Posted on December 28, 2022
Editor’s Note: If you are new to Formula 1 or unfamiliar with the series, the nuances of what makes a particular race better than others can sometimes be hard to identify.
Generally, more on-track passes and tighter margins between the cars are what constitute “good” races within the F1 community.
Grand Prix that are heavy on strategy can appear boring on the surface, but those types of weekends have their own appeal in certain ways.
Our Stephen Vilardo takes a look at the Top 5 Races of the 2022 Formula 1 Season and explains what made each event memorable.
The Dutchman won 15 of the 22 races while Sergio Perez added two more wins for the Austrian team as they won the Constructor’s World Championship by 205 points over Ferrari.
Verstappen outpaced Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by 146 points in the Drivers World Championship, too, and was never threatened by the native of Monaco.
Despite the large margins at the top of the standings, the 2022 season did supply memorable moments and some incredibly entertaining action on the track.
The new regulations set up last winter to improve overtaking and create close racing turned out to be beneficial for the fans. For the most part, at least.
A few tracks seemed to take a step backward. But taken as a whole, the new regulations were a step in the right direction.
In this column, I look at the five best races of 2022, along with one that missed the cut. I also set forth the worst race of the season and explain why it was such a disappointment.
Honorable Mention: Miami Grand PrixThe Miami Grand Prix got a bad rap from some.
From the artificial harbor that was created inside the track with real boats but fake water, to the fact that the circuit itself was run completely in the parking lot of Hard Rock Stadium, the event had its fair share of criticism.
The somewhat embarrassing use of the Miami Dolphins’ helmets on the podium didn’t help, either.
But the inaugural race at the second venue in the United States was run on a fantastic circuit that produced a thoroughly entertaining Grand Prix. There were different strategy choices and plenty of passing.
Ferrari locked out the front row, meaning the two Ferrari cars started first and second, and both Red Bulls occupied the second row to start third and fourth.
The layout made wheel-to-wheel racing possible with overtaking opportunities and the risks of going wheel-to-wheel sometimes resulted in a little too much contact.
In layman’s terms, the track design allowed the cars to run next to each other as opposed to running in single-file.
Due to the angles of the corners, the width of the track, and speeds upon entry into the corners, the cars could maintain side-by-side racing without falling into a single line. The practical result was on-track passes and occasional contact between the cars.
For American fans, the contact between Haas’s Mick Schumacher and Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel was one of the more memorable moments of the race.
Winner: Max Verstappen
Podium: Verstappen (1st), Charles Leclerc (2nd), Carlos Sainz (Third)
Total Overtakes: 52
5. Hungarian Grand PrixMax Verstappen started from 10th on the grid and worked his way up for the win.
The Hungarian Grand Prix was another race where it appeared that Charles Leclerc and Ferrari could close the gap to Red Bull. The two Ferraris started second and third while the Red Bull pair of Verstappen qualified 10th and Sergio Perez 11th.
But, at the end of the day, it was advantage Red Bull as they outscored their rivals 35-20.
The race took some time for the excitement to get going, yet once it did it was on. George Russell started on pole for Mercedes but was overtaken by Leclerc on Lap 31.
In the eight laps that followed, Leclerc would open a five-second gap between himself and the Mercedes.
Then Ferrari did what Ferrari did throughout the 2022 season: Messed it all up.
The Italian team brought Leclerc into the pits and put a set of hard tires onto his car. Unfortunately, the hard compound tires were slow and Leclerc dropped back several positions. The lead Ferrari driver went from first to sixth due to the strategic blunder.
The Hungaroring is not normally known for excitement, but the final half of the 2022 iteration indicates the track benefitted from the regulation changes. At the very least, the exciting finish provided optimism heading into the summer break.
Winner: Max Verstappen
Podium: Verstappen (1st), Lewis Hamilton (2nd), George Russell (3rd)
Total Overtakes: 65 (Note: There were 18 in 2021.)
4. Austrian Grand PrixThis year’s race at the Red Bull Ring in Austria delivered tight racing and came a week after the thriller at Silverstone discussed below.
For good measure, Austria was the site of one of the Sprint Qualifying races and it delivered a fantastic foreshadowing of the race to follow the next day.
In the Sprint, Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes went toe-to-toe with Mick Schumacher and his Haas. That sentence alone says just about everything you need to know about the Mercedes season to that point.
For a College Football comparison: Think New Mexico Football taking USC down to the wire at the Coliseum.
The battle between Schumacher and Hamilton for eighth was thrilling as Hamilton struggled to make his way around the young German.
And that was a teaser for what was to follow the next day. In the formal Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen battled it out at the front for much of the opening part of the race.
The best action, however, was in the middle of the field as five drivers were all within three seconds of each other in a battle for eighth on Lap 24.
