After 13 rounds of the 2022 season we’re into the summer break, with the next race not happening until early September in Max Verstappen’s home country of the Netherlands. It’s thus time to take the temperature on the season so far and doing so, a few things seem pretty obvious already now. Most importantly, I’m not really sticking out my neck by saying that I’m pretty convinced Max will be the relatively uncontested world champion in 2022, for the second time around. However, predicting who will finish on places 2-6 is much harder, almost as hard as guessing if Ferrari will ever get their theme strategy together. These are really the main questions for the second half of the season.
To start off though, there’s been two big pieces of news on the drivers’ side worth mentioning, especially since it all happened in the last days. Firstly, on Wednesday night ahead of the Hungarian GP, Sebastian Vettel informed Lawrence Stroll, owner of the Aston Martin F1 team, that he’s retiring at the end of the season. Aston would have loved to keep him for another year, especially since Seb has delivered more than what should be possible with the current car, but Lawrence is said to have accepted Seb’s decision, mostly driven by his wish to spend more time with his family. Lawrence didn’t lose any time though and instead picked up the phone to Fernando Alonso whom he knows well, offering him what sounds like a deal too good to say no to. It was all done in five days and Alonso, about to turn 41, will thus step in to Seb’s shoes as a mentor to Lance Stroll and hopefully with a faster Aston car next year.
Neither Alonso nor Lawrence Stroll apparently saw a need to inform Renault/Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer though, who claims he only learnt the news through the official F1 communication. His disappointment is indeed understandable since with Ocon and Alonso, Alpine had a driver pairing helping them to what is currently P4 in the constructor championship, ahead of all teams except for the three big ones. There’s a slight déjà vu here remembering Ricciardo’s move from Renault two years ago when he seemed to be on the way to McLaren, where things have basically gone south every since. Let’s thus hope Fernando knows what he’s doing and that Aston will start performing next year!
At the top of the ranking, it’s really all about Max Verstappen. Red Bull started the season on par or sometimes perhaps even slightly behind Ferrari, but the last races have confirmed that they’re back where they were last year, with Perez doing a mighty fine job in spite of being the most obvious “second” driver of all teams, currently ranking P3 in the drivers’ standings. Max leads by a margin of 80 points on Leclerc in second, his driving is as phenomenal as his ego is large (as we know, a combination any good racing driver needs to have!) and in combination with the most professional team on the circuit, it’s really difficult to see how anyone could challenge him, especially since Ferrari insists on giving him the helping hand he doesn’t need through one tactical misstep after the other.
Hungary was the latest but probably not the last example of tactics going wrong, having everyone except Ferrari F1 boss Binotti scratching their heads. With 30 laps to go and with Leclerc in the lead, the team pitted the car and put him on hard tires. In a way they had no choice as it was too early for softs, but Leclerc hadn’t been complaining about the mid tires and would probably have lost less time staying on them until the softs would have made it until the end. Those are his thoughts, not mine. This is the latest in a series of mistakes, such as for example in Leclerc’s home race in Monaco when Ferrari pitted him at the same time as Sainz, which cost him the win, or Montreal, where the team pitted Sainz rather than Leclerc who was in the lead, again costing him the race. If you add to this mechanical failures and to be fair, also driver mistakes, the second part of the first half of 2022 hasn’t been much to cheer about in Maranello. Binotto however doesn’t see the need to change anything and insists everyone’s happy. So far Leclerc and Sainz don’t say anything, but If things don’t improve quickly in the second half, I very much doubt that will remain the case.
So what about positions 2 to 6? Well, there’s in total only 27 points between Leclerc in second and Lewis Hamilton in sixth, with Perez, Russell and Sainz (in that order) between them. Anyone of the six can thus take second position and if the current trend is anything to go by, it’s definitely Mercedes who are on the way up, and I would tend to put my money on either Russell or Hamilton, together with Perez. Then again, if Ferrari manage to find the form of the first part of the season again, it could also be Leclerc or Sainz. Not much of a conclusion here as you can see, time will tell!
Except for Alpine Renault who as mentioned are currently in P4, there’s really not much to cheer about for any of the other teams. Alfa Romeo started the season well but don’t seem to get anywhere currently. The same goes for McLaren and especially Daniel Ricciardo who is systematically underperforming Lando Norris, Haas where Mick Schumacher is however starting to show his talent, Aston Martin and Alpha Tauri where not much is happening, and finally Williams who have more speed than last year but still not enough to secure them points in most races. McLaren, Alfa Romeo, Alpha Tauri and Aston Martin should all be on stable footing in terms of their financing, I’m less sure if that’s the case for Haas and Williams, so the second half of the year may well decide if we see them again in 2023. Stay tuned!