Biggest questions for Mercedes and Red Bull in 2022

By: Leona Stewart, Jeremy Trottier, and Kieran McGinley

Mercedes

The biggest question for the reigning Constructors champions?  Can George Russell live up to expectations as quickly as fans expect him to?  George Russell, who has been a phenomenal qualifier and has been known as Mr. Saturday for quite some time now, is going to be making the move from the second-worst car on the field to last year’s best in terms of total points.  While George has had his one chance in a Mercedes previously, as of 2020 in the Sakhir Grand Prix.  This debut was heartbreaking for George Russell and Mercedes fans alike, as George Russell would lead much of the race until a botched pitstop on lap 62, and then a late tire puncture, which saw him lose the lead and eventually the race. 

The real question now with Russell moving to Mercedes is can he perform as he did that day in 2020, and be successful without the issues that were out of his control.  Many believe he can perform up to the lofty expectations, and outperform or at least match the quality of Valtteri Bottas in the coming seasons.  While I would not expect this to be immediate, George Russell could definitely live up to and exceed expectations for Mercedes.  

An intriguing question for Mercedes will be: will they let Hamilton and Russell race?

It’s fair to say that Mercedes may still feel the scars of 2016. That season’s Spanish Grand Prix reminded Mercedes of the dangers of having drivers on level terms. The collision between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, and the pair’s subsequent retirements from the race, gave Mercedes a stark reminder: 43 points can so easily be reduced to absolutely nothing, no matter the car you build.

The teamwork used in both the Mercedes and Red Bull garages contributed to the respective team’s title victories in the 2021 season, which highlighted the indispensable roles of Sergio Pérez and Valtteri Bottas. So, would Russell accept the role of the second driver for the 2022 season?

Mercedes could treat Russell’s first full season with them as a learning season, which would aid in the teamwork dynamic massively for the 2022 season. Russell spent three seasons at Williams, and has played a part in the recovery job that the outfit is currently undergoing. Russell’s qualifying result of P2 at the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix turned many heads in the treacherous conditions and did score Williams’ first podium (yes, it counted) since Lance Stroll at Baku in 2017. 

This makes it clear that Mercedes are willing to play out a long term plan for their next prospect, and allow Russell to learn over a lengthy period of time which should hone his skills further. This then may result in Russell being the number 2 driver for the 2022 season. For 2023 and beyond? I would keep that popcorn on standby.

Despite being objectively one of Formula 1’s most iconic teams in modern history, with countless broken records and titles, Mercedes most certainly do not have to prove themselves to anyone.

However, in the past few years, it has almost been taken for granted that Mercedes and Hamilton will dominate the grid, and they have. With the speed and the talent, the Silverstone based German team has been almost untouchable, until now.

With a blank slate, brand new cars and regulations, all the teams are almost on the same level playing field. Will these new changes lead to a single team dominance again, or will we finally see an action packed battle between teams throughout the season. 

The changes see new chassis’, the re-emergence of ground effect floors for extra downforce and new regulations, all of which are hoped to create an exciting season for dedicated fans, or for attracting more to the sport all round.

Historically, when we have seen a change in regulations like this, whichever team nailed it first went on to dominate for years. 2014s V6 hybrid units spring to mind, with a Mercedes domination following.

Looking into 2022, it appears to be the most exciting season the sport has seen in decades. The unknown is a daunting process, even in motorsport.

Red Bull

The biggest question for the team holding the reigning drivers champion?  Can they break the Mercedes streak of 8 straight constructors championships and become the best constructor in F1 again?  Red Bull has not won the Constructors since 2013, 9 years ago, back when they had a phenomenal duo of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber battling it out every week.  Since then, the award has been dominated by Mercedes and has not been won by any other team since 2010.  With Valtteri Bottas gone, and George Russell potentially taking some time to get used to a new car and team, can Red Bull steal the constructors back after all these years?  

This win will come down to Sergio Perez, as we know Max Verstappen can perform clearly.  Perez had a relatively good 2021 season, scoring 190 points on the season and a win at Azerbaijan.  However, with 3 DNFs (2 coming back to back in the last two races) and 3 finishes outside the points on top of the DNFs, he had his inconsistencies.  Perez will need to become more consistent throughout the whole season to truly let Red Bull win the constructors.  

The Honda name has left Formula 1. Red Bull have taken over with their new Power Unit Department. So, by procuring talented engineers from across the grid (including Mercedes), can the upward trend continue further?

Honda had a tumultuous start to their return to the sport. Having pulled out as a works team weeks before the start of the 2009 season, they returned as engine manufacturers for McLaren in 2015. Internal conflict, engine woes, and an eventual split-up brought an end to a rugged relationship at the end of the 2017 season.

It would be safe to say that Red Bull took a risk when Toro Rosso signed a deal with Honda to be their new engine supplier, but it resulted in a successful dip of a toe in the water. So much so that Red Bull also joined Toro Rosso in having Honda as their engine supplier for the 2018 season. Needless to say, this move was a huge part of Red Bull’s continued rise back to title contenders.

But when Honda announced that they would be withdrawing from Formula 1 at the end of the 2020 season, it raised the question of what would happen with Red Bull’s engines. Mercedes and Ferrari would not be willing to supply a title rival, and the rocky relationship with Renault was unsalvageable. So, Red Bull started to build a team that could take over where Honda would leave them at the end of the 2021 season.

With the department established for 2022, eyes will be on Red Bull and whether they can continue the rise of the Honda technology.

After an exciting year of drama and uproar between Verstappen and Hamilton, with young Max facing the brunt, the question arises of how will Redbull and Max cope with the FIA’s inconsistency? 

It’s no secret that Max Verstappen is a young and fiery driver, however this has been under the scrutiny of Michael Masi and the FIA in the 2021 season. Although continually out-performing seven time World Champion Lewis Hamilton by always placing either 1st or 2nd – excluding Hungary – in the races he finished, Verstappen’s maiden title is said to have been tainted by the FIA and their inconsistency after the title clash in Abu Dhabi. 

From inconsistent penalties to fines, illegal moves and safety car controversy, the past season has been nothing short of challenges for all teams and drivers. What will this season bring for the ever-rising team and their star? 

As Masi continues to face scrutiny of his handling of Abu Dhabi, and rumours of possible reshuffles, faith in the authority of the sport dwindles by the hour.

Drivers such as Lance Stroll, George Russell and Max himself are amongst those who have already expressed their distaste in the FIA rulings throughout the season, but after reaching his ‘life’s dream’ of becoming WDC, will Max Verstappen continue to be as feisty as before and take a stance against the FIA? The season awaits.

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