Much like a group of kids in school, the Formula 1 class of 2022 is on its summer break. We’ve seen brilliant solo drives, atrocious strategy costing leaders and superb overtaking, but here are our four takeaways as the series heads into a recess which will last until the end of the month.
Classy to the Max
Max Verstappen’s first championship will always be seen as contentious given the circumstances in which he won it. But this year the Dutchman is well on his way to a second title and it is hard to argue it is not deserved.
Verstappen sits 80 points clear of title rival Charles Leclerc and, barring technical issues from Red Bull, doesn’t look like being caught.
His win in Hungary from 10th on the grid on Sunday was arguably his best drive of the season. The only blot on his form sheet would be related to his fans, some of whom have faced criticism in Austria and other tracks for their behaviour.
His wheel-to-wheel racing with Leclerc in the opening part of the season was brilliant, a world away from the over-aggression seen against Lewis Hamilton last year.
Verstappen is flying this year and, with Red Bull likely to improve their car during the break, it appears to be his title to lose in the latter part of the season.
Ferrari should undoubtedly have Leclerc a lot closer to Verstappen in the individual standings.
The Monegasque driver has been let down by his team’s strategic errors and technical failures as well as his own mistakes – he has thrown away more than 30 points through individual errors this season alone.
Not since 2017 have Ferrari – with Sebastian Vettel – been within realistic grasp of the drivers’ title and that may be showing this year.
A lack of experience at the business end of races, where every single decision can make the difference, has been costly but Leclerc hasn’t helped himself either.
It will be a relief to see the Prancing Horse back battling for constructors titles again, however, after a period away from the top battles.
Runners and Riders
The summer break usually coincides with the unofficial transfer window within the sport, where drivers announce their futures and teams announce line-ups for next season.
That tradition has continued this year, with Sebastian Vettel last week announcing his retirement from the sport, to be replaced at Aston Martin by Fernando Alonso.
The German four-time champion will leave a strong legacy with the sport, both on and off the track. For Alonso, there is a feeling the move will be the Spaniard’s last in F1.
The big three – Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull – will be unchanged in 2023 but there is uncertainty elsewhere.
Valtteri Bottas is without a confirmed partner at Alfa Romeo next year, as is Pierre Gasly at AlphaTauri and Esteban Ocon at Alpine.
Williams are yet to name a driver for next season.
McLaren’s missing formula
They were so strong in the pre-season testing phase of the season but since then McLaren have been unable to turn that form into race pace.
In a fight with Alpine for fourth place in the constructors’ standings is not where the Papaya team would have hoped to have been at this point in the season, and it’s difficult to see any level of summer development changing their fortunes markedly.
The team may therefore have already turned their attention towards next year’s car and, with a settled line-up, despite rumours, they’ll no doubt hope to hold onto fourth and bank a handsome payout. They, alongside the likes of Aston Martin, will be disappointed with the opening half of the season given the amount of focus that was put on this year’s car given the volume of rule changes.
The summer break offers teams a chance to develop cars, drivers a chance to reset and reinvigorate, and a chance for fans to have a breather before a packed run in towards Abu Dhabi this winter.