This may have been the final race of the year, but already the mind not surprisingly in a sport is looking to the future. Questions about friction at Red Bull and Ferrari’s drivers, the future of Mattia Binotto and one team which are going to continue… but on over the winter… Max Verstappen took his sixteenth win a drive that perhaps summed up his 2022 season, dominant, in control.
Formula 1 has announced the launch of its own all-female driver category, the F1 Academy, which the sport hopes will eventually lead to a woman racer on the grid. This is not to replace W Series, the similarly all-female championship that is aiming to return for a fourth season next year despite having its 2022 campaign shortened amid financial difficulties.
The F1 Academy will feature five teams, run by current F2 and F3 teams, with three cars each to make up a 15-car grid. The inaugural season will have 21 races, with seven three-race events, and is likely to include at least F1 race weekend.
The two series will hopefully co-exist during the F1 weekends I think, running the same car but the difference is there will be £130,000 of funding which a driver will need to match.
The series will be headed up by Bruno Michel, who has ran F2 and F3, and he said: “I am very excited to launch this new category. Diversity is extremely important in motorsport, and with the F1 Academy we will prove that female driver have what it takes to compete at high levels.”
In recent years tactical grid penalties for engine changes have become part of the sport, now F1 could introduce stronger deterrents. The F1 Commission met in Abu Dhabi on Thursday to discuss a number of potential changes for F1 moving forward.
Under the current system, drivers have a limited number of each power unit element they can use across the course of the season, with a breach of the limit resulting in a grid penalty.
A statement said, “It was agreed that the current system is not a strong enough deterrent to teams to make strategic power unit changes, and encourages the change of change of more elements than needed once a driver has accumulated more than a certain level of penalty. This ultimately causes higher parts costs and undermines the power unit element annual restrictions.”
The matter is set to be discussed further by the Sporting and Power Unit Advisory Committees, who will complete an analysis into potential changes before any rule proposals are put forward.
The six venues which will sprints next year have been provisionally announced as Baku, Spielberg, Spa, Lusail, Austin and Interlagos. During a meeting of the F1 Commission in Abu Dhabi on Friday, part of the discussions were devoted to plans for the 2023 season and where the sprints should take place.
There are suggestions that Lusail could be swapped with Jeddah, high level sources indicate the other venues are pretty much locked in. The choice of venues is slightly different from F1’s previous preferred six venues that were originally laid out for this season.
Its been reported these choices have been made not on a financial basis rather the overtaking possibility and racing factors.
FP1 saw Lewis Hamilton top the times with a 25.633 on the softs, that put him two tenths faster than teammate George Russell, in the largely unrepresentive session given the mid-afternoon heat. Charles Leclerc was third a quarter of a second behind Hamilton’s session-topping time and ahead of Sergio Perez by eight-hundredths of a second.
FP2 saw Max Verstappen top the times in the twilight session with a 25.146, that put him three tenths faster than Russell and Leclerc. Hamilton put his Mercedes fourth, the Englishman going nine hundredths faster than Perez with the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz sixth.
FP3 saw Sergio Perez lead a Red Bull one two with a 24.982 after going a tenth and a half faster than Verstappen. Mercedes looked to be going into qualifying their closest challenger, but Hamilton was a quarter of second off Perez and Russell going fourth. But Hamilton was placed under investigation following a red flag infringement as a board looked yellow as he approached the board
Red Bull continued to set the pace in qualifying with Verstappen going two tenths faster than Perez. But the Dutchman had an “up and down” session with a few issues with him eventually unlocking performance to take pole. Charles Leclerc was a tenth and a half ahead of his Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz, the Monacan four-hundredths of a second behind Perez. Ferrari has looked to have struggled to find enough pace to challenge Red Bull, although the Monacan did put in purple sectors he was almost a tenth and a half off pole.
Verstappen dominated the race to take his sixteenth win of the season finishing eight seconds ahead of his championship rival Charles Leclerc. The Red Bull driver never looked back after pulling away and then controlling the race from the start as Leclerc got pass Sergio Perez to seal the runners-up stop.
