PlanetF1.com’s alternative F1 2022 Awards

Editor
Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, tyre smoke. Yas Marina, November 2022.

Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Yas Marina, November 2022.

With small matters such as the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships decided, it’s time to hand out the F1 2022 awards that really matter…

Looking back over the 2022 F1 season, it’s easy to pick out those meaningful awards that recognise the moments of genius on track – or the talent, dedication, and hard work that defines the efforts of every single person working in the sport.

But these awards we’re handing out aren’t recognising any of those meaningless ‘important’ attributes…!

Instead, with our bellies full of Christmas turkey and dodgy mulled wine, let’s look back over the 2022 season and pick out some winners for the PlanetF1.com alternative F1 2022 Awards!

2022’s Architect of Chaos: Sebastian Vettel

Little did Sebastian Vettel know the carnage he would leave in his wake following his announcement that he would retire from Formula 1 at the end of 2022.

Within days of the four-time World Champion announcing his retirement, Fernando Alonso had dropped the bombshell on Alpine that he wasn’t waiting around any longer for them to make him a proper contract offer – he put pen to paper and took Vettel’s vacated car.

While dramatic enough in its own right, Alpine appeared completely caught out by the situation as they hastily announced the promotion of Alpine Academy driver Oscar Piastri to replace Alonso.

Straightforward enough choice, right? Nope! Piastri took to Twitter to denounce Alpine’s confirmation, with a tweet that seemed to be dangerously close to bridge-burning territory.

Just why would Piastri, a driver with exactly zero Grand Prix starts under his belt, turn and run away from a seat with a top manufacturer team?

The answer quickly became obvious, with McLaren having signed the young Australian to replace Daniel Ricciardo – the Woking-based team choosing to buy out their popular Aussie veteran and replace him with a younger model.

But, with two teams laying claim to Piastri, it meant the situation had to go before F1’s Contract Recognition Board, with the CRB ruling in McLaren’s favour.

This triggered an onslaught of media statements from Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer, making it very clear how unhappy he was that Piastri had seemingly turned his back on the team with whom he had been part of as an Academy driver. However, the CRB ruling revealed that Piastri never had a proper contract with Alpine that committed Piastri to race for Enstone.

It was a fantastic mess, with Piastri’s dramas only adding to the spiciness of the on-track fight between Alpine and McLaren – a battle Alpine eventually won.

And all of it came about because Vettel wanted to see his kids more in 2023!

A special mention must go to Ferrari’s Mattia Binotto too, whose decision to resign from the Scuderia (whether truly voluntarily or not), resulted in several team boss swaps: Frederic Vasseur left his post at Alfa Romeo to take Binotto’s job, with Andreas Seidl quitting McLaren to slot in as Sauber CEO – Andrea Stella stepping into the void left by Seidl.

Simultaneously, separately from all these moves, Williams’ CEO and team boss Jost Capito called time on his career, as did technical director FX Demaison…

Legendary on-track moment of 2023: Sebastian Vettel

While Nicholas Latifi driving up the wrong part of the Suzuka chicane was a key consideration for the legendary bit of driving we saw on track this year, the outright winner has to be Sebastian Vettel.

But it’s not for anything Vettel did at the wheel of his AMR22, it was for his decision to nab a moped for a quick joyride back to the pits after his Mercedes engine failed during first practice in Australia.

Grinding to a halt on track for his first on-track session due to missing the first two races of the year, Vettel grabbed a fire extinguisher to help ensure there were no flames, before hopping on a marshal’s moped and scooting his way back to the pits.

Resplendent in his Aston Martin driving overalls, Vettel having his helmet jammed lightly down on his head made him look very comical as he zipped his way back, waving to the crowds as he did so – even adding to the pantomime silliness of it by taking his two hands off the handlebars!

It was a wonderfully human moment, but Vettel’s antics landed him a €5000 fine for having taken an unauthorised visit to the track after the session had ended.

Guest star of the Year: Norbert Vettel

It’s the Vettel show to kick things off here, isn’t it? Norbert Vettel, the immensely proud and down-to-earth father of Sebastian, stole the hearts of pretty much everyone in the final weeks of 2022.

With Vettel junior choosing to walk away from the sport, his dad became a constant presence near him with Norbert seeming more upset about his son’s decision than even Sebastian was.

Making plenty of media appearances, including some spicy commentary appearances on German TV, Norbert Vettel made it very clear how Sebastian had been brought up to be a thoroughly respectful and considerate guy – even if the shark-fighting nature of F1 meant that side of Sebastian’s personality took a while to emerge for everyone.

At the final Grand Prix, Norbert was in the limelight almost as much as Sebastian – waving and handing out T-shirts for Seb’s paddock track run, and climbing aboard the F1 lorry for a rave with Seb fans on Saturday night.

And let’s not forget this emotional send-off… Who’s cutting onions in here?

Cursed driver of the year award: Charles Leclerc

There wasn’t really anyone else in contention for this award, was there? Having had a dream start to the season with a comfortable win in Bahrain, a spirited drive to second place in Saudi Arabia, and utter dominance in Australia, it seemed unimaginable at that point to think Leclerc would only win one more race through the remainder of the season.

