By Jackson Heiden
It’s been almost 100 days since the end of one of the most intense and controversial Formula 1 seasons in a long time. With pre-season testing finishing up last weekend, the season is about to get underway this weekend, at the Bahrain International Circuit, in Sakhir, Bahrain.
Throughout the offseason, there have been quite a few changes from driver lineups, to new tracks added to the schedule, new-looking cars all over the track, and how the impact of the Russian Invasion on Ukraine has impacted the season and teams.
To start, Red Bull is coming off a big season as they notched their first World Championship driver since 2013, with Max Verstappen. They have even more to prove as they look to stop their rival, Mercedes, reign of eight-straight constructors championships, as drivers Verstappen and Sergio Perez return for another season and look to add off of their on-track success from last season.
For Mercedes, they’re coming off of a not-so-good pre-season testing period as they’re dealing with a lot of control issues while in the car. Mercedes is coming off of yet another successful 2021 team performance, holding off their rival Red Bull and notching their eighth straight championship. With the departure of their long-time second-seat driver, Valterri Bottas, Mercedes brings on a young, talented, fan-favorite, George Russell from the Williams team.
There’s always pre-season hype surrounding them, Ferrari is looking a lot better coming out of pre-season testing for the first time in quite a few years, and looking to get back on to the podium more consistently. They return the same drivers as last season, after finishing third in the constructors, and come out looking the fastest after pre-season testing.
Although finishing in fourth place, McLaren is coming off of a somewhat successful season. In his first season with the team, Daniel Riccardo had a bit of a rough start finishing towards the back of the pack while not getting the most out of the car. However, things started to turn around for McLaren and Riccardo, as they grabbed their first and only one-two podium of the season in Monza, Italy. McLaren set forth this season looking to take third with the talented duo of Riccardo and Lando Norris.
As we head to the middle of the pack, AlphaTauri looks to field a reliable, fast, middle-of-the-pack car as they return the same driving duo of Piere Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda. Both drivers have a lot to prove as Tsunoda is coming into his second season of F1 and looking to fix all of his rookie tendencies. Gasly is looking to prove himself, even more, to be able to land himself a seat on the top of the grid.
With Aston Martin returning to the grid in 2021, they look to finish toward the middle to upper-middle of the pack. They return the same driving duo as world-champion driver Sebastian Vettel comes in for his 12th season. In the other seat, Aston Martin brings back Lance Stroll for his sixth season.
As we move towards the back half of the field, Alfa Romeo who finished second to last during the 2022 season. They bring on Valterri Bottas who is known for getting the most out of each car he drives as he comes from Mercedes. Not only do they bring on a guy who was a part of five championship-winning teams, but they also bring on the first full-time Chinese F1 driver, Zhou Guanyu, for his rookie season.
Next up, Alpine who finished fifth behind McLaren during the 2021 season. They’re coming off of a positive pre-season testing session and look to add to that during the 2022 season. They return the same driver lineup in Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon.
Finally, two teams that have been affected the most this off-season. We’ll start with the American-based team in Haas. They’re coming off of yet another season where they were trying to not fold as an organization, and that scenario didn’t help when Russia invaded Ukraine. Haas’s main title sponsor is Uralkrali, which is one of the world’s largest manure suppliers, based out of Russia. That being said, F1 and Haas have decided to part ways with the sponsor which leaves a gaping hole in the money department. Not only that, the son of the owner of UralKali, is the second seat driver for Haas, and he has been removed from his position as a driver due to his nationality ties with Russia. Haas has brought on well-known driver Kevin Magnussen who departed from the team a little over a year and a half ago. Mick Schumacher also comes back for his second season and looks to build on to his young success.
Williams was hurt most in the driver department over the off-season as their number one driver, George Russell, departed from the team to take over the seat at Mercedes. Russell was critical in the development side of things for Williams, as he pushed the car and they scored points for the first time in a couple of years. Taking over Russell’s seat is Alex Albon who has been vacant from the sport since his struggles in 2019. Nicholas Latifi returns for his second season and looks to take over as the guy that pushes the car for success.
F1 has made some changes with the schedule this season as they have added another week to the schedule as it is now a 23-race season, which is the biggest season that F1 has ever had. On top of that, they welcome a new track to the schedule as they travel to Miami, Florida, making it America’s second F1 race. Racing will also return to Melbourne, Montreal, and Suzuka after they were all forced to cancel during the 2021 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps one of the biggest news stories is the cancellation of the Sochi Grand Prix in Russia. F1 has decided to cut ties with the Grand Prix due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The second race of the season gets under way as round two kicks off in Saudi Arabia this weekend, with the first practice session beginning at 10 a.m. Qualifying begins at 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon along with lights out for the race at 1 p.m. this Sunday, March 27.