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7 Reasons F1 Is Trending in the Right Direction in 2022 – autoweek.com

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Formula 1’s summer break is a perfect time to reflect on developments to be excited about this season.
The summer recess provides an ideal opportunity to reflect on the first part of the 2022 Formula 1 season. Unless you happen to be a Ferrari fan or were hoping that this was the year for Lewis Hamilton to lock down championship No. 8, it’s been a good year.
Autoweek takes a look at some of the positive developments this season.
Formula 1’s previous regulations weren’t without positive elements, but there were key flaws. The main one was the “dirty air” caused by the levels of downforce, which made following another rival difficult, resulting in the negative spiral of overheating tires, brakes, engines and so forth.
This year’s regulations were largely aimed at addressing that scenario. Overall, it has worked. Drivers have been able to follow closer, and for longer, while being able to continue pushing. The racing in the closely-contested midfield has at times been fantastically frantic. Up front at Silverstone, the racing was sensationally good.
“That was a perfect demonstration of what the sport was trying to achieve with these revolutionary new racing cars,” said F1 managing director of motorsport Ross Brawn at the time. “What pleased me was the precision the drivers could have with the cars. We saw countless fascinating battles that went for several corners, with multiple changes of position. We saw drivers were able to take multiple lines with these new cars, and that allowed for two, three or even four cars going almost side-by-side.”
Brawn added that “it demonstrates the direction F1 and the FIA have gone in is absolutely the right one to follow, and the sport can go forward with renewed confidence that this approach is what is needed for the future.”
Not every race has been a classic, and the presence of DRS remains a thorny issue, but overall the regulations have had a positive impact.
There is always a fear that when new regulations are introduced that one team finds either the most suitable aerodynamic package or an innovation of such wizardry that they establish a sizeable advantage. That did not happen in 2022.
Max Verstappen holds an 80-point lead, with eight wins in 13 races, but that has been distorted by Ferrari’s ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Red Bull Racing and Ferrari have been similarly matched performance-wise, with the advantage ebbing and flowing depending on certain parameters, while there is now the promise of Mercedes joining the front-runners after a difficult start. What’s more, the three teams have reached this stage while adopting different design philosophies—allaying pre-2022 fears that the technical regulations were too restrictive.
Formula 1’s technical side has always been relatively secretive, with teams striving to mask updates, and understandably concealing innovations where possible. It’s part of the game.
Liberty Media has been cognizant of the rich layers of Formula 1’s technical side and has been trying to get teams to be more open in this regard. There has been a step in the right direction in 2022, with cars displayed in the pit lane on a Friday—allowing onlookers to take a look at any new components or indeed entire revisions to packages—while the FIA publishes a document that details new parts and why they have been introduced. That allows a greater understanding of the different paths chosen by respective teams and also allows their development trajectory to be plotted across the course of the season.
The cost cap has also had a positive impact on the situation. Gone are the days where teams can merely throw money, and consequently new components, at any troublesome area. Teams have to think smarter and be more efficient when it comes to development.
This was to be a pretty critical season for Haas. It turned off the money taps in 2020 when the pandemic struck, slumped to the back with an undeveloped car in 2021, but saw 2022 as the platform for rejuvenation.
Its 2021 resources were poured into the VF-22 for this season, so if it got that wrong, there would have surely been deep repercussions. Fortunately for all involved, the car has been solidly midfield⁠—and on occasion has been strikingly rapid.
Haas also landed on its feet when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led to the termination of its difficult relationship with Uralkali and, more crucially, the underwhelming Nikita Mazepin. In came old mate Kevin Magnussen and he immediately delivered, with the fifth place in Bahrain on his return the feel-good story of the season, prompting wild celebrations, wide smiles and touching scenes with his infant daughter Laura.
There have been setbacks, to be sure. Reliability has been a weakness, Mick Schumacher’s early mishaps were costly, and a few strategic decisions turned promising positions into rubble. But Haas is a midfield contender again, has a solid lineup in Magnussen and Schumacher, and can approach each Grand Prix knowing it can contend for the top 10 if it executes everything correctly. That’s a complete transformation from the dispiriting ignominy of last season.
There is a gradual shift in the make-up of Formula 1. Lewis Hamilton, 37, is surely still going to be a contender in the coming years, despite his era of dominance having closed, while 41-year-old Fernando Alonso continues to be insatiably hungry to prolong his career.
F1 lost the enigmatic Kimi Räikkönen after 2021, and the series is going to be waving goodbye to four-time champion Sebastian Vettel when this year comes to a close.
However Formula 1’s present and future driving talent is in safe hands. The two standout drivers of this campaign, champion Max Verstappen and nearest challenger Charles Leclerc, are only 24 and have long-term deals with their respective teams. George Russell, 24, has slotted in seamlessly at Mercedes after his lengthy internship at Williams, while Lando Norris, 22, has been the midfield’s best representative, even stepping on the podium for McLaren at Imola.
There’s also the likes of Carlos Sainz (27) at Ferrari, Esteban Ocon (25) at Alpine and Pierre Gasly (26) at AlphaTauri. There is also the probability of Oscar Piastri, 21, joining Norris at McLaren next year, while promising French talent Théo Pourchaire, 18, is performing strongly in Formula 2 and putting his name in paddock circles. American Logan Sargeant, 21, has won races in Formula 2 and is a contender for a Williams seat.
Finally, some five years after it was first mooted, Formula 1 rocked into Miami. There was a stage, amid legal wranglings, location changes and the pandemic, that a Miami race looked a distant prospect.
Yes, there was a lot of hype. A hell of a lot of hype. And yes, the Miami International Autodrome is no Suzuka, Spa or Silverstone. Oh, and yes, there was a fake marina, with a fake beach, which became the perfect meme and go-to ‘thing’ for the Twitter and Instagram crowd the organizers were targeting.
But the inaugural event was a success. The race itself was sufficiently entertaining, the atmosphere was incredible, and the Grand Prix reached different markets that Formula 1 was seeking. That aura was enhanced by the array of activities going on downtown and in Miami Beach throughout the build-up.
The promoters, well-schooled in hosting major sporting events, could teach other Grands Prix a thing or two. There remain sticking points: the circuit could be tweaked in a few places and the eye-wateringly high general admission ticket prices should be lowered. But Miami has a 10-year contract, giving it plenty of time to make refinements and to learn from setbacks, and overall the event was a positive addition to the championship
As an international sport Formula 1 was severely impacted by the pandemic, with travel restrictions, relentless testing and bubbles that meant a sociable sport felt soulless.
There were unexpected opportunities for some unheralded race tracks: the likes of Mugello, Portimao and Istanbul Park had temporary berths on the schedule, and the variety did add a welcome element. Yet 2022 has felt like the first ‘normal’ season since 2019, with the long overdue return of favorite venues Melbourne and Montreal, while the paddock still has the first trips to Singapore and Japan (featuring the brilliant Suzuka) for three years to savor after the summer recess.
The atmosphere at Grands Prix in Melbourne and Montreal was electric, both a testament to the excellent promotion of those events, and how Formula 1’s popularity has grown through the pandemic, facilitated by the success of Netflix’s Drive to Survive. After a 2020 and partial 2021 spent staring at empty grandstands, and being braced for schedule changes, 2022 has been refreshing in its normality.

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