But that’s the reality of the situation, with Leclerc’s championship aspirations falling apart rapidly through no fault of his own. Leclerc proved masterful throughout most of the year, with comfortable race leads literally going up in smoke with engine failures in Barcelona and Azerbaijan.

Added to that was the first signs of a weaker Ferrari strategy team, as the team were wrong-footed out of a front-row lock-out in Monaco to finish second and fourth – a particularly disastrous result for Leclerc as he sought to banish talk of his Monaco ‘curse’ (especially after crashing an ex-Niki Lauda Ferrari on the streets just the week previously!).

The rest of the season was more of the same: weird and wacky strategies (who can forget Ferrari sending him out on wet tyres at a dry Interlagos, or the hard tyre call in Hungary?) Plus Ferrari losing quite a lot of speed in the second half of the year, as well as some driver errors, such as in Paul Ricard and Imola.

Leclerc simply didn’t catch any lucky breaks during 2022, and even seemed to be fighting against his own team on occasion, with Binotto’s reluctance to force Carlos Sainz into a supporting role perhaps being the death knell for his own career in charge at the Gestione Sportiva.

With Vasseur in charge for 2023, the man who gave Leclerc the nod at Sauber for his F1 debut, could his fortunes change next season?

WTF moment of the year: Kevin Magnussen’s maiden pole

Imagine time-travelling back to pre-season testing in Barcelona and revealing to the Haas squad that, not only would Kevin Magnussen be returning to F1 to take Nikita Mazepin’s seat, but he would deliver the team’s maiden pole position by season end?

It sounds completely implausible, but that’s exactly how events played out, with Magnussen putting in a barnstorming first flying lap in Q3 to take the position ‘on merit’ as the session was red-flagged.

Sure, some unusual circumstances were needed but, with conditions being equal for everyone, it was the Danish driver who delivered the lap when it mattered, leading to that wonderful moment of exuberance as he turned to the cockpit camera and made THAT face!

The Keeping-Commentators-In-Jobs Award: Ferrari

It almost feels like punching down on Ferrari, looking back over 2022, but the Scuderia were a particularly unconvincing outfit in their quest for the 2022 Championships.

The first three races showed a cool, calm, methodical Ferrari and Charles Leclerc, but these events proved to the outlying races of what looked like a barely-held-together organisation at times.

With reliability issues hurting Leclerc badly, the strategic errors and lack of a clear, focused vision for their drivers meant that Leclerc felt as though he had to worry about Sainz as a competitor just as much as Max Verstappen.

Silverstone was the writing on the wall, with team boss Binotto waiting with a pointed finger to make something very clear to Leclerc as the Monegasque climbed out of his car – something it’s extremely difficult to see Verstappen tolerating.

A Looney-Tunes style race in Hungary meant Ferrari were already giving commentators cause for concern going into the summer break.

With Ferrari falling off the pace after the break, following the introduction of the floor technical directive, their yo-yo-like performance was interspersed with further strategic headscratchers – including a glorious moment where Leclerc was sent out onto a dry Interlagos with a set of intermediates fitted, seemingly forgetting that it was qualifying, not a race, so trying to time the changeover didn’t really matter.

Clearly proficient on a technical level, the F1-75 deserved a better operation all round and, for 2023, another team boss gets to have a crack at trying to win Ferrari’s first title since 2008 as Vasseur takes the reins.

Spicy social media post of the year: Lewis Hamilton

While the ‘Liked by Pierre Gasly’ meme was amusing for a while, it was Lewis Hamilton’s willingness to choose violence on Twitter that proved particularly amusing in 2022.

Normally content posting motivational quotes or sentiments to his social media channels, Hamilton dropped a grenade with a simple, one-word tweet back during the summer.

Nelson Piquet happened (if you know, you know) and, amidst all the furore, Hamilton managed to make his feelings on the matter very clear.

A Twitter poster wrote: “What if Lewis Hamilton just tweeted ‘Who the f**k is Nelson Piquet?’ then closed Twitter.”

Hamilton retweeted the message, and wrote “Imagine”, and promptly dropped his mic and walked away.

Later in the summer, Hamilton incurred the wrath of Fernando Alonso when the pair collided at Les Combes at Spa-Francorchamps.

With the incident clearly Hamilton’s fault, Alonso’s response to the collision proved less than understanding as he proceeded to question Hamilton’s racing skills over team radio, branding him an “idiot”, before taking the opportunity to gesticulate at his former McLaren team-mate as Hamilton stood at the side of the track.

Hamilton accepted responsibility for the incident as he spoke to the media afterward, although stopped shy of offering Alonso an apology after hearing of the Spaniard’s comments over the radio.

With the matter brewing away, Hamilton took to Twitter once again to deliver a devastating blow to Alonso.

Alonso turned up to the Dutch Grand Prix the following weekend in a more contrite frame of mind, offering Hamilton an apology for his comments, with the seven-time World Champion inviting the Spaniard down to Mercedes to pick up a signed cap!

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