2022 F1 Driver Predictions

Whilst the 2021 season featured familiar rules and many new driver combinations, 2022 will feature new F1 regulations with more stable driver pairings.

In fact, every team that fielded a new lineup for 2021 has stuck with it. Conversely, every team that kept their lineup unchanged from 2020-2021 has at least 1 new driver.

The teammate lineups are assessed here using the mathematical model, which assesses each driver based on how they have performed against previous teammates. I have assumed for now that each 2022 constructor will be as competitive as last year (as a high percentage of a team’s points is more difficult to achieve in a competitive car). Although the history of rule changes suggest the competitive order may change, it makes a reasonable starting point given we do not currently know who’ll have the best car in 2022.

Where relevant I’ve included data on their 2021 matchup for comparison.

Mercedes

This will be a fascinating battle. The model predicts that Lewis will come out on top, but Russell’s level is still rather uncertain. He ended both 2019 and 2020 behind his teammates in the standings, despite being clearly faster than both, and his career thus far has been a mix of incredible performances (particularly in qualifying) and missed opportunities.

Hamilton, meanwhile, will be almost 37 be the end of 2022, which the model thinks is the start of age related decline. The loss is form is gentle at first, so there’s no reason to think that Hamilton won’t still be one of the top performers this year.

Red Bull

Obviously Verstappen it predicted to outscore Pérez again. Perhaps the only surprise is that the predicted percentage is so similar to last year, in what was considered an exceptional season. Max’s rating has gone sky high, so a slight redress this year is quite possible, particularly is Pérez can find the form that made him such a competitive midfield performer.

Ferrari

Last year was seen as Sainz’s strongest in F1, but Leclerc is still the slight favourite in his matchup, mostly on account of his incredible performances versus Vettel. This is likely to be a close rivalry again though, and Sainz should be no means be discounted: The model gives him slightly more than a 1 in 3 chance to outscore his teammate again.

McLaren

A much closer battle than in 2021 is predicted at McLaren. There’s no doubt that Ricciardo underperformed at times last year, even if he was the one to snatch a win, whilst Norris’ showed he could perform at an elite level. The delicate balance between these two realities will determine who comes out on top in 2022, with result currently being too close to call.

Alpine

Alonso’s predicted level gets a boost due to a years experience back in F1, but the model also thinks his absolute best years are probably behind him due to his age. These two factors roughly cancel out this year, but statistics suggest that time is against him. There’s only been 1 race winner in their 40s in the last 50 years, for example. A third of Ocon’s points last year came from his Hungary win, which was well deserved but against the run of play at Alpine. This explains why his share of Alpine’s 2022 points is expected to fall compared to 2021.

AlphaTuari

This is the most one-sided predicted match-up, despite Tsunoda being predicted to close the gap a bit in his second year. The extra 7% given to Yuki is perhaps not as small as it seems, and would translate to him scoring 34% more points in 2022 of Gasly’s results were the same. Given that Yuki seemed to make progress at the end of 2021, it’s quite possible that the actual results are closer than the predictions here. Certainly Red Bull would expect more from him in his second year, as he’s been rehired due to his future potential rather than his generally poor 2021 results.

Aston Martin

Vettel had some impressive races in 2021, but the model expected him to net more points. Giving him his Hungary podium back would mean he hit expectations almost exactly relative to Stroll, and the 2022 prediction expects a repeat of the relative form.

Williams

This prediction may raise a few eyebrows. Albon is considered to be the stronger driver overall, but Latifi is given a slight edge by the model due to the fact that he was racing last year and Albon may need time to settle. Both drivers have rather uncertain ratings though, so the prediction is pretty tentative.

Currently Albon’s rating is largely based on his Red Bull performances vs Verstappen. Meanwhile, Latifi’s is based on Russell, whose rating will be significantly based on his performance versus Hamilton by the end of the year. As such, this matchup also offers a tantalising, if indirect, window into the comparative abilities of the 2021 championship challengers.

Alfa Romeo

There’s been a debate about whether Zhou’s seat is deserved, with Vasseur himself admitting that “The financial side can’t be hidden.” However, the truth is that no seat in F1 is ever based purely on driving ability. With no data to go on the model draws a blank, but perhaps replacing Zhou in the model with Giovanazzi (the driver he replaced) would offer a realistic aim for the Chinese driver.

If Bottas scores 110 points in 2022 than Giovanazzi would be expected to score 55. (110 was chosen to allow for a comparison with Gasly/Tsunoda and reduce the effect of a fluke race.) In short, the team will not be expecting Zhou to beat Bottas in 2022, or even match him, but will expect him to be closer in points than Tsunoda was to Gasly in 2021 (110 vs 32).

Bottas meanwhile, has an opportunity to reset expectations. He may have looked rather mediocre compared to Hamilton, but his qualifying pace at Mercedes was impressive, and he would be a tough teammate to beat for about half the current grid. It’s quite possible that he will look stronger without a direct comparison to one of the greatest of all time.

Haas

While we still lack a way to compare Schumacher and Mazepin to the rest of the grid, we can at least compare them to each other. History suggests that a leap up the competitive order is unlikely for Haas, meaning the model may have just a few points finishes to go on. Nevertheless, Schumacher’s race finishes were the more impressive of the two drivers last year, and a continuation of this is seen as the most likely result.

UPDATE: As Kevin Magnussen looks set to continue his Haas career, we’ll be able to get a ranking for Schumacher (and therefore Mazepin too) compared to the rest of the grid. Magnussen is seen as solid but unspectacular, and matching him in points is a realistic aim for Schumacher due to the fact he already has a year of experience under his belt. If Schumacher is a star of the future in the same way that Leclerc and Norris have become, you would expect him to outscore the returning Dane by a reasonable margin over the course of the year.

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