in the best car on the grid, so I don't see him setting the world on fire in a car that looks troubled and slow. Guanyu Zhou is an unknown quantity and will need time to find his feet.

TL: Aston Martin. We don't know for sure, but they are yet to show us that they have built a car that can offer Vettel race wins in 2022 – but it is still early days for the team on their five-year plan.

AF: I really hope I am wrong about this one, as I, like so many fans, want to see Vettel on the podium again, but I fear that Aston Martin could have another underwhelming year.

MB: Despite winning at Monza, Daniel Ricciardo spent most of 2021 in the shadow of Norris, and having missed all three days' testing at Bahrain, the Honey Badger starts 2022 on the back foot and may quickly become yesterday's man at McLaren.

How many different drivers/teams will win races?

DR: Six drivers from four teams.

MS: I will say seven drivers from four teams: both at Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes, along with Norris in the McLaren (there is always at least one wild race that opens the door).

TM: Four teams will win races: Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull and Aston Martin. And I'll guess seven different drivers will win a race.

TL: I'll say six. Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren will all take victories and a couple of backmarker teams will snatch fairy-tale wins. Let's guess Alex Albon in the Williams and Valtteri Bottas in the Alfa Romeo – they both deserve it.

AF: Six drivers won a race in 2021, so let's go one better and say seven this year, from four different teams.

MB: Just as in 2012, there will be eight different winners from six different teams. Hectic.

			© Bahrain Int. Circuit
	© Bahrain Int. Circuit

How many different drivers/teams will finish on the podium?

DR: Nine drivers from six teams.

MS: We saw 13 different drivers claim podiums in 2020 and 2021, but leading on from my previous answer, I think we have been lucky to witness so many dramatic races in recent times. I will say 11 drivers from six teams this time out.

TL: Let's go with 12 different drivers from nine different teams in a season where the pack is as condensed as ever.

AF: With last year's tally at 13 drivers, I'll again be optimistic and predict that 14 will take a podium in 2022, from nine teams.

MB: 14 podium finishers, from eight teams.

Who, if anyone, will win their first Grand Prix in 2022?

DR: Russell and Sainz.

MS: Sainz, Russell and Norris.

TM: Russell is the obvious contender for this, given the equipment he's likely to have at his disposal. Aside from him, I think Sainz will manage to finally step onto the top of the podium.

TL: Sainz, Norris and Russell are the ones to watch but you cannot rule out a surprise from the back of the grid. A win for Albon would be a fine story.

AF: Sainz, Norris and Russell all seem due a victory, but I expect Sainz to be the first to reach the top step.

MB: Sainz, Russell and Norris, in that order.

			© Alfa Romeo
	© Alfa Romeo

Guanyu Zhou is the only rookie on the grid. How will he get on?

DR: He'll struggle, not least as the car seems difficult and the engineering team does not know why.

MS: Solid but unspectacular. He deserves a shot in F1, though, compared to some who have arrived in recent seasons. It will also be a huge boost for the sport in a key market.

TM: I believe Guanyu Zhou will be solidly unspectacular. I don't believe he'll have the same turmoil that Yuki Tsunoda had last season with AlphaTauri, but will fare better than Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin managed. I'll predict 13th in the Drivers' Championship.

TL: I think Zhou's scorecard will read 'OK' at the end of 2022. He is a competent driver who has proven he has pace from his days in F2. He will have to do very well to look good alongside Bottas, however.

AF: I think that Zhou can have a solid year, but I don't expect him to get the better of Bottas. The Finn's experience from Mercedes won't count for nothing.

MB: If he's within three-tenths of Bottas he'll be doing well. This year is going to be more about learning as much as he can and showing that he deserves to be in F1 beyond 2022, especially with Alfa showing Theo Pourchaire a lot of leg lately.

What will be the biggest controversy in 2022?

DR: Sticking to budget caps, and the tricks teams will get up to to circumvent the $140m limit.

MS: One of the two new Race Directors will make a call that splits opinion and brings back memories of Abu Dhabi.

TM: Someone will reveal a car development that is something of a game-changer in the early days of these new regulations. It'll cause all sorts of fuss, with teams not being able to replicate it quickly or easily, and F1 will then want to intervene as they've claimed they'll do. It'll be a proper mess, and will drag on through most of the season.

TL: Hopefully nothing that compares to the controversy at the end of 2021. I'll keep my prediction vague: the second drivers will not play by the rules in 2022.

AF: Whilst the pecking order remains uncertain, I still expect the Hamilton/Verstappen rivalry - and, moreover, that between Mercedes and Red Bull - to continue after everything that happened last year, thus creating further contentious moments.

MB: The teams will struggle to contain the cars' porpoising to the extent that someone suffers a suspension failure and is pitched into a high-speed shunt.

			© Red Bull Contentpool
	© Red Bull Contentpool

And finally, what are you looking forward to most in 2022?

DR: A closing of the order all the way down, in turn leading to closer racing across the board.

MS: The next batch of youngsters making their mark in the sport, after Verstappen came to the fore in 2021. It could be a 'new era' for F1 in more ways than one.

TM: The sense of 'anything can happen' might return. Different teams, different drivers, all with a greater chance of success and glory as the effects of the budget cap take hold. It's going to be mega.

TL: A multi-team battle for the title. Since 2010, we've seen Red Bull dominate, Mercedes fight amongst themselves, Ferrari try and fail, and then two drivers go toe-to-toe. I want to see eight or more drivers, all in race-winning cars, all believing they can win it. Let's go to Abu Dhabi with four or five of them still in with a chance.

AF: Three things in particular: I am excited to find out if Ferrari can return to winning ways; the new driver dynamic at Mercedes will be fascinating to watch; and finally I look forward to probably having all of my predictions proved wrong in what could be the most unpredictable season in years. Roll on Bahrain!

MB: The most closely-packed grid in years, with different teams and drivers alternately dominating at different tracks and in different conditions. If testing is anything to go by, we have the narrowest field spread from top to bottom since 2009.

Also interesting:

F1 Podcast: Previewing the 2022 Formula 1 season

Ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, F1 journalists Dieter Rencken, Mike Seymour and Thomas Maher preview the 2022 season.

F1 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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