Formula 1 Championship favorites in 2022

Who are the top F1 championshiop favorites in 2022?

Leona 

Charles Leclerc. Scuderia Ferrari’s golden boy. He has long been pinned for F1 greatness, with Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto saying he is their best hope at winning a Championship.

Making his way through the ranks, the Monegasque driver made his way into F1 with Alfa Romeo prior to his stint in the Ferrari driver academy, and has been driving in the scarlet red contender since 2019, and is set to stay there until at least 2024.

With 2 victories, 10 podiums and 7 pole starts, Leclerc is one of the most exciting young drivers on the grid. But is he the next World Champion? 

Ferrari have not had a WDC since 2007 with Kimi Raikkonen, but in this new era of F1, with new regulations, this season is in Ferrari’s hands. After finishing 3rd in the Constructors last year, the results of previous years were left in the dirty air and let the Ferrari power into 2022.

Current testing in Barcelona has been a success for Leclerc and Ferrari, finishing fastest with a 1m16.7, dethroning Daniel Ricciardo. Teammate Carlos Sainz’ 1m20.6 was cleared. 

Having spent the latter half of the 2021 season developing their 2022 car, Leclerc has all the tools necessary to bring the Scuderia back to their glory. However with a grid of young talent in the likes of Lando Norris and George Russell who are set to impress this year – with Norris taking Mclaren to the next level and Russell eager to perform in Mercs hot seat – it won’t be without fierce racing. Especially as Sainz has already proven his place in Ferrari after a consistent debut season. 

As Bahrain approaches and testing continues, will Ferrari deliver a car capable of fighting for the championship once again? Only time will tell. 

Jake 

Max Verstappen has sky-high confidence in 2022, as he’s coming off a championship 2021 season. The Netherlands native will hope Lewis Hamilton will also hope the 37-year-old Lewis Hamilton has some rust on him in this approaching season.

Verstappen is truly energetic, unique, and F1’s favorite racer for good reason. The Red Bull driver has spirit and youth on his side (24 years old). 

I believe Hamilton and Verstappen are the top two contenders in this innovative Formula 1 season. It’s clear that history won’t repeat itself for the aging, routine champion Hamilton. The Red Bull advisor, Marko, said the following via The Sun about Hamilton, “I can hardly imagine he can drive at this level for much longer. He’s at his zenith now, age is slowly coming into play”. Furthermore, Marko proudly boasted how Verstappen is a world champion and ascending at this point in this career.

There is no secret that Hamilton is old, but he’s not washed up. The driver won in 2020 and he’s still shown his juice in 2022. He recorded the fastest lap during a pre-season moment in Barcelona. He will absolutely give Verstappen a run for his money in the upcoming season. I still feel that Verstappen can show improvement, while father time will negatively impact Hamilton. 

Verstappen is the second favorite in terms of odds according to Odds Checker. There is a lot of hype around Hamilton being the victor for another season, but I believe Verstappen will get a gritty, close first place in 2022. Will Hamilton or Verstappen be the early favorite into the season? We will soon find out.

Kieran

It comes to a rank outsider now, one name that you may not have thought of before today. One name you may have ruled out altogether before reading this. The gut feeling points me to Carlos Sainz Jr. Let me explain:

Sainz Jr. (who, for the sake of consistency, shall be referred to as Sainz from this point onwards) first joined Formula 1 in 2015 after graduating from the Red Bull Junior Team. In his early career, he won titles in the CIK-FIA Asia Pacific Championship in 2008, the Formula Renault Northern European Cup in 2011 and the Formula Renault 3.5 Series in 2014. Sainz made the switch to Formula 1 with Toro Rosso in 2015 and has since driven for Renault, McLaren and currently drives for Ferrari.

Sainz enters the 2022 season having achieved his highest championship finishing position of fifth place with Ferrari achieving four podiums across the season. In the 2022 season, he managed to achieve double the amount of podiums that he achieved with his two seasons at McLaren. These performances have helped Sainz to enter the conversation, at least for this article, to be an outside chance of a title contender.

