Last year’s Formula 1 Grand Prix season was riddled with drama and excitement, capped by a deserved championship win by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in Abu Dhabi even though it was awarded by a most questionable call. Let’s not forget the sprint-style qualifiers that no one liked and yet were conducted thrice, and race stewardship that showcased a distinct lack of leadership. But a new year brings a new season, and in the wake of sweeping changes in technical regulations and a stunning array of new cars, we look into the soot-stained crystal ball of F1 and make a few predictions on how the coming months are going to pan out.
George Russell will dominate headlines
We’re starting easy with this one – after all, it is hardly a prediction as it is an expected outcome considering that Russell is heading to Mercedes-AMG, a team that has been winning for the last eight seasons. We expect that what will make the news won’t just be how well Russell does, but also, his relationship with Lewis Hamilton and any clashes that might take place as both drivers seek to top the other. Russell has his eyes firmly set on the throne, where Hamilton has sat on since 2014. There’s no number 2 for Russell, he is going to want to prove himself and become their leading driver. And there is no way any of this isn’t going to make the headlines.
Hamilton will fight for an 8th
This segues into our second prediction, arguably not that controversial either – that Hamilton is going to fight like hell to win his eighth championship title. The circumstances of Lewis Hamilton’s shocking loss last year may have sent him into social media hiding, but this time was likely spent preparing himself to take on the 2022 season – successfully. “I think Lewis relishes a challenge,” Damon Hill told inews.co.uk. “It seems to motivate him more. I’m wondering if not winning eight titles has relieved him of the pressure in a way. He has won so many records. If he hits the eight this year that would be fantastic. If he doesn’t, he has had a fantastic career, by any standard.” At a Q&A session at Expo 2020 Dubai, when asked what claiming that title would mean for him, Hamilton replied: “Everything. I think it’s impossible to know what the future holds and what it would feel like. But doing something that no one else had done would of course be mind-blowing.”
A new star in Lando Norris
Another Brit worth taking note of is Lando Norris, McLaren’s star racer who is quickly becoming the face of F1 with his youthful vigour and talent. Born to parents who could more than support his childhood love for motorsports, Norris made his way through the karting ranks, and in 2017, signed a junior driver contract in 2017 for McLaren. Making his debut in the Australian Grand Prix in 2019, he would become Britain's youngest ever F1 driver at 19 years, four months and four days old. His debut season, finishing eleventh, was enough to convince McLaren Norris was their future. It was last year where Norris really proved his mettle, finishing sixth in the drivers' championship. This convinced McLaren to offer him a four-year contract worth a staggering £80million, and the eager Norris is eager to prove that he is worth the investment – no better way to prove that than with a podium win or two, and Norris is sure to deliver.
Retirement possibilities for Sebastien Vettel and Fernando Alonso
This is where things start to get controversial and disagreeable if you will, but the signs are all there. Let’s look at Alonso (pictured) first. Alpine, as a team has been a little disappointing ever since it made its way back into F1, taking over Renault, and with some reshuffling of top management taking place, it’s a bit unsettled. In the next few years, they may pick up the pace but at age 40, it's unlikely that Alonso will want to wait. It’s also unlikely that any other teams are rushing to scoop him up with the abundance of young drivers available, so retiring might be a good option for him at this stage.
Vettel is an F1 legend with four world championships and more than 50 wins in his career, but truth be told, it does look like his glory days are behind him at this point. Aston Martin are gunning for a 2024 podium finish but Vettel’s contract runs out this year – there seems no definite answer if he should stay on, and the rumours that Lawrence Stroll might hire Pierre Gasly are at fever pitch. Vettel has a lot going on outside F1 – his social activism, in particular – so this won’t be a bad time to leave the sport.
Red Bull will win big
As deserving a champion as Max Verstappen is, the circumstances of his victory in Abu Dhabi will always leave a sour taste. But Red Bull’ second placing in the Constructor’s Championship was more than deserved and we best believe that they are aiming for no 1 this year. Pre-season runs saw Mercedes struggle with bouncing issues on their all-new W13, while Verstappen posted a scintillating lap on the final day of Bahrain’s Official Pre-Season Test to go fastest of anyone. And then of course there is Verstappen, oozing with confidence and unaffected by any pressures. His victory last year will only serve to strengthen his belief that he is the best on the grid, and that will make him a fearsome contender – something that will secure Red Bull’s success too.
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