With the changed technical regulations in Formula 1, the underperforming teams have a great chance of improvement. After years of dominance by Mercedes, which Red Bull could largely put an end to in 2021, the midfield is keen on success.
It seems unlikely that a racing stable will suddenly rise from tenth place in the World Cup position to first place this year and send Red Bull and Mercedes to the cupboard, but a big step forward is certainly not inconceivable. Which teams can surprise and why? We are looking at the potential of the racing stables.
After conquering third place in the constructors’ standings, Ferrari is finally making progress again after a bad period. In 2021, the team has not yet found a connection with Red Bull and Mercedes, but the Italians have a strategy that looks beyond one season. During the season, the right balance in the set-up of the Ferrari car was found more and more quickly, although with the rule changes on the way, the main point of improvement was mainly looked at.
And that is, or rather was, the performance of the Ferrari engine. After doubts about the legality of the power source in 2019, the team appeared on the grid in 2020 with significantly less power. It took a long time to recover this ability, but with an upgrade in 2021 and encouraging messages about straight-line speed, the team seems to have finally solved this problem.
In addition, the management structure within Ferrari has recently been critically examined. The balance between further developing the 2021 car, designing the future car and improving the power source seems to have been found. With this, Ferrari has already climbed back to third place in the constructors’ standings, after which the last jump towards the top teams can be made in 2022.
Although McLaren dropped one spot in the championship in 2021 compared to 2020, the team has changed in recent years. The switch to the Mercedes engine proved to be an extra step in the right direction last season. It is one of many smart developments coming from the new management consisting of mainstays Zak Brown (CEO) and team principal Andreas Seidl.
The team doesn’t have to worry about power and can focus more on the chassis and aerodynamic upgrades. In that respect, Woking also employs some great names with James Key and Andrea Stella. The GP of Italy in 2021 was proof that the team can also take a victory in a race under ‘normal’ conditions. Can one push through to the top in 2022 and become the top team of yesteryear again?
Finally, the team has a golden combination of drivers. Lando Norris does not yet have a lot of experience in F1, but showed he could lead the team in 2021 when Daniel Ricciardo was still looking for speed. Now that the Australian has also found his niche at McLaren, the two can hunt for Red Bull and Mercedes.
Alpine also made promising steps in 2021. The former Renault has been in the middle bracket for years without scoring high, but with Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon the team has one of the strongest driver duos on the grid. Anyone who thought Alonso was worn out after his F1 gap years was wrong. The chemistry between the two drivers allows the team to comfortably look for a step forward.
And that was already clearly visible in 2021. Although the team only finished fifth and with a bit of luck managed to win a victory (Hungary 2021, ed.), but the third place for Alonso in Qatar was achieved at sheer speed. With input from the two-time world champion and the – hopefully – much improved power source, Alpine can also surprise in 2022. At the same time, Alpine moved left and right with some positions and men, so that the right structure within the French stable seems to have been found after a number of mixed seasons under Cyril Abiteboul.
In 2020 Williams was the only team to end the season with zero points, but a year later there was already a clear improvement. The takeover by investment company Dorilton Capital gave the team a huge financial injection, something the stable needed. With certainty in terms of capital and a multi-year business plan, things started to get better in 2021.
The focus was placed on 2022 early on, but performance improved faster than expected. The team regularly went beyond Q1. George Russell was clearly the strongest driver, although the team will have to miss him next year. However, they get Alexander Albon instead. The Thai-British driver has already shown at Red Bull how much he can contribute to the development of a car. With money, structure and a driver who knows how to develop, Williams can make great strides too.
It cannot be worse than in 2021, but despite the zero score, Haas has an important lead over the rest of the field on paper. The American team threw away last season and decided to fully focus on 2022. This gives the team a lead in development hours over teams such as Mercedes and Red Bull, although the facilities of the ugly duckling are less.
The budget cap should be able to brush away part of one of Haas’ weaknesses. The team led by Gunther Steiner had to compete for years with tens, if not hundreds of millions less than the larger teams, but due to the budget cap, these differences are much, much smaller. The removal of the Achilles heel and early development for 2022 represents a great new opportunity for last season’s No. 10. Can they surprise as they did in 2016 when they entered the sport?
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