When Max Verstappen rounded the final corner at the Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday, he was already world champion; there was no controversy about the Dutchman’s successes this season. But in a season where Lewis Hamilton didn’t win a race and Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Riccardo, albeit probably temporarily, departed the sport, what were the talking points of the 2022 calendar?
New era for the sport?
Of the current world champions to grace the 20-driver field (22 drivers if you include guest participants this season) only Max Verstappen won a race. The seven-time world champion Hamilton failed to win a Grand Prix this season – the first time he has gone a calendar year without a win in Formula 1.
As for the other two, Fernando Alonso and Vettel, there was less on the line. Alonso announced mid-season that he’d be moving to Aston Martin while Vettel confirmed that he would hang up his helmet. In a sign of the times, he even created an Instagram account purely to announce the news.
Verstappen was simply extraordinary this season and a worthy title winner. His only blemish was the way he seemed to treat his teammate Sergio Perez in Brazil when the Mexican needed points in the drivers’ standings.
Unlike last year, there are no complaints around the Red Bull driver’s success; even budget cap issues were unlikely to have seen him lose a second title.
All out Formula 1 war
We’re accustomed to seeing inter-team warfare on the Formula 1 circuit and this season provided its fair share of internal fighting.
We saw Verstappen defy orders and refuse to give a place to his teammate, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc questioning his team’s strategy – Mercedes’ George Russell too.
Formula 1 is a sport of margins, and big calls can come down to milliseconds. Team orders are almost unanimously disliked by racing fans, but sometimes they can be the difference between second and third, and tens of millions of pounds in prize money.
This season has cemented some fans’ belief that certain drivers put themselves above their team while others have realised how important team orders are to ensure teams are able to compete in coming seasons.
Level on seven world titles with Michael Schumacher, Hamilton came into this season looking for his eighth having had one snatched away from him last year.
The Brit, for the first time in his career, has gone a full season without a win in large part because of his struggling Mercedes car.
Will he stay or will he go? It looks as if the knighted 37-year-old will stick around with the Silver Arrows, but now he has to deal with an eager teammate in 24-year-old Russell who has matched, and beaten, him this season.
Russell is, on the face of it, not a big personality. But the Englishman is young, exciting on the track and popular among the masses.
How Hamilton, one of the greatest to have graced the tarmac of a Formula 1 circuit, copes with sustained pressure from his teammate given Russell’s popularity will be fascinating.
But Hamilton will likely see the season as a failure – something he will be keen to change.
The season has been intriguing, despite the outcome looking predictable after five or six rounds, but the sport needs to become more competitive – and hopefully the class of 2023 can do that.