The 2021 season has just concluded, but already there is one eye towards next year. It is expected to be a significant shift in the sport as we enter a new era.
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen put on a show through 22 races across the globe, while both are likely to take center stage when 2022 kicks off, there are big hopes at F1 that the new season will bring new podium challengers and a more contested leaderboard. Here are five key stories I’m looking forward to as we look ahead to next year.
1 – The Newly Designed 2022 Car
Beyond the 2021 title controversy, the biggest storyline heading into the offseason is the arrival of the much-discussed 2022 car. The redesigned model has been built for one specific purpose – closer racing. The idea is that the cars will lose less downforce when following behind one another, which will, in turn, provide for more overtakes and more exciting races. In addition to a new design, tire manufacturer Pirelli is introducing new 18” tires. The aim is that it will help reduce overheating and again, allow for much closer racing.
2 – Lewis Hamilton’s Response to 2021
Hamilton has dominated the hybrid era of Formula One. Since winning his first title as a Mercedes driver in 2014. The Brit has never finished lower than second in the Driver’s Championship. Holding as many records as he does, he has nothing left to prove in the sport. Everyone will be keen to see how he embraces the start of the 2022 season. We saw how he responded to setbacks in Brazil. 2022 Hamilton could be a different animal to the seven time World Champ! After dominating the end of the 2021 season, but not walking away with the title it will hurt. However, entering a new year with a redesigned car and a new teammate, there’ll be a fresh feel to the team.
3 – Will Max Verstappen Dominate a New Era of Formula One?
On the other side of the coin, Verstappen has just reached the pinnacle of the sport. At just 24, he could very well be the force in Formula One over the next decade. Max’s talent has never been in question. So it’ll come down to how quickly Red Bull will adjust to the new car design. We also have to consider how they’ll cope with the move away from the Honda engine over the next two years. If the adjustments fail to bring immediate competitiveness, you would expect Max to once again control the start of the season with Lewis.
4 – George Russell Joins Mercedes
After five seasons, Valtteri Bottas exits Mercedes with 10 race wins to his name and 58 podiums. The Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen podium is the most common podium in the history of the sport. He has been vital to the team winning the Constructors Championship each year. He is replaced by another Williams driver and the 2018 Formula 2 champion, George Russell. Russell bided his time in the much slower Williams car for the past three seasons. Finally getting his opportunity further up the field next season. He will be expected to quickly match Bottas’ level of consistency. That Constructor’s Title is vital for Toto Wolff’s team. Hamilton turns 37 before the start of next season. So Mercedes are hoping that Russell can be the face of a new generation of title contenders when the sad day comes and Hamilton walks away from the sport.
5 – Will F1 Become More Competitive?
Formula One has redesigned most aspects of the car for 2022, but how big of an impact will it truly make? How long will it take before that is seen on track? It would be naive to think that next season all the teams are on level ground. Just as the car will evolve throughout next season and the years beyond, each team’s ability to grasp the changes and translate them to on-track results will vary. Haas and Williams are not going to be challenging Mercedes and Red Bull from the start. If they are, wonderful, but it’s not to be expected early on. However, we should at a minimum see closer racing and more overtakes. Hopefully that means new faces challenging for podiums and an increased number of race winners in 2022.
There are countless storylines to keep fans entertained as Formula One drifts through the winter break. We expect to see plenty of drama when the sport returns after its most entertaining season yet.
Let us know your predictions for the 2022 season in the comments!
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