Formula 1 2022 delivered in ways nobody expected with a touch of everything from the sublime, Max Verstappen’s form, to the ridiculous, Ferrari.
PlanetF1.com looks back at the biggest, the best and the mind-blowing from the season that was.
Favourite moment of the season
Michelle Foster: Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen playing the DRS version of chicken at the Bahrain and Saudi Arabian races. It was early in the season, the first two races to be precise, and we had two young hot shots going for it – respectful and yet entertaining. That each won one of those battles added to the excitement, Formula 1 was in for a thriller if this is was a sign of what was to come. Sadly it wasn’t but for a brief moment there was hope – both for the racing and for Ferrari.
Henry Valantine: I’ve wrangled with a few contenders for this, but I think seeing Nyck de Vries (finally) get his Formula 1 debut at Monza – and to score points in an under-performing Williams, no less – was nothing short of remarkable. Obviously, we would much rather have seen this happen in circumstances other than Alex Albon being as unwell as he was, but he grabbed that opportunity and got a full-time drive next year because of it. Long overdue, in my opinion.
Jamie Woodhouse: Kevin Magnussen putting the Haas on pole for the Sao Paulo sprint, no doubt about it. In a season where we were told the new regulations would start to bunch up the pack, instead that predictable nature surrounding the results grew stronger. Magnussen’s first career pole then was the kind of shocker that the season desperately needed.
Sam Cooper: For this one, I am going to pick Kevin Magnussen’s pole in Sao Paulo. For a driver who a week before the season did not think he would be racing to go on and achieve a career first pole was a truly memorable moment. He also had the rare joy of being to celebrate inside the garage and the reaction from every member of the Haas team showed just how much it meant to them.
Oliver Harden: Another shout for Verstappen and Leclerc going wheel to wheel in Bahrain and Jeddah, providing instant confirmation that the new rules had worked. Formula 1 was treated to a glimpse of its medium/long-term future as they raced cleanly and respectfully. For the briefest few weeks it seemed the sport could indeed deliver a thrilling sequel to 2021…
Thomas Maher: The back-and-forth battle between Leclerc and Verstappen in Saudi Arabia was simply magical, as it hinted at so much promise at that early stage of the championship. After Red Bull’s disappointment in Bahrain, seeing Verstappen fight back so strongly but with a car that then seemed no quicker than Leclerc’s seemed to suggest a season of slogging it out with a similar sense of fun to what they produced in Jeddah. But it wasn’t to be…
Best grand prix of the season
Michelle Foster: The Sao Paulo Grand Prix without a doubt. From Kevin Magnussen on pole position in a wet qualifying session to George Russell winning the sprint race, the Friday and Saturday had all the ingredients Formula 1 bosses wanted when they introduced sprint weekends. That Russell followed that up with a maiden grand prix win added that sprinkle of magic and Hamilton v Verstappen that bucket full of drama and antagonism.
Henry Valantine: Silverstone was a corker this year. First and foremost, it was a relief to see Zhou Guanyu walk away from such a horrible crash at the start, but the race afterwards, particularly the dash to the line after the Safety Car, was some of the best racing of the year throughout the field. Carlos Sainz did the right thing in taking matters into his own hands on strategy and took a brilliant win, while ‘THROUGH GOES HAMILTON’ has become an instant classic Crofty commentary line (even though he did lose a place again at Village, but let’s not detract from that piece of action).
Jamie Woodhouse: I’ll go with the season-opener in Bahrain, as at the time Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc scrapping it out for the lead gave great hope of an epic season of wheel-to-wheel action to come. Although Red Bull and Verstappen did ultimately boss this season, that Bahrain duel was the first example of how the new regulations can offer thrilling on-track action even at the front of the field.
Sam Cooper: It’s not often Monaco gets labelled as one of the best races of a season but for me, the ‘22 edition had it all. The drama started on the Saturday as Sergio Perez spun into the wall at Portier meaning the Q3 session was cut short. Little did we know then the ramifications this incident would have months down the line as it denied Max Verstappen a chance for pole.
Then came the rain on Sunday. The race was delayed by an hour but once the cars did get on track, it was a huge challenge for the drivers to keep them there. Mick Schumacher fell short, something that may have played a big part in him losing his seat, and Zhou Guanyu required a miraculous save to not meet the same fate.
Up front, there was another Ferrari masterclass in self sabotage as they botched Charles Leclerc’s strategy, sending him from P1 to P4 and pushing Perez up to the front. The Mexican would hold on for his first ever Monaco win and the top four finished within 2.922 seconds of each other.
