F1 IN 2022: RED BULL DOMINANCE AND FAREWELL SEBASTIAN VETTEL
I feel as though every year for the last few years, I have said this was going to be Ferrari's year and it never is, and sadly this year is no different with the Prancing Horse failing to make a correct strategy call for the majority of the season the chances of a first World Title for Leclerc or Sainz quickly went down the drain as Red Bull fought back from their poor reliability issues in the first few races.
The 2022 season kicked off in the desert of Bahrain at the Bahrain International Circuit. It was Ferrari who showed the paddock that they meant business with a one two finish with Leclerc taking the first victory of the season with Sainz in second and Hamilton in third despite the obvious issues the Mercedes was having. The season couldn't have gotten of to a worse start for Red Bull a team hoping to continue their success from last year. However with a double DNF in Bahrain, Red Bull headed to the second round in Saudi Arabia bottom of both Championships.
For the second season F1 headed to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. Where the results were coming back to Red Bull with Verstappen crossing the line first closely followed by Leclerc. Sainz took third with Perez not far behind in the second Red Bull in fourth. We then headed across the globe to Australia - Albert Park in Melbourne for what is normally an exciting race however I would say this year was the exception with Leclerc taking a comfortable victory over Perez crossing the line 20 seconds before the Mexican driver. George Russell came home in third to take his first podium as a Mercedes works driver ahead of teammate Hamilton in fourth. Verstappen's luck changed again in Australia as he failed to finish for a second race.
Now for Round 4 and F1 was in Italy but more importantly in Imola where last year we had seen an excellent wheel to wheel battle between Verstappen and Hamilton. 2022 wasn't quite the same with Verstappen taking victory number two 16.5 seconds ahead of teammate Sergio Perez and Lando Norris took third for McLaren in what would be the only podium of the year for the team from Woking.
The race at Imola was a turning point in the season not only for Red Bull but also Ferrari. After having neither driver on the podium in Imola Ferrari then failed to win a race for seven races, and were only on the podium four times in six races. However is was a different story for Red Bull who won the next five races after Imola with Verstappen winning in Miami, Spain, Azerbaijan and Canada and Perez winning around the streets on Monaco.
Leclerc and Sainz were both on the podium in Miami with Leclerc second and Sainz third. Sainz would go onto take second in Monaco and Canada respectively.
Round 7 and F1 had come home to Silverstone. A nations hopes rested on the Mercedes team with their porpoising issues somewhat resolved Hamilton and Russell where hoping to fly the flag for Britain. And after qualifying in fifth (HAM) and eighth (RUS) anything was possible but in the end it was Carlos Sainz who came home first in a race full of highs and lows to become the 113th different winner in Formula One. Perez finished second with Hamilton in third for his second podium of the year.
Next up Austria - the home of Red Bull a race which looked very much like going the way of the Bull towards the end as Leclerc who lead the race began having issues with his pedals which weren't snapping back into place causing him to pull his pedals back as so he didn't end up nose first into a barrier - but despite his worries Leclerc drove a fine race to take win number three ahead of home favourite Verstappen in second and Hamilton in third for his third podium finish in a row.
Austria was sort of the end of any title hopes for Ferrari as they would fail to win a race for the rest of the season. Max Verstappen would go onto win the next five races in France, Hungary, Belgium, his home race in the Netherlands and Italy (Monza). With Ferrari only on the podium three times in those five races with Sainz finishing third in Belgium and Leclerc taking third in the Netherland and second in Monza.
Verstappen's winning streak was stopped by his teammate Sergio Perez who took his second victory of the year around yet another street circuit this time around Marina Bay in Singapore a race where both Ferraris were on the podium. Next up Japan.
The Japanese Grand Prix, always a good race come rain or shine... and this year it rained, a lot, and heavily. After lengthy delays of well over an hour we finally got to see some action on the track and it didn't disappoint. Verstappen came into this race knowing that if he outscored Leclerc he would be Champion again. For lap after lap it appeared that Leclerc would hold on and take the fight to the next race but on the final lap at the penultimate corner Perez made a move for second on Leclerc where the Ferrari ran wide and rejoined the track and kept second. Leclerc crossed the line second with Perez third but as time went on after the race it was revealed that the stewards were investigating Leclerc for that final lap incident and as Verstappen was getting out of his car in Parc Ferme the stewards had decided to award a time penalty to Leclerc which relegated him from second to third which gave Verstappen the point gap he needed to be a double World Champion.
Verstappen's dominance didn't end there as with four races left Max took victory in three with Russell being only the third non-Red Bull driver to win a race this year as he became the 114th different winner in F1 after he took a well deserved first win in Brazil. Verstappen won the races in Austin, Mexico and the season finale in Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi of course was never going to live up to 2021 but in a way it did for a very different reason, as Formula One said goodbye to on of the greats - Sebastian Vettel. Statistically the third most successful driver in F1 history behind only Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton.
Vettel and Red Bull dominated the sport from 2010 - 2013 winning four straight Drivers and Constructors Championships only done before by Ferrari with Schumacher in the late nineties and early 2000's.
With 53 wins, 57 pole positions, 122 podiums Sebastian Vettel will not only be remembered by his stats but also as the person he was more recently taking up the role of activist fighting for the things he believes in and not being afraid of what people will think. 2023 will be for many the first season of F1 they will watch that wont feature Sebastian Vettel on the grid.
COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER: Under section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research. All images are owned by Formula One.