The five unluckiest drivers of the season so far

Finley Crebolder
Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo in the gravel. Imola April 2022.

Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz slide off into the gravel after colliding at Tamburello. Imola April 2022.

They say fortune favours the brave, but that hasn’t been the case for a few drivers in the opening rounds of the 2022 campaign.

Here’s who we think have been the five unluckiest on the grid in the first four race weekends…

Max Verstappen

The bad luck Verstappen has endured needs little explaining. If not for reliability issues, he’d be leading the standings rather than trailing Charles Leclerc by 27 points.

In the opening round of the year, the Dutchman was running in P2 and challenging his rival for the win with only a handful of laps left when he was forced to retire with a fuel pump issue. 18 points, and perhaps even more, down the drain.

Max Verstappen climbs out of his Red Bull as he is forced to retire from the race. Bahrain March 2022.

Then, two rounds later, it turned out that lightning can indeed strike twice. While he wasn’t in contention for the win down under, he was again all but certain to take P2.

The Red Bull man has done very little wrong in terms of his driving so far this year and should have two wins and two P2 finishes to show for it, at the least.

Carlos Sainz

Sainz hasn’t made the best start to the season, retiring from the two most recent rounds after poor qualifying results. While he’s made some mistakes though, the Ferrari man isn’t entirely to blame.

In Australia particularly, the F1 gods seemed to be against him from the off. In qualifying, Fernando Alonso’s crash in Q3 brought out red flags that prevented him from completing a flying lap. Then, when the session resumed, a start-up issue meant he didn’t have enough time to warm up his tyres for his final run.

That caused him to start down in P9, and things didn’t get any better the next day. An issue forced the team to change his steering wheel just before the start, and with its different settings, he had a poor getaway, dropping down the order. In his attempts to make up for lost time, he crashed.

The Spaniard only had himself to blame when he did so again in qualifying at Imola, but the same can’t be said for what happened at the start of that race. After making a poor start, he found himself battling with Daniel Ricciardo going into Turn 1 and was hit by the Aussie, causing him to go into the gravel and out of the race.

His driving hasn’t been great so far this year by any means, but his luck has been even worse.

Fernando Alonso

“I think we are extremely unlucky in this first part of the championship… it is unbelievable we only have two points in the Drivers’ Championship because I think it’s a little bit unfair at the moment,” said Alonso after he was forced to retire in Imola, and it’s hard to disagree with him.

With Alpine making good progress over the winter, the Spaniard has had strong pace in the first four races but has only two points, scored in the opening round, to show for it.

He looked set to finish in P7 and maybe even higher in Saudi Arabia before a mechanical issue ended his race, and last time out in Imola, he was forced to retire after being hit by Mick Schumacher.

Fernando Alonso's damaged sidepod after the Alpine driver was hit by Mick Schumacher at the start. Imola April 2022

Perhaps his biggest dose of bad luck came in Australia though. He was well in the mix for pole position and looked set to claim it provisionally in Q3 when a hydraulics failure caused him to crash out on his flying lap. Things then got even worse the next day when a Safety Car came out at the wrong time for him, ending his hopes of scoring points.

As a result of all of this, he finds himself down in P15 in the standings, despite being one of the fastest drivers at every round so far.

Sebastian Vettel

Vettel’s bad luck started before the season did with the German testing positive for COVID-19 just before the first race weekend, causing him to miss that one and the second as a result.

He made his return in Australia, but it wasn’t a happy one. A power unit failure kept him out of FP2, and he then crashed in FP3 after a last-minute decision to remove the fourth DRS zone compounded Aston Martin’s oscillation issues.

With very little running under his belt in a pretty poor car going into the race, he crashed again to bring an end to a terrible weekend that also saw him fined twice by the stewards.

His fortunes improved in Imola, and he’ll be hoping that’s a sign of things to come. Otherwise, he may not fancy another year on the grid.

Valtteri Bottas

Bottas has made an excellent start to life with Alfa Romeo, scoring 24 points in his first four races, but it could have been even better.

After finishing P6 in Bahrain, he was fighting to do so again in Saudi Arabia when he pulled into the pits to retire just a few laps from the end due to a cooling issue.

The bad luck continued in qualifying down under with Frederic Vasseur admitting that the team “f***ed up” with their setups in Q2, causing the Finn to start the race down in P12. He managed to fight back and finish the race in P8, but looking at his pace, he surely would have scored even more points if not for his team’s error.

It was a similar story at Imola. There, he finished in P5, just behind George Russell, but undoubtedly would have beaten the Brit if he hadn’t lost a huge amount of time in the pits due to a slow stop.

He’ll be pretty happy with the results he has picked up so far, but there will be a part of him wondering what could have been.