There was drama at the end, too, when first-place Leclerc reported his gas pedal was sticking and downshifting was difficult. During this period, Verstappen closed the gap and it looked as though Ferrari would fall victim yet again.
However, Verstappen would get no closer than 2.3 seconds and Leclerc secured the win in Round 11 of the season. It was Leclerc’s first win since the third race of the year at Australia.
Winner: Charles Leclerc
Podium: Leclerc (1st), Max Verstappen (2nd), Lewis Hamilton (3rd)
Total Overtakes: 67
3. Bahrain Grand PrixFormula 1 made sweeping changes to regulations in the offseason and the season opener in Bahrain was the showcase the sport needed.
Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen were entrenched in a back-and-forth battle during the opening stint, battling through every DRS Zone for advantages.
The DRS Zones are the parts of the track where the rear wing opens on the cars to allow them to drive faster and make passes.
The fight at the top would end early with Verstappen having to retire due to an engine issue, a fate that would also doom his teammate Sergio Perez a few laps prior to the checkered flag.
In the end, it was almost a six-second win for Leclerc over Carlos Sainz as Ferrari secured the top two spots on the podium.
The double-DNF for Red Bull made it appear as if the Italian squad may run away with the season. Oh, how things would change.
Prior to the power unit issue for Perez, he was locked in an equally thrilling battle with Lewis Hamilton. Yuki Tsunoda managed to gain eight spots after starting 16th while Zhou Guanyu in his maiden F1 race picked up a point in 10th after starting 15th.
Winner: Charles Leclerc
Podium: Leclerc (1st), Carlos Sainz (2nd), Lewis Hamilton (3rd)
Total Overtakes: 78
2. British Grand PrixThe British Grand Prix had everything you could ask for in a race: excitement, lead changes, overtakes, a big crash at the start, and a historic win.
As the race got underway, George Russell and Zhou Guanyu got tangled up causing a massive wreck. Zhou ended upside-down in the tire barriers. Luckily for all involved, the halo safety device worked as it should and Zhou was okay.
Alex Albon ended up getting the worst of it, but after a trip to the hospital was ultimately okay.
Following the opening incident, the action on the track was thrilling. In the early portion of the race, it was a four-way battle at the top as Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, Lewis Hamilton, and Carlos Sainz were all in contention.
Verstappen drove over some debris, though, and it effectively ended his chances at a win.
Leclerc then looked poised for the victory, but as was all too common for Ferrari this season, the squad from Maranello just couldn’t get it right. A Safety Car came out with 14 laps to go with Leclerc leading, but the team didn’t bring him in for fresh tires.
What followed was thrilling.
It took four laps for Sainz to catch and pass Leclerc for the lead, while the final 10 laps saw wheel-to-wheel racing between Sergio Perez, Leclerc, and Hamilton in a battle for second.
Perez would ultimately find speed and take second place.
It was a fight that would continue to the end, however, as even Fernando Alonso and Lando Norris got within seconds of the third-place battle.
The win for Sainz was the first of his career in 150 starts.
Winner: Carlos Sainz
Podium: Sainz (1st), Sergio Perez (2nd), Lewis Hamilton (3rd)
Total Overtakes: 31
1. United States Grand PrixEverything was decided at the top of the standings when the season headed to Austin, with Max Verstappen already having the world title in hand. But the race proved to be the best of the year.
Lewis Hamilton was winless on the season, but the Silver Arrows looked to finally be competitive and offered a chance on American soil.
Qualifying played out Noah’s Ark Style for the top six on the grid, with the two Ferraris starting first and second, followed by the Red Bulls in third and fourth, and then the Mercs in fifth and sixth.
Grid spot penalties to Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez gave the Front Row to Carlos Sainz and Verstappen while bumping up Hamilton and George Russell to Row Two.
At the start, Russell and Sainz clashed in Turn One while Verstappen avoided it to take the lead. The incident ended the day for Sainz and wound up being a five-second penalty for Russell.
Verstappen looked to be in his comfort zone for much of the race, but a slow pit on his final stop opened the door for Hamilton and Leclerc to pounce. Verstappen would have to get around both to secure his 13th win of the season.
The Dutchman got the job done with the pass for the lead coming on Hamilton with just six laps remaining. Leclerc ultimately would finish in third after starting from 12th.
It wasn’t just the front of the field with drama, either. The US Grand Prix had the most on-track overtakes of any race in 2022.
Yuki Tsunoda started last and worked his way into the points finishing 10th. Fernando Alonso made up seven spots from 14th to 7th. And Kevin Magnussen made up four spots to finish ninth, earning points for Haas in their home GP.
Winner: Max Verstappen
Podium: Verstappen (1st), Lewis Hamilton (2nd), Charles Leclerc (3rd)
Total Overtakes: 85
While most of the races in 2022 were entertaining and fun, there was one event that stuck out in a negative way.
Worst Race of the Year: Mexico City Grand PrixThe Mexican Grand