It was a race where Ferrari got everything right for once this season, with Leclerc, appeared to be more measured on his tyres and that allowed him to keep Perez behind him.
George Russell won his first race last weekend in Sao Paulo, he said it was “incredibly emotional” to claim his first F1 victory after being put under “so much pressure” by teammate Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages. In my mind it was an extremely strong drive like we saw in Sakhir in 2020, also underlines the consistency he has had all season.
Russell told Sky Sports, “It was incredibly emotional. It has been such a journey my whole family have been on since the beginning. Then since getting into Formula One, through Williams, the struggles, the highs, the lows there. Then joining Mercedes and the struggles we had at the start of the season”
Thinking back to Sakhir testing in March, Mercedes were looking as if a win this year was unlikely and it felt during the early part of the year. But they chipped away and made huge steps possibly 2022 most improved team? That was on merit as Mercedes didn’t use team orders.
Well ahead of the weekend, Toto Wolff says that the team doesn’t plan to prioritise Lewis Hamilton at this weekend’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, so he can maintain his record of winning one race in each season saying he believes it’s “not what he ever would want.”
I don’t think this is a case of downplaying as we have heard throughout this season, that fighting at the front next year is their main aim. Hamilton said in September, that maintaining the record had “zero importance” to him, with the bigger focus instead being on making the Mercedes car competitive and learning lessons for 2023.
Russell was three-tenths off Verstappen in second practice, following which he said he believes that Red Bull “had the legs” on Mercedes, with Yas Marina suiting the RB18 “down to a tee.”
Russell felt it had been a “very strong day” for Mercedes, having run a number of test items on his car in FP1 to help development for 2023, but believed Red Bull just had the edge in terms of pace.
He said, “It felt fast out there, but I think Red Bull just had the legs on us. Single lap, probably two tenths ahead, long run maybe even further. We’ve got a little bit of work to do overnight, but compared to Ferrari, [we] looked reasonable.”
In the build up to this weekend, I have repeatedly written that Yas Marina this circuit has tended to favour that seasons champions or the fastest car. I think Mercedes realistically know its unlikely they will be fighting for victory this weekend because the characteristics of the circuit suit the Red Bull.
Hamilton echoed Russell’s thoughts at the end of the day, believing Mercedes was quick but still slightly trailing the Red Bull package, conceding that his race run “wasn’t very good, but I don’t know where it stands compared to the others.” He added: “The Red Bulls look a bit quicker here, which was expected,” said the seven-time world champion.
Toto Wolff said that qualifying “belonged in the toilet” after the team were unable to challenge Ferrari and Red Bull for pole position. That left Hamilton to take fifth ahead of his team-mate, bringing Mercedes back down to earth after Russell, I think the team accepted this was going to be a harder challenge but not eight-tenths off.
Mercedes’ early-season problems, following the introduction of new design regulations for the 2022 season, were a result of the W13 suffering extreme bouncing or porpoising, generally in faster sections of the track. The problem has largely gone away as Mercedes’ form has improved during the second half of the year, but Hamilton said it was back with “a vengeance” in Abu Dhabi.
But Russell set his sights on Ferrari for the race but accepted that Red Bull was unlikely to be challenged by Mercedes. He added “I’ll go out there tomorrow, I don’t really have anything to lose, and enjoy it, fight as hard as I can. I think Red Bull will be slightly out of reach but hopefully, we can try to jump the Ferraris.”
Russell went onto finish fifth, best of the rest, after Hamilton retired from the race,
Max Verstappen has “reasons” why refused to help his teammate Sergio Perez in his championship battle with Charles Leclerc when he refused team orders to give up his place and allow the Mexican to pass him at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix. He wouldn’t say what the reasons were but there had been speculation that it was because of Perez’s crash in qualifying in Monaco, which ensured the Mexican started ahead of Verstappen and prevented him challenging for pole, Verstappen said: “I don’t need to say.”
