Fifteen wins in one season and a champion with four races remaining. These are the statistics that speak volumes. The numbers achieved by Max Verstappen this year remind us of Michael Schumacher in his best days. Of all the races he has finished in, Verstappen has only missed the podium three times. It was as consistent as a Swiss watch in 2022 and managed to keep the error load to a minimum. “But after those two early retirements, I also knew I couldn’t afford to make any mistakes,” says the two-time world champion. Limburger took a new step after winning his first world title, as noted by Christian Horner and many analysts. Verstappen himself stresses that his pure speed is not fundamentally different from when he joined Red Bull for the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix.
But in the meantime he became a more complete driver, and the rest of the first world title also contributed to this. That meant there was simply no size in 2022. Once a car matched his driving style, there was no holding back against the competition—including a teammate in the same vein. You have to come from a good background to keep up with Verstappen and the first teammate who has managed to do that over a longer period of time has yet to meet the pole position man (except Ricciardo). Great numbers will follow in 2022, as will some races to remember. The catch-up in Hungary and Belgium, for example, is remarkable, but we should also not forget how strong force majeure is in Japan. It snowed a bit under all the turbulence after that, but this course in the rain, along with Spa and Budapest, could easily have been in last year’s top three.
Verstappen’s supremacy is, of course, unthinkable without a competitive car. And for this most competitive car, Red Bull Racing as a whole also deserves praise. The Milton Keynes team worked on the RB16B for a long time last year, even longer than it would normally be a good thing according to Adrian Newey. But yes, the team had to give Verstappen the best possible chance in a heated duel with Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton. Red Bull could have paid for it under the new regulations, but in practice the exact opposite turned out to be true. The RB18 is actually Newey’s new gem, which, as is well known, has graduated to the ground.
The RB18’s ground effect is very strong and the car is above all efficient. The consensus in the paddock is that the Ferrari engine is at least as powerful as the Honda’s, but Verstappen and Perez could benefit from a superior top speed, as Newey’s innovation has so little. pull king. Aside from early reliability issues and weight gain, the overall package had no real Achilles’ heel. It enabled Red Bull to secure its first constructors’ title since 2013 and also forms a good foundation for the upcoming season. And because of the wind tunnel time reduction, that’s exactly what’s needed. Anyway, Christian Horner and Helmut Marko couldn’t have wished for more when they sat next to the Christmas tree last year.
Ferrari’s position in all of this is a difficult one. For example, judging by the cool numbers, Scuderia is also more or less a winner, at least compared to previous years. After a disastrous 2020, 2022 is instantly in the red. The intermediate season had to be abandoned as soon as possible in order to participate seriously again under the new regulations. This was more than last year’s success. Ferrari finished second in both championships and added four wins to their most impressive list of honours. It’s a significant step forward from the seasons before it, when the dancing horse was lame. However, there is still more to come. Those who think of Barcelona, Paco and Paul Rijkaard know that four wins could or should have been seven. And what about the strategic mistakes that cost the championship valuable points?
Sunday’s performance was below average, so Ferrari as a whole is not a winner. But to put the pride of Italian motorsport in the spotlight, it is appropriate that Charles Leclerc be mentioned honorably. Monegasque finished behind Carlos Sainz in the championship in 2021, when the Spaniard was a newcomer to Maranello, but he put things in order last year. Leclerc won the reciprocal qualifier convincingly 15-7 and collected 62 points more than Madrilene. In Leclerc it’s easy to point out his error load, but he wasn’t too bad last year. Only at Imola did Paul Ricard miss, and the last moment was painful, of course. But in terms of sheer speed, Leclerc was once again the man at Ferrari and he was also much more consistent than in previous years. Monegasque himself concludes that 2022 has been his best year yet and that can only be confirmed. For a real title, only an extra step is required, especially against the powerful Verstappen-Red Bull tandem.
Behind the usual big three teams, Alpine has crowned itself “Best of the Rest” this year. Since the French team was mainly in the news during thunder or when things went wrong, you’ll almost forget that Alpine performed to the hilt. For example, Alpine was in the spotlight when it acquired the services of Oscar Piastri. A true epic, from the post-Hungarian Grand Prix tweet to the FIA’s Contract Recognition Board. The Alps and especially team boss Otmar Szafnauer weren’t particularly bright. The loss of Piastri is and continues to be a severe blow to the team, especially in terms of looking to the future.
Then, Alpine made headlines because cracks occurred in the relationship between Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso. This means that Alpine hasn’t been positive often in the media, but the 2022 Final Settlement has been. The new rules were supposed to make the differences smaller, but since the top three positions were still untouchable, P4 was the highest achievable level for all the other teams. Alpine has achieved this goal and has therefore done the best it can. The team dethroned McLaren as “the best of the rest”. A nice side effect is that Renault’s engine is also proving more competitive in 2022 than in previous years. It’s also good news. For example, engine suppliers were allowed to tweak all components again in 2022, before freezing further development until 2026. Renault’s engine move was therefore timely.
In addition to George Russell, who may have beaten some rivals in 2022, but entered Mercedes too aggressively by beating Lewis Hamilton, there are two other parties that qualify for last place among the winners: Alfa Romeo and Haas. If you compare the 2021 and 2022 rankings, Alfa Romeo has made the biggest move ever. In 2021 the Sauber formation still had to settle for ninth place among the manufacturers, and last year it was placed in the P6 under Valtteri Bottas. His teammate Zhou Guanyu also did not get bogged down in Formula 1, and therefore it can be called a stroke of luck. However, Haas is preferred for a slightly different reason. This American team comes from a deeper valley, and certainly for all the people behind the scenes, 2022 has been a welcome boost. Many of the team members stopped in 2021 because they have flown around the world all year round and knew in advance that they would have no chance of finishing 19th and 20th. In the worst case scenario, they also had a huge amount of damage to repair with Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin.
External factors in 2022 have shown the difference a decent (and not exceptionally good) driver can make in Mazepin’s place. It’s about Kevin Magnussen, of course. It hurts Schumacher that he was pushed out early this year by someone just coming back from his F1 retirement. It also immediately puts Schumacher’s performance against Mazepin into perspective. In addition to having a better driver, Haas was naturally the first to put everything into the new regulations. That also played a role in the competitive car Guenther Steiner had at the start of this year. Further development has not yet been Haas’ strongest point, although first place in Brazil was a long way off at the end of this year. The most important thing is for Haas to at least get back in the game. The 19th and 20th places are not decided in advance and this is a win, also for Formula 1 as a whole.