Revealed: Which drivers gained and lost the most on the first lap in F1 2022?

Jamie Woodhouse
Max Verstappen leads the F1 2022 Mexican Grand Prix. Mexico City, October 2022.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen leads the race ahead of the two Mercedes. Mexico City, October 2022.

Looking at how the drivers performed on lap one during F1 2022, it is happy reading for the likes of Esteban Ocon, but tough for Valtteri Bottas.

How a driver gets away off the line obviously can be crucial in determining their position once they cross it again to finish the race, with overtaking improved but still not always simple in 2022, especially when it comes to battling in the midfield with that pesky ‘DRS train’.

Unsurprisingly then, it is here where the first-lap kings can be found, as well as the stragglers.

Sebastian Vettel, for example, gained five places on the opening lap of the Belgian, Singapore and United States GPs, helping him to a trio of P8 finishes.

With a total of 31 places gained on the opening lap, he was ranked behind only Aston Martin team-mate Lance Stroll in that regard with 39, though when taking into account the positions lost too as to create net places gained, that is where Ocon shone.

While the Alpine driver gained a more modest 29 positions on the opening lap, he lost only one, giving him a total of plus 28.

Bottas meanwhile is firmly at the other end of the scale, the Alfa Romeo driver having lost a total of 43 positions on the opening laps, his gains only slightly softening the blow to create a net 39 places lost.

Starts were not always Bottas’ strength in a Mercedes either, and Alfa Romeo have picked out this area of their game as one that is in need of improvement for 2023.

Full F1 2022 first-lap standings

1. Esteban Ocon, 28 net gain
2. Lance Stroll, 27
3. Kevin Magnussen, 22
4. Yuki Tsunoda, 19
5. Alex Albon, 16
6. Sebastian Vettel, 15
7. Fernando Alonso, 13
8= Max Verstappen, 9
9= Lewis Hamilton, 9
10. Mick Schumacher, 8
11. George Russell, 7
12. Charles Leclerc, 5
13. Nico Hulkenberg, 3
14. Nicholas Latifi, 1
15. Nyck de Vries, 0
16. Pierre Gasly, -3
17. Daniel Ricciardo, -4
18. Carlos Sainz, -5
19. Lando Norris, -6
20. Sergio Perez, -7
21. Zhou Guanyu, -20
22. Valtteri Bottas, -39

F1 2022 a positive step, but more to come

As the data shows, there was plenty of movement going on throughout the opening lap, which Formula 1 hopes will grow only more extreme in the coming years as the new-for-2022 regulations and budget cap set about converging the grid.

Plus, if the challengers can become even more overtaking-friendly after the positive step of 2022, then not only on the opening lap, but throughout a race we should start to see more gains and losses of positions.

That really is the next step for Formula 1, to move away from a feeling that after those first few laps are done, the result is largely set bar a race-changing incident.

We did see signs of this in the early rounds as Verstappen and Leclerc battled over the lead, but as the season went on and Verstappen broke away from the pack, he very rarely could be caught when in P1.

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