In my view reflecting on this, I’m not surprised as Verstappen in my view is big-headed and has a almost Ayrton Senna-esq vibe when he is on track, its not a bad thing but after Perez made scarifies for him it seems unfair now that he has the championship for him to do that.
Following those claims, on Friday, the FIA announced it would be prepared to investigate whether or not Sergio Perez deliberately crashed in Monaco qualifying if a formal complaint is made. Perez’s accident at Portier, which came a few corners after he locked up and wrecked any chances of improving on his second run, triggered a red flag and meant nobody could improve on their first effort from the session.
Perez has insisted that the accident was a genuine accident, but the data from those runs could have the answers. this has a similar vibe to 2006 qualifying when Michael Schumacher crashed at Rascasse preventing his rival Fernando Alonso from attempting to improve his time. Schumacher maintained that this was an innocent mistake, but his actions were deemed “deliberate” by the race stewards.
What the sport doesn’t need is more scandals involving Red Bull, you need to wonder though Verstappen will attack the media, whether there is potential for a rift and a Vettel/Webber row brewing like we saw at Sepang in 2013. How do Red Bull handle this or are they going to fall into the bromance falling apart which if Ferrari and Mercedes are stronger next season.
The teams motorsport adviser Helmut Marko has said that Daniel Ricciardo is set to join Red Bull as a third driver. As we know, Ricciardo has failed to find a race seat next year after being dropped by McLaren. His potential of a return to Red Bull Racing in a reserve role had been mooted in recent weeks. Ricciardo raced for the team between 2014 and 2018, scoring seven of his eight wins for the team and twice finishing third in the world championship.
But Marko said in the same interview that Liam Lawson, who has raced in Formula 2 for the past two seasons, would fulfil the reserve role across Red Bull and AlphaTauri next year.
Verstappen had a scare in Q3 when his car shut down but still was able to take pole position. That delay meant a plan for Verstappen to help tow teammate Sergio Perez had to be thrown out of the window while the Dutchman reset his car’s systems. In the end, Verstappen was able to get going and put in a lap that was good enough to secure pole position on his first run, before bettering it later on.
He said, “It started off quite well. Q2 was a little messy and honestly I don’t know why, but the tyres, I just couldn’t get the grip together. But then in Q3 it all felt a bit more normal. [Then] we had a bit of a scare. The car turned off before the first run, so we had to reboot everything. Then we went out and both of the laps were good enough [for pole], so of course very pleased with that.”
Meanwhile Perez was delighted to get onto the front row, and praised Verstappen’s assistance which has boosted his chances of securing runner-up in the drivers’ championships this year.
Perez. said “I think we didn’t make that final step in Q3, especially Q3 run one wasn’t that good. So we were a bit behind. But it’s good. It’s good to lock out that front row for tomorrow. Max did a great job for me. We worked together as a team really strongly on that final run. So yeah, looking forward to tomorrow which is the day that really matters.”
Verstappen said post-race he was glad he wasn’t asked to hold up Leclerc, saying “it wouldn’t be the nicest way” to end the season. He took a comfortable victory as Leclerc beat Perez to second place and with it the runner-up spot in the final drivers’ standings.
As we know much of the build up to the race was dominated by his refusal last weekend to let Perez pass after being repeatedly asked by the team to do as he was instructed.
the two-time F1 world champion felt another team orders call would’ve put a dampener on the end of their season. Verstappen said about a call to help Perez in the final stint, “No, there was not, but also that is quite a tricky call to make You also don’t want to end up… you can possibly block, but is that fair racing? I think it wouldn’t be the nicest way to go out of the championship and out of the season like that.
Ferrari has confirmed they have had to stop the development of its 2022 car as they hit the budget cap limit. It’s widely accepted now that they have been overtaken on track by Mercedes both on pace and because of errors in strategy, this at the time was believed to be about diverting resources to 2023.