Sainz has consistently shown that he is well equipped at adapting to new environments. His ability to get to grips with new machinery will no doubt help him in a season with huge regulation changes. Starting on the right foot will be critical this season, as we have seen previously with the previous significant regulation changes of 2009, 2014, and 2017. Ferrari will be hoping that they can provide the chariots for Sainz and Leclerc to challenge for some long-awaited championship silverware.

He managed to outscore Charles Leclerc over the 2021 season at the first time of asking, which will give a reminder to Leclerc that he will have to step up to reinforce his worth to the Maranello based team. In a sport where your closest rival is your teammate, Sainz stepping in and scoring more points than Leclerc has raised eyebrows at the Scuderia, which will provide a platform for the Spaniard to build on that momentum.

A sticking point in this prediction is the fact that he has not been a championship contender in Formula 1 before. He has had previous junior titles, so he knows how to win championships. Translating that to one of open-wheel racing’s premier championships will require mental and physical fortitude. He is also yet to score his maiden win in Formula 1. If he is to be a serious contender for the Drivers’ World Championship, that has to change.

The new regulations of the 2022 season promise change not only in the car performances across the grid or how well cars could follow in dirty air. It is also a chance for drivers to hit the reset button, and an opportunity to get the head start needed to fully understand how these new cars function. Sainz may lack the experience of being in a Formula 1 Championship battle and would need a maiden win to solidify his place in a championship conversation, but the upward trend he has had since 2015 and his adaptation ability means he should not be too far away from a serious title challenge.

Jeremy

Sir Lewis Hamilton, 7-time World Drivers’ Champion and winner of 6 of the last 8 WDCs, has confirmed his return to Formula 1 in 2022.  With this, we can expect him to return with even more passion than last season, as he has a chip on his shoulder from his 2021 campaign and more fire than ever.  

Widely renowned as one of the, if not the best driver in Formula 1 history enters his 16th season trying to chase the elusive 8th Championship that has never been attained in the sport.  This is also an achievement that has eluded other professional drivers, such as NASCAR’s Jimmie Johnson, who was never able to take home an 8th title after winning 7.  Hamilton has looked impressive so far in the first 3 days of testing, finishing in the top 5 times on both days 1 (5th : 1m20.9) and day 3 (1st: 1m19.1).  While he performed poorly comparatively on day 2, this is due to Lewis only running 3 laps on the day.  

Betting against a driver who has been as dominant as Lewis in the last decade, and nearly won the WDC last year would be hard to delineate.  Mercedes has been able to remain dominant for a decade, winning the last 8 World Constructors Championships in a row, and 9 of the last 10.  If this is anything to go by, Mercedes should still be a top-tier car even after the 2022 overhaul as their engine is extremely proficient, and has always been the difference-maker.  Even with the Mercedes engine in the McLaren, we saw nearly all of last season the raw speed of these two teams down the straights, and especially so with DRS.  A table from Motorsport.com shows this in the form of speedtraps, comparing the Honda engine of the Red Bull to the Mercedes engine:

Official Speed Trap 2021 (Measured in km/h)

RaceMercedesRed Bull
Qatar323.9320.7
Brazil327.5318.8
Mexico351.1343.2
USA323.3318.3
Turkey327.6324.1

A new teammate in George Russell is the most intriguing part of this, as we do not know how he will compare to Lewis, or more reasonably, to Valtteri Bottas.  Will Russell be treated as Bottas was and told to step aside for Lewis?  Or will the battle of Mercedes become more than that, and will Russell take points from Lewis if it came down to it?  While this is obviously not the intention or what Mercedes would hope, if George is performing well he may do so.  However, what we have seen between Bottas and Hamilton since 2017, is that at the end of the day Hamilton takes priority points-wise while he is competing for the WDC. 

With that in mind, Lewis Hamilton is most definitely a Championship favorite, and frankly, until he retires or leaves for a new team, he will be considered as one. 

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