The summer break often signals the start of the “silly season” for driver contracts, something I initially planned to ignore in this second episode of the 2022 Formula 1 report card, but I couldn’t…
To kick off part two, it must be said this year’s F1 Silly Season has been “sillier” than ever. Consider that a youngster yet to compete in F1 has become the lynchpin for the movement of established drivers. Really?
Some people would do well to scratch the veneer and take a good gander at what this “new” driver has actually achieved in his career. For me the words “flatter to deceive” spring to mind! Is he good? For sure. Is he a Verstappen or Hamilton? I don’t think so.
People often bemoan that a lot of the current Formula 1 seats are taken by undeserving “toolers”. Whilst this may be true in some instances, there is still a lot of talent and pace sitting in the current F1 driver pool. Any new arrival will really need to be quite special to standout.
Meanwhile, back to the planned subject matter. Last week’s “half-term” report focused on the FIA, their regulations, and Officials.
Now it is time to look at some of the teams and drivers.
Best Performing Team… Mercedes, let the groaning begin
Yes! At the risk of being deafened by the groans, I’m going to award first place to Mercedes. The reason for this is simple. If the other entrants had got their “race shit” together in the same way Mercedes has, the silver arrows would never have featured on the podium.
But they did, in every race, and in two instances, 2nd and 3rd! In fact, apart from Silverstone, both cars have finished and collected points at every Grand Prix. Difficult to identify another team who has done the same.
This is no lucky coincidence. Love him or hate him, Toto Wolff sets the tone for the team. A team that fields the strongest driver pairing on the grid. And while the W13 might not be there yet it is, bit by bit, closing the gap to Ferrari and to a lesser extent, Red Bull.
With the Technical Directive 0039 in force for Spa this weekend, we should get an indication as to the chassis pecking order for the second half of the season.
And second place goes to… It has to be Haas!
Never has so much been done with so little (money and Mick that is). Guenther Steiner and Kevin Magnussen take a bow. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Haas was able to dispense with the services of Nikita Mazepin at the start of the season.
His pairing with Mick Schumacher was never going to deliver much in the way of Championship points and it enabled the Italian-American to strengthen his team with a man he never wanted to bin in the first place – “Kmag”. The loss of the Russian sponsorship money has been partially compensated for in better performance and points.
Magnussen came out of the box swinging, finishing 5th In the opening round in Bahrain. Something of an achievement for someone who just had a year off! Haas has managed to climb the very greasy pole of the F1 grid, moving from backmarkers to mid-fielders.
World Champions elect…
I’ve been saying this for months and have seen nothing since then that would change my opinion. Red Bull’s faltering start at the beginning of the season in the reliability department was swiftly resolved.
They have the best chassis engine combo, the second-best driver pairing and a team that is equally well led by Christian Horner and “the good Doctor”. These guys are on top of their game! I have only placed them third since they were already up there in 2021. For Red Bull, it has just been a case of “more of the same”
What the f@ck, Ferrari?
Enough has been said here already. There is nothing more to add other than to give an ‘A’ for effort and ‘D’ for results, with a “must do better” as a comment. Sorry boys but this is not breaking news to anyone.
And the drivers…
Before the start of the season, I suggested which drivers I thought would “Thrive” and those that would “Slide” this season. This was based on the impact of the new 2022 regulations and the subsequent handling characteristics of the cars they would produce.
No one likes a smart ass but… apart from Pierre Gasly, I was pretty much on the money. In fact, things started well for the Frenchman, but he seems to have gone off the boil somewhat in recent races together with the car.
The best performing driver of the season and no surprise here is the “Klompmeister” himself – Max Verstappen. Despite winning the World Championship last year, I would not have rated him the best driver on the grid in 2021. But in 2022, he has grown immeasurably. I’m not surprised at the “growing”, but I am amazed at the speed of transition!
Compared to 2021 he is so much more in control of himself, which is one of the reasons he now has such a commanding lead in the World Championship and is unlikely to relinquish it! It’s a double A for Max.
Yes, he’s back! Finally. After what seemed much navel contemplation over the meaning of life earlier in the year. Lewis Hamilton has found his zest for racing again and is putting in the performances we and his team have come to expect from him.
His talent which appears to be inversely proportional to his dress sense, did not leave on a jet plane at the end of 2021.
What has particularly impressed me is his patience in getting his tires into the right operating window during a race – something difficult to do in W13. This in turn enables him to extend their life and performance, providing him and his team with tactical options which the others don’t have. I have therefore given him a ‘B’ for the lack of effort at the beginning of the season but an ‘A’ for achievement for the last 5 races in the “difficult” W13.
Requiem for Ricciardo
It seems the self-named “Honey Badger” could well find himself without a seat when the “silly season” music stops. Although if he is paid out, he should have a nice fat wallet to comfort him.
The cheerful Aussie is a popular figure in F1 both in the Paddock and with the fans. Hired as a number 1 at McLaren, he has only performed as a number 2 against his teammate Lando Norris.
The only surprise here is how long it took “Family Guy” to figure out this fact. The writing was on the wall in 2021.Yes, he has improved recently, but I’m not sure this will be enough to prevent him from having to seek out a second career in 2023.
Replacing him with a “Noob” though might not be a solution. But then collecting drivers who haven’t competed in F1 seems to be Zak Brown’s hobby these days. Maybe he’s decided that trading “driver options” will generate more income than sponsorship.