But following last Sunday’s race in Sao Paulo team principal Mattia Binotto said Ferrari had no choice but to stop development for this year because it had hit the circa $144 million spending ceiling for this season.
He explained, “It was not a choice; we simply finished the money for the budget cap. So simply we were at the cap. [There was] no more opportunity of developing the car, so we simply stick where we were.”
This is the first time we have really heard this story but I’m not surprised by this as all the teams are needing to adapt to the cap, have they maybe gone under budget given the Red Bull saga last month? I think as with everything in the sport the teams eventually will get to a fine art of pushing every penny to the limit.
Also Binotto’s future has again been under question by the Italian media with the team saying reports he will be sacked are “totally without foundation”, following speculation in the Italian media that Alfa Romeo’s Frederic Vasseur is being lined up as a replacement.
I did speculate this could be a make or break year for Binotto but you need to wonder has the strongly worded statement trying to shut this down. ahead of Ferrari’s home race at Monza in September, Elkann said he had “great faith” in Binotto but insisted all elements of the team’s performance needed to improve.
Asked about those reports in the press conference ahead of the final race in Abu Dhabi, Leclerc said, “it’s a big statement that was made by the media, but again they remain rumours. But also for the team in itself, it’s not great to read these things. So I think it’s good that the team has cleared the air, and hopefully we can focus.”
Ferrari were lacking pace in Friday practice admitted Leclerc who finished FP2 third a tenth behind Russell, and another three-tenths adrift of pace-setting Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, with teammate Carlos Sainz back in sixth.
But following qualifying, Leclerc feels he has a strong chance of overhauling Sergio Perez, in the process, securing the runner-up spot in the drivers championship. The two went into the race tied on 290 points and will line up next to each other on the grid for Sunday evening’s race – the Red Bull driver starting second and the Ferrari man third.
He said after qualifying, “I’m happy with the lap, I don’t think there was much more in it. I didn’t have anybody in front [for a tow], which maybe cost me a bit in Q3. But to be honest, it was my choice, because I just wanted a clean out-lap. But it’s like this. P3 is a really good position to start in tomorrow and hopefully we’ll have a chance to pass Checo [Perez] very early on.”
Ferrari had one of their best races of the season, with Leclerc saying they “executed to perfection” as he sealed second in the championship. Despite Red Bull appeared to have a faster car, but Ferrari and Leclerc pulled off a one-stop strategy to narrowly hold on to second in both the race and championship.
Leclerc’s performance, along with team-mate Carlos Sainz finishing fourth, also ensured Ferrari comfortably held off Mercedes for second in the constructors’ championship. The rumours, however, will continue, despite Leclerc adding “we managed to perform at our best in a situation like this, which makes me very proud of the team.”
Going into the race the information we had from Pirelli said a one-stop was marginal, but Leclerc managed to make it work and push Perez into the two-stop.
McLaren has announced a major recruitment campaign to boost its engineering and aerodynamic talent as part of an effort to help it push up the grid. This year the team has slipped back a bit but is hoping over the next year it can return to the front of the midfield.
While the Woking-based squad openly admits that it is waiting for a new wind tunnel and simulator to come on tap in the middle of next year before it can accelerate its progress, it is not sitting back in the meantime. Team principal Andreas Seidl has revealed that part of its efforts to improve things includes it bringing on board more staff over the next 12 months.
We know it takes time to build a team, but I think the regulation changes and the nightmare fortnight in Bahrain in March and the team admits they have been on the back foot all season with the brake issues and have been playing catch up.
It is understood that the jobs include high-profile positions including aerodynamics project leader, senior aerodynamicists, senior suspension designers and aerodynamics designer.
Last weekend in Sao Paulo Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso came together in the sprint, before charging through the field to finish eighth and fifth respectively. The double score extended the team’s advantage over McLaren in the battle for fourth in the constructors’ championship to nineteen points with just the Abu Dhabi finale to come.