Thrilling stuff at the most iconic track on the calendar and a race that, at the time, looked to have made Perez a title contender.
Oliver Harden: Singapore. Boring in some eyes but the treacherous conditions meant the drivers – not least Perez and Leclerc, duelling for the win knowing the slightest misjudgement would cost them – could not relax on a night some of the best made mistakes.
Thomas Maher: In terms of unpredictability, it’s a toss-up between Hungary and Silverstone. After George Russell’s shock pole on Saturday in Budapest, the race turned into a cracker as the favourite switched between drivers constantly – particularly after Verstappen’s surprising spin before his recovery.
But Silverstone produced the most frantic action throughout, particularly that goosebump-inducing three-car battle as Hamilton pounced on the squabbling Perez and Leclerc – only for Perez to strike back almost immediately. The late Safety Car meant it was a real nail-biter, with Sainz going on to dismiss any notion of team orders by going on to claim his first win.
Biggest shock of the season
Michelle Foster: Mercedes’ fall from grace. I know in the build-up to the all-new technical rules Ross Brawn warned one team would get it wrong but I would never have said the team would be Mercedes. From seven years of dominance to one last-lap-slip (or slap) in 2021, that they only won one grand prix in 2022 is mindboggling. They were untouchable… until they weren’t.
Henry Valantine: Seeing Daniel Ricciardo continue to struggle as much as he did against Lando Norris. I ended up with metaphorical egg on my face predicting he’d overcome his McLaren team-mate this year when the rest of my colleagues thought otherwise, but the fact he was unable to find his form of old was something I was not expecting from a driver of his calibre – even against someone as clearly talented and highly-rated as Norris.
Jamie Woodhouse: I was very much settled in the ‘Mercedes are sandbagging’ camp, so it was quite the shock when I was abruptly forced to vacate. To see the Silver Arrows with such a bouncy and uncompetitive W13 for large parts of the season came as a real surprise. It will be an even greater shock if they begin 2023 still on the back foot.
Sam Cooper: The standout answer is Mercedes and in the assumption that many of my colleagues will have gone for that, I will try something different. Instead, I am going to highlight the truly awful form of AlphaTauri.
With the experienced Pierre Gasly on board alongside a Yuki Tsunoda who had graduated through his rookie season, much more was expected of the team heading into 2022.
They finished the previous campaign in sixth with 142 points but only Williams ended 2022 lower. Their best result was a single P5 earned by Gasly in Monza but in 2021 they equalled or bettered that result on six occasions. With Gasly heading to Alpine and the rookie Nyck de Vries joining, 2023 is looking like a make-or-break year for AlphaTauri.
Oliver Harden: Mercedes’ inability to recover quickly and permanently from their slow start to the season. Toto Wolff used to say that Mercedes are most dangerous on their bad days, but with the exception of Brazil Red Bull did not really have to worry about them in 2022.
Thomas Maher: Offered a clean slate with a new car for 2022, I expected Daniel Ricciardo to bounce back from a reasonably disappointing 2021 and re-establish himself firmly as at least an equal to Norris’ talents.
But it wasn’t to be: Ricciardo somehow managing to fall further and further away from the action to the point where it was no longer a shock to see the Australian circulating at the back and somehow miles off the pace. 2022 wasn’t reflective of Ricciardo’s overall talents, but it is indicative of his talents when his confidence has taken such a beating. Hopefully, a mental reset will allow the real Ricciardo to resume the wheel.
The laugh-out-loud moment
Michelle Foster: Would it be mean if I said Ferrari’s comedy of errors? Yes? Okay then, I’ll go with Damon Hill saying of said errors “they are probably thinking ‘what are we going to do wrong today?'” I can picture the team playing spin the wheel waiting to see which of the numerous mistakes it lands on. Runner-up would be Pierre and Yuki belting out Adele’s hit Hello. Christian Horner wanting an apology from his rivals for Red Bull breaking the budget cap also ranks up there.
Henry Valantine: Team radio is always a gold mine in these moments. Guenther Steiner lauding Kevin Magnussen’s “f***ing Viking comeback” in Bahrain was great, as was Lando Norris singing happy birthday to his engineer’s mum after taking a podium at Imola.
Scratch that. Just inject Daniel Ricciardo shouting Pierre Gasly’s name at any point straight into my veins if you want me to have a good day.
