A LOOK BACK AT 2021

What a way to start!

As we prepare for the 2022 F1 season, let’s take a moment to look back and remember the thrills, spills and sheer adrenaline of Saudi Arabia’s first ever Formula 1 Grand Prix.

The race required two restarts and four virtual safety cars with Lewis Hamilton edging out Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas rounding out the podium. The action started quickly with Hamilton bolting off the start line. There was hard racing until lap 10 when Mick Schumacher found the barriers at turn 23, necessitating a safety car. Three laps later the race was stopped for 13 minutes for barrier repairs. When they resumed, Verstappen was in the lead as he hadn’t stopped under yellow but instead got a free pit stop under red flag conditions.

Two laps later, on lap 15, there was another crash, this time started when Hamilton and Verstappen touched, Bottas locked up, Perez and Leclerc made contact, and Mazepin ran into Russell, causing the second red flag. Perez, Mazepin, and Russell would not rejoin the race. After some discussion with race control, the race restarted with Ocon in first, Hamilton in second, and Verstappen in third.

They ran without incident for less than ten laps before Yuki Tsunoda hit Sebastian Vettel and lost his front wing on lap 24, which was quickly followed by Kimi Raikkonen hitting Vettel on lap 30, each of these incidents necessitating a virtual safety car (VSC). The final virtual safety car was on lap 36 to retrieve another piece of Vettel’s car. Hamilton and Verstappen battled the entire race, coming together multiple times before Hamilton eventually held on to win the race. With such excitement in round one, round two is sure to be full of action!

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It seems like only yesterday we were celebrating the inaugural Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia, yet here we are already lining up on the grid for what is looking to be a truly exciting 2022 season.

To get your adrenaline pumping, here are 9 things you can look forward to in the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship season.

1. Brand new cars

The 2022 Formula 1 season is the start of the next evolution of the race car with new designs for the cars coming out of the dramatic changes to the regulations intended to improve the race experience.

One of the ways in which the race experience will be enhanced is through features designed to enable the cars to race closer to each other, which creates the possibility of more passing on track. These features include a focus on ground effect, a redesigned front wing and nose, and 18-inch tyres.

2. Verstappen defending, Hamilton in the hunt

The 2021 season saw a new champion crowned and the reigning one dethroned. 2022 brings us round 2 between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton with Hamilton still looking for his 8th title and Verstappen looking to play spoiler again. New cars and a championship fight in the making sounds awesome to us!

We haven’t had someone defending a title whose name wasn’t Lewis Hamilton since 2014 when Sebastian Vettel attempted to defend it. 2022 also marks the first time since 2014 that the champion has chosen to use #1 on his car - Verstappen will be driving with the #1 - as Hamilton never changed from his #44.

3. A record 23-race F1 campaign

To make the championship battle even more interesting, it will take place over 23 races – the longest F1 campaign yet. This season marks the return of favourite venues such as Suzuka, Montreal, Melbourne and Singapore alongside the inaugural Miami Grand Prix (more below) in May.

This builds on 2021 where we saw that every one of the circuits on the provisional calendar – Zandvoort, Jeddah and Imola included - has the potential to give us an exciting and memorable race.

4. Ferrari and McLaren stepping up to the plate

Both Ferrari and McLaren hope to be fighting at the front this season, coming off a 2021 season where their past successes shone through. McLaren had a one-two finish in Italy and Ferrari had nearly 200 more points than it did in 2020 and managed third in the constructor’s championship.

At McLaren,Lando Norris had his best season yet and came in sixth in the driver’s championship narrowly missing out on P5. Ferrari’s duo of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz scored points in every race other than France, making them the most consistent on the grid..

Daniel Ricciardo should be all caught up to the workings at Woking (McLaren’s F1 HQ) and will hit the ground running in 2022, making Ferrari vs McLaren a battle you won’t want to miss. The big question is, will they only be battling each other or might they be a factor in the battle between Red Bull and Mercedes?

5. Even more teams are aiming for the front

Aston Martin and Alpine are aiming to build on last year’s successes. Aston Martin is ready for a run in 2022 having been given the green light to attack by their owner, Lawrence Stroll. Alpine, the only team on the grid using Renault power, looks to capitalize on its strong driver duo of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso.

Last season, Alpine achieved a victory courtesy of Esteban Ocon, while Fernando Alonso made a brilliant comeback to F1, taking a podium in Qatar with his never-say-die brand of racing.

Aston Martin didn’t achieve a victory, but Sebastian Vettel won a podium spot in Baku with a stellar drive and was very close to another in Budapest, so the team has untapped potential to live up to.

6. Williams continue their journey as Albon returns

Alex Albon returns to F1 after sitting out the 2021 season due to Sergio Perez performing for Red Bull and Tsunoda stepping into his AlphaTauri seat. The Thai-Briton had some great races in 2020 though.

Williams signed the Red Bull-backed 25-year-old to partner Nicholas Latifi and take the seat vacated by George Russell’s departure for Mercedes.

While it would be great to see WIlliams regain their former glory, that might be asking a little too much for the 2022 season. Hopefully for fans of the iconic British team, 2022 continues to build on the foundation laid out in 2021.

7. Zhou makes his debut

Zhou Guanyu is making history as the first Chinese driver to race full-time in Formula 1 and is a shoe-in for rookie of the year as he’s the only rookie in the field. His debut season will be watched intently both at home and abroad.

The 22-year-old will join Alfa Romeo as the teammate of ex-Mercedes Grand Prix winner Valtteri Bottas in a pairing that matches experience and youth.

It's not Zhou's F1 car debut – he has of course tested Alpine and Alfa Romeo machinery – but it’s his first racing laps in a F1 car. He will also enjoy a home race for the foreseeable future with the Chinese Grand Prix having recently signed a long-term deal to stay on the calendar.

8. Haas’ clean slate

There’s also the curious case of Haas, who ended 2021 without points. That sounds worse than it is as the American team decided to forgo development on their 2021 car in order to focus their resources and time on this season and the new cars.

Their driver duo also pairs experience and youth as they signed Kevin Magnussen to be the teammate of Mick Schumacher just before the season started.

Magnussen returns to F1 after a year-long absence, having previously driven for Haas starting in 2017 through the 2020 season.

9. Welcome to Miami

2022 will see the first ever F1 Miami Grand Prix, in what’s bound to be a party in the city where the heat is on (naturally) when the cars take to the streets on May 6-8.

Drivers will take on 19 corners and 5.41 kilometres of the Miami International Autodrome around the Hard Rock Stadium (home of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins). The exciting new circuit features three straights and DRS zones with an estimated top speed of 320 km/h, leaving no doubt that it will be a great test for the drivers and the new F1 cars.

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