One of the keys to the performance was Ocon agreeing to let Alonso past after soon the late safety car restart, allowing the Spaniard to take advantage of his fresher tyres. When asked by Autosport about the change in fortunes from Saturday to Sunday said Szafnauer, “It just shows, I guess, the unpredictability of F1”
Sebastian Vettel finished his final race in tenth after which he felt “empty.” The four-time champion bowed out after a stellar 15-year career by scoring a point for Aston Martin, though he and teammate Lance Stroll couldn’t prevent Alfa Romeo from beating the team to sixth in the constructors’ championship on countback.
The German to me in that final race was the Vettel of old, driving the best I’ve seen him but that might be because the world feed was more focused on him. Vettel said, “”I feel a bit empty, to be honest, it’s been a big weekend. It was a bit of a different warm-up today to get into the race, but once the lights go off it’s full-on race mode.
“Obviously, we didn’t go for maybe the best strategy, so it was a shame because I think we could have turned the constructors’ championship around for us. But overall, obviously a big day and a big thank you to all the support so many flags, so many smiling faces which has been very, very special. And yeah, I’m sure I’m going to miss more than I understand right now.”
Logan Sargeant has secured his seat with Williams for 2023 after earning his super licence following the final round of the F2 season. The American finished fifth in Abu Dhabi to secure fourth in the drivers championship. Sargeant, a Williams junior driver who has taken part in several F1 practice sessions this season, will therefore team up with Alex Albon.
On Thursday, Haas announced they will be replaced by Nico Hulkenberg to replace him. Schumacher has not done enough in his two seasons with the US-based team to convince them to retain him for 2023. Hulkenberg will return as a full-time drive since 2019, but has made several appearances for Racing Point/Aston Martin when their drivers had coronavirus.
Schumacher has scored twelve points this season compared to his teammate Kevin Magnussen’s twenty-five, with the Danish driver also out qualifying him fourteen times where a fair comparison can be made.
A series of heavy crashes have also dented Schumacher’s hopes. The twenty-three-year-said on social media, “I don’t want to hide the fact that I am very disappointed about the decision not to renew our contract. It was at times bumpy but I steadily improved, learned a lot and now know for sure I deserve a place in Formula 1.”
I think Haas has decided they need to go back to where they were in 2018-20 with two experienced drivers if they are to progress further in the constructors and become a strong midfield team. While it could be too soon Haas I think had to be harsh, but they need to stick with this maybe for three-four years to get results.
Season concluding thoughts
Another season done the longest season and Max Verstappen has sealed the championship, this time their can be no debate about validity he has set new records. My fear about Ferrari imploding did come true, but I believe Charles Leclerc can grow from this and the challenge now is how do Ferrari not get into the cycle they had this season?
Red Bull have dominated and after a regulation change, Melbourne they looked out of this championship but they fought back and had a period of winning. Mercedes are back a remarkable turnaround from Sakhir and hopefully they can evolve this car ahead of Bahrain next year, Lewis Hamilton maybe gutted not to keep the win and pole record going but he will be back.
George Russell has proved he can beat Hamilton, he was still Mr Saturday one of only three drivers to beat the seven-time champion over a season. The win last weekend the huge reward given the difficult start, third was a good result in the constructors.
Its goodbye or au revoir to Sebastian Vettel, it was a high for him signing off in style with points, yes his career fell apart at Ferrari but he is one of the greats both on and off track
That’s all from This Grand Prix, which will be back in February as This Test and This Grand Prix will be back in March with the Bahrain Grand Prix. This Week continues most Sundays until 19th December and from 9th January 2023.
|1||Max Verstappen||NED||Red Bull||01:27:45.914||25|
|3||Sergio Perez||MEX||Red Bull||+00:10.093||15|
|1||Max Verstappen||454||Red Bull||759|
|4||George Russell||275||Alpine – Renault||179|
|5||Carlos Sainz||246||McLaren – Mercedes||159|