Jamie Woodhouse: While Daniel Ricciardo riding into the COTA paddock on horseback in cowboy gear, serenaded by country tunes was so nearly my pick, I’m going to go with Lewis Hamilton’s gift ‘to Fernando’ of a signed cap after Alonso’s verbal bashing of his former team-mate in reaction to their collision at Spa. I loved that Alonso, who was apologetic for his outburst, then went to the Mercedes motorhome to collect the gift. It all worked out fine in the end!
Sam Cooper: Whoever thought to pack 100 cans of the Green Edition Red Bull as the team headed to Barcelona would have been feeling mighty chuffed with themselves come Friday morning.
Following their early season troubles, Aston Martin unveiled the B-spec version of the AMR22 which bore a remarkable resemblance to Red Bull’s RB18. This did not go unnoticed and as the Red Bull staff took their seats for the practice session, each one of them had a can of green Red Bull besides them, the same colour as the Aston Martin livery.
Just a wonderful piece of s**thousery.
Oliver Harden: Alonso waving his finger at Hamilton as the field passed the broken Mercedes behind the Safety Car at Spa. Give him a chance to discredit his former team-mate’s achievements and he will not miss.
Thomas Maher: Rolling back to Australia and Leclerc’s dominant win, it seemed inconceivable then that the Monégasque would only win a single race of the remaining 19 weekends. But that’s what happened, with constant reliability problems, mistakes, and strategic mishaps resulting in a damp squib of a title fight.
Hungary was a particularly bad call from Ferrari as they fitted Leclerc with the hard tyre compound, despite having had evidence earlier in the race that the compound didn’t work – only to completely ignore that evidence.
But the most ludicrous moment was sending Leclerc out on the intermediate tyre for the start of Q3. While it may have been an inspired choice had it been the start of a race, the fact that it was at the start of a quali session where, if it did start to rain, the other drivers could simply pit for the same tyre compound and continue just meant it was a particularly unnecessary gamble to make.
Particularly given the track was still dry, meaning Ferrari admitted their mistake and brought Leclerc in just as the rain actually did start to arrive…
That one big takeaway from Formula 1 in 2022
Michelle Foster: Sergio Perez had best watch his back. I think everyone was shocked when Max Verstappen denied his team-mate two points in Sao Paulo because of something that happened earlier in the season. If it’s true it related to Perez crash in Monaco, the driver rumoured to have told Christian Horner and co it was deliberate, Red Bull should have already thrown the book at him especially in today’s age of budget caps. If that’s not true, then I can’t see a single reason Verstappen would deliberately do something to hamper his own team and his team-mate when he had nothing to gain. But any talk of Perez not playing the team-mate game with Max next season went out the window when Red Bull signed Daniel Ricciardo. If anyone needs to be worried, it’s Perez, not Verstappen.
Henry Valantine: Formula 1 ticked the boxes it wanted to tick in making the cars more capable of racing closely against each other, the field just needs to close up now…
Jamie Woodhouse: Abu Dhabi 2021 has not put an end to Lewis Hamilton as a contender for a record eighth World Championship. The early rounds were tough going in a poor W13, but outings like those in Austin, Mexico and Sao Paulo demonstrated that Hamilton is still motivated and can deliver in the right car. But of course, George Russell showed this year that we can no longer safely bet on Hamilton being the one leading Mercedes’ charge.
Sam Cooper: Don’t overspend on sandwiches.
Oliver Harden: It became very evident this year why Red Bull were so anxious to promote Verstappen to a competitive car at the age of 18. While his contemporaries were still navigating the junior categories, he was already winning grands prix and building a valuable bank of experience to complement his talent. As good as Leclerc, Russell, and Norris may be, Verstappen may already be too strong…
Thomas Maher: Verstappen has kicked up a gear again in 2022, making him an ever-more fearsome competitor for his rivals. A much-vaunted strength of Lewis Hamilton’s has always been his relentless ability over the course of a season – a strength that Verstappen has matched throughout 2021 and ’22.
Armed with the confidence gained by winning his maiden title, Verstappen also developed the patience required to make him a wiser racer. However, the sole question mark over the Dutch driver now is just why he chose to lash out against Red Bull and Sergio Perez in Brazil – a man who has seemingly been nothing but an incredibly supportive teammate.
Outwardly, it seems a distinctly misguided stance to take, given that Verstappen is now unlikely to be able to count on Perez’s willing fielty – something that could backfire on him once Red Bull have a stronger rival once more.