Formula 1 chief Stefano Domenicali is expecting a lot from the forthcoming 2022 World Championship season, including more drivers in contention for wins and the Title.
The 54-year-old Italian also lauded new F1 World Champion Max Verstappen during an interview with Sport1.
The new rules package which kicks in on the second year of his watch as top man of F1 were crafted long before he arrived to steer the ship, as Chase Carey got it sailing in the right direction after the final wobbly years of Bernie Ecclestone’s reign.
The Formula 1 of today is hardly recognizable to the one of a decade ago. The sport has embraced social media targeting new fans, which received a huge boost when Verstappen and archrival Lewis Hamilton slugged it out to the very last lap of the 2021 season.
The year-long, hardcore battle between the Young Gun and the Old Guard captured the imagination of an audience snoozing after years of Mercedes’ utter dominance, while the Netflix project – Drive to Survive – has captivated an entirely new audience who have been drawn to the sport.
Now the next act awaits – the 2022 F1 season – with the all-new cars designed to make for closer racing and a rules’ package that is expected to level the playing field.
Domenicali: I’m really looking forward to the new cars
The F1 Chief was asked what he expects of the year ahead, he replied: “A lot. The cars should enable the drivers to drive closer to one another and thus duel each other even more intensely.
“If you ask me whether we’ll see an extremely close field from the first race on, I don’t think so. But due to the restrictions in the further development of cars and the upper budget limit, the gap should close more quickly.
“In any case, I’m really looking forward to the new cars. I was told that some of them should look different from the model we presented at Silverstone. I am curious myself,” revealed Domenicali.
Could a smaller team do a Brawn GP of 2009 and win the 2022 F1 Title?
The sport has for too long been dominated by Mercedes, eight F1 Constructors Titles in eight years is enough proof of that, but Red Bull came very close this year and, of course, did nab the last drivers’ F1 World Title of the previous era with Verstappen.
Ferrari and McLaren are expected to be up there where they belong this year, while Aston Martin is breaking the bank to make things happen. Numerous unknowns will only be answered during testing and finally at the first few races when a pecking order should emerge.
However, Domenicali does not rule out a Brawn GP style anomaly: “That could happen because with the new rules you never know whether a team has found a loophole. More realistically, I rather expect one or two teams to take a different direction in design rather than a loophole as such.”
As for the F1’s 34th World Champion Max Verstappen, Domenicali – who worked with the likes of Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso at Ferrari – is full of praise: “Every driver is unique. Max has grown tremendously over the past few years. In 2021 he drove constantly to the limit.
“So I think he deserves the title. I’m looking forward to seeing him as the reigning F1 champion in his new situation. He made his dream come true. I’m curious to see how it turns out in 2022.”
Domenicali: Focus for the new cars is to allow more drivers to fight for wins and the title
As for Hamilton who has gone off the radar on all fronts since he suffered the hard to take (if you are of the Mercedes camp) defeat at Yas Marina, a night he almost became an eight-time F1 Champion but was denied on the final lap.
Nevertheless, a feud for the ages was ignited and should remain aflame as long as the pair are on the grid, at least that would be part of Domenicali’s ideal script: “Of course, I really hope the duel will continue but I also hope that more drivers can be part of the battle for the title.
“We currently have so many young and talented drivers, an extremely strong field. Therefore, the focus is currently on whether the new cars will allow more drivers to fight for wins and the championship,” explained Domenicali.
Thus the Chief’s expectations are high ahead of the 2022 Formula 1 season, which begins on Friday, 18 March with the first free practice for the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
Before that, the first of two, three-day preseason tests are scheduled for 23-25 February for Circuit de Barcelona and at Bahrain International Circuit from 10-12 March.