Forget the years of Mercedes-AMG domination, forget the furore surrounding 2021’s finale and, most of all, forget the frequent difficulty that Formula 1 drivers have found in following and overtaking one another. Because this is 2022, the F1 season in which the formula undergoes its greatest change in nigh-on half a century.
The cars have been designed specifically to improve the show, with over-body aerodynamics swapped for under-body ground-effects aerodynamics. That wholesale change to the design of the cars also creates the first real opportunity for the competitive order to drastically change since 2014, and plenty of them have been talking up their chances.
Here we look at the way the land lies ahead of the 2022 season’s start in Bahrain on 20 March, with the teams listed in order of when they unwrapped their exciting new cars.
4 February: Haas-Ferrari
We would have called Haas’s 2021 season a total and utter embarrassment had it not publicly forewarned everyone that it would be painfully off the pace as it abandoned car development and threw all its resources at the new rules package. At least it wasn’t a totally unmitigated disaster, giving rookie drivers Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin a year of invaluable experience. Michael’s son predictably trounced the oligarch’s son, but Mazepin simply has to rein in the pace difference if he wants to be given even a shred of respect. And pace is even more vital for the Haas team as a whole: if the throw-the-kitchen-sink 2022 car fails to return it to the points, its eponymous owner is likely to throw in the towel, too.
9 February: Red Bull Racing
Mercedes-AMG began the first turbo-hybrid era in a completely different league from the rest of the field and it took a whole eight years for anyone to climb up to its level, but the team that managed it was the mighty Red Bull. That success was in large part thanks to Honda’s power units – but there will be no Japanese branding on the dark-blue cars this year, as the manufacturer has, quite bizarrely, decided to quit F1. Fortunately, Sakura will continue to provide Red Bull (and sibling team AlphaTauri) this year before Milton Keynes takes over engine production. And as the aero rules change, we would bet that if anyone can exploit them to their fullest, it will be Adrian Newey, so expect the Red Bulls of newly crowned world champion Max Verstappen and his ‘minister of defence’, Sergio Pérez, to be up top again.