So far, 2022 has been what nearly all Formula 1 fans have been desperately praying for over the last few years. Yes, it’s great to see a dominant force rise to the top and then spend a few years proving that it wasn’t a fluke, but after eight years in a row, it gets somewhat monotonous.
Dear God, please don’t let Mercedes win this year.
With the rather sweeping changes that were introduced for the season, the iron grip that Mercedes has had for so long has finally been broken. Thank. Fucking. God!
The Mercedes team undoubtedly deserves all the respect it’s earned during its tenure as the undisputed juggernaut in the world’s highest tier of motor-racing. Its most recognizable stars (Lewis Hamilton and team principal, Toto Wolff), and everyone else at Mercedes, didn’t get to where they are by chance.
My hat is off to them, and I have every faith that they’ll be back on top before too long. But I’m so glad they’re not there right now.
Though the recent developments have indeed had an immediate effect, it’s not exactly as if they’ve completely scrambled the pecking order. The same three teams (Red Bull, Ferrari, and Mercedes) are still fighting for the top three spots, but this year, either Ferrari or Red Bull will almost certainly come out on top. And it shouldn’t be due to any massive blunders committed (or bribes taken?) by race officials in the championship race, either. We hope.
Still the top dogs of Formula 1
The modifications to the cars has been the biggest highlight of the season for sure, but there have also been some exciting goings-on not directly related to the technological transformations as well.
George Russell finally got moved from the basement-dwelling Williams team up to Mercedes, and he’s crushing it. At the time of this piece (seven races in), Russell has placed in the top five at every outing. Which begs the question, what the hell his seven-time world champion teammate, Lewis Hamilton, is doing in his car? But that’s a topic I’ll be covering in its own post.
Russell got a seat at Mercedes because, after five years as the absolute best second-seat driver any team could ever hope to have, Valterri Bottas got bumped. However, seemingly unfazed, the amazing Finn hopped right into an Alfa Romeo (the ninth-place team last year), and is driving the wheels off of it. Alfa Romeo is currently in fifth position, with Bottas scoring all but one of the team’s points. There’s no question of his talent whatsoever.
I have to admit, I may become emotional if Bottas wins a championship.
Russell and Bottas aren’t the only great driver stories this year, however; just look at Sergio Perez, the most successful F1 driver ever out of Mexico. He’s currently third in the driver’s standings and shows no signs of taking his foot off the gas. Considering that he didn’t know if he’d have a seat in 2021, the fact that he’s winning races with Red Bull this year is fantastic news. I was in Guadalajara the day he won at Monaco, and let’s just say, people were celebrating. As they had every right to.
Then, on the flip sides of the above coins, there are a few stories that, positive changes to the sport or not, don’t seem to be going that well.
One resounding misfire is the scenario at McLaren, where the supposed stud, Daniel Ricciardo, was brought in to add his overrated skills to the team. I’m assuming the idea at McLaren was for them to join the ranks of the top outfits with two star drivers. That strong one-two punch greatly increases the odds of success, something a motivational rivalry between Ricciardo and Lando Norris should have accomplished. I guess. No such thing has occurred.
It seems as though Ricciardo can’t handle the thought of having to compete with his teammates; that’s why he bailed on Red Bull when Verstappen came on board. He’s clearly off his A-game having to compete with Lando Norris as well.
Norris is obviously the stud at McLaren, and after multiple seasons of regular team-jumping in pursuit of success, Ricciardo is probably getting used to the taste of dust. His tactic of abandoning ship before there’s any sign of an iceberg on the horizon seems to have consistently fallen flat. But maybe that’s the karma a person gets for backstabbing those who put their names and reputations on the line.
A charming smile and a goofy sense of humour might win friends and forgiveness, but they don’t win races. Sometimes honour does, though.
Not exactly a good look, Danny Boy.
But enough of all that; there’s much more to Formula 1 than Ricciardo’s insecurity-fueled blunders. Let’s move on.
Which brings us to the teams with the most suck: Aston Martin, Haas and Williams.
Ugh! What’s that awful smell?
It’s quite probable that Aston Martin is just taking an inexplicable, unexpected, gigantic shit, and should see improvement soon (they’d damn well better!), and Haas could (and has) done better, but Williams just plain sucks. It’s tragic. They used to be that maverick, underdog team that had it all, and lots of it. The only good thing about them now is that they’re consistent.
Ummm… er… wait! That’s not a good thing when you’re terrible.
The most exciting thing to come from any of these bottom dwellers in the last couple of seasons is Haas’s team chief, Guenther Steiner. Maybe he’ll get hired on by a real outfit someday. I’d like to see him in a winning role. He’d probably like that too.
So there we have it; a bit of the good, a bit of the bad and the ugly, and a lot of hope for the future of the fastest sport on earth.
The modifications enacted for 2022 are probably the most impactful since 1983, but, so far, they seem much more positive. I’m sure that by the end of this season we’ll have a clear and definite picture of whether or not they’ve achieved the results they were intended to. So far, it looks promising.
One thing is for certain: it looks like the battle for second place won’t be the main draw anymore. In fact, it looks like all of the battles (down through seventh place, at least) will be keeping fans on the edges of their seats all season long.
Other than some tire-juggling at select events in 2023, we’re not sure what, if any, major revisions will be coming down the pipe. But if this season is a smash hit, there may not be much call for anything new. And if nothing new is called for, I hope they don’t introduce any useless measures for the sake of keeping things fresh and exciting. More often than not, such silliness only serves to undo the positive outcomes of any previous changes.
With the 2022 campaign just over one-third complete, it’s been everything a true Formula 1 fan could have hoped for. The race for the top spot isn’t a guarantee by any means, almost every driver on track is a force to be reckoned with, and we’ve got fierce rivalries and strong teams (mostly). Anything could happen. It’s perfect.
When the vision for this year was dreamed up and put into place, they nailed it. The sport obviously needed a shake-up, and this one seems to be just the fix. But now that it’s working, please just let it run for a bit and only tweak as necessary. I do hope, however, that it never becomes necessary to remove iconic tracks such as Monaco from the circuit in favour of locations that are willing to pay the biggest bribes. Because, although change is often good and definitely needed, some things are sacred.