This Sunday, after 98 days of waiting, the lights will go out on the first race of the 2022 Formula 1 season. We’re pretty excited for this new season here at Jalopnik, so thought we should make a few predictions about the year ahead.
With sweeping new regulation coming to the 2022 cars and several teams opting to shuffle their lineups this year, a lot has changed at the pinnacle of motorsport. So, we brought together seven of our biggest F1 fans to see what they think could happen over the coming 22 races.
Bahrain Grand Prix Winner
Bradley Brownell: George Russell will win in Bahrain because I never believe Mercedes when they say they are on the back foot in development. I think they’ll show up with an easy fix to the porpoising problem, and be fighting at the front by Q2 on Saturday.
Owen Bellwood: Charles Leclerc will be the one to beat come Sunday. For me, the biggest takeaway from testing was Ferrari’s reliability and consistency on track. Both Leclerc and teammate Carlos Sainz looked at home in the stunning new Ferrari F1-75 and each of them could be in a position to win races this year. But, after finishing 5.5 points and two places back from Sainz last year, Ferrari’s golden boy, Leclerc, will want to stamp his name firmly in the Scuderia’s good books.
Biggest Miami Grand Prix Upset
Lalita Chemello: Let’s think about this for a minute. I foresee yet another time Max Verstappen makes a dangerous and likely rule-breaking maneuver around Lewis Hamilton. Christian Horner will throw a hissy fit…the drama saga continues. As far as upsets really go, seeing a team like Williams get a point-scoring spot could really set the tone of where this new generation of rules may take us. And after last year’s disaster, we could use some fresher faces competing up front.
Elizabeth Blackstock: I know the conventional angle to take here would be to talk about an upset in terms of performance, but I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to go with a logistical upset: Traffic and parking will be awful, and race promoters won’t be prepared to deal with it.
I know from experience how awful parking and traffic can be at Circuit of the Americas, and that’s a venue out in the middle of nowhere, where the only traffic is race traffic and where there are also thousands of spaces for parked cars. There’s not going to be that space in Miami, and when paired with the regular Florida traffic, I think we’re going to see a lot of bitching on social media.
Race Of The Season
LC: Miami. I honestly don’t know what to expect, but this is such a shiny and new track on the calendar, and also incredibly hyped. All eyes are watching to see not only how this overpriced excursion will play out, but if it’ll even work for what F1 is trying to accomplish.
BB: Miami will be the most interesting, assuming it happens. Because, it’s Florida, man. There will probably be a caution for a gator wandering on track or some shit.
Adam Ismail: This pick’s a little risky, but I’ll go ahead and take that risk because it’s one of the finest circuits and locales on the calendar, and we’ve been without it for two years: the Japanese Grand Prix.
Suzuka is hallowed F1 ground in my book, right alongside Monza and Spa. As any fan will tell you, it’s played host to a number of amazing, title-deciding races over the years. There might be another round that provides a little more on-track drama. But, between the atmosphere, which is sure to be electric; the late-season position in the schedule; the propensity for weather to play a factor; and the track’s punishing, old-school nature, Suzuka easily gets my vote. So long as it isn’t canceled again, of course.
Maiden Grand Prix Winner
AI: There are safe bets to make here, probably George Russell and Carlos Sainz chief among them, with Norris a distant but still-very-possible third. There could be quite a few first-time winners in 2022, when you think about it.
But it’s no fun predicting the inevitable, so my choice for unlikely maiden grand prix victor, in the vein of Esteban Ocon last year, is Lance Stroll. I believe Aston’s got more pace than testing has let on, and Stroll has been on the podium three times before. It’ll almost certainly come down to fortune, but I think the Canadian could find himself in the right place when that good fortune comes, primed to seize the moment.
EB: I respect Adam’s choices — they are sensible and respectable, and I do wish all the best for Lance Stroll. But, I think this is the year for Lando Norris. McLaren has been steadily improving for the past few years, and Norris has been tantalizingly close to his first victory quite a few times. I’m calling a maiden win in his favor.
Most Impressive Driver
Erik Shilling: George Russell is stepping into the perfect situation, in a car that in pre-season testing has looked a little wobbly — quite literally with all of the porpoising — but I agree with Brad in saying that, when it comes to sandbagging, Mercedes is usually guilty until proven innocent. Which means that it’s only up to George to perform, and we’ve seen enough of him over the years to have confidence that he will. George Russell, the answer to every question, will impress plenty in 2022.
Ryan Eric King: Without a doubt, the most impressive driver this F1 season will be one of the two drivers at Ferrari, Charles Leclerc or Carlos Sainz. Scuderia Ferrari might be my dark horse (no pun intended) pick to win the World Constructors’ Championship, but that’s a massive improvement for Maranello. The Italian team has gone two seasons without a race victory. Ferrari’s most recent race win was when Sebastian Vettel won the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix.
However, Ferrari simply returning to its race-winning ways wouldn’t boost Charles Leclerc’s stock much. Leclerc was Vettel’s teammate back in 2019 and accounted for two of the team’s three race wins that season. Carlos Sainz has far more to gain than Leclerc. After an excellent debut season at Ferrari last year and two stellar seasons at McLaren before that, it’s hard to believe that the seven-season veteran has yet to win a race in his F1 career. And, very few milestones get the paddock heaping their praises like a maiden victory.
2022 World Drivers’ Champion
BB: Lewis Hamilton will win his 8th title this year because it’s the redemption he needs after last season. Also because Mercedes don’t mess up, and because I believe he is stronger than ever before.
OB: I’m sure you would all rather I say something outlandish like Kevin Magnussen, but I’m going to have to agree with Brad on this one. After losing the title in the worst possible way in 2021, Hamilton will be out for blood this year. His team has thrown a raft of crazy-looking innovations at the 2022 car, and the 37-year-old will be fired up and ready to claim a record-breaking eighth title this year.
2022 World Constructors’ Champion
REK: I can say with 90 percent certainty that either Red Bull, Mercedes or Ferrari will win the 2022 World Constructors’ Championship. While the massive change in regulations has created some genuine uncertainty at the front of the field, it’s difficult to bet against the winners of the last eight constructors’ titles. As things stand, I’m betting on Mercedes to win the World Constructors’ Championship.
Mercedes turned a lot of heads when it revealed the radical “zeropod” design on the W13 during testing in Bahrain. The team also shocked many when the W13 was the worst victim of the porpoising plaguing this season’s cars. When Lewis Hamilton says his team doesn’t have a car capable of winning, I believe him. Mercedes will likely be third out of the gates, but the W13 has a lot of potential. If the team solves the porpoising issue, I’d expect the W13 to develop into the clear best car on the grid.
OB: As Ryan says, Mercedes has won eight consecutive constructors’ championships, having dominated every year of the turbo-hybrid era. But the 2022 regulations have been created specifically to level the playing field, so theoretically this year’s title is firmly up for anyones taking.
With that in mind, I think Ferrari will come out the gates gunning for the crown. They put up a close fight for the driver’s crown in 2017 and 2018, but with a young, exciting driver pairing I’m hoping for big things from F1’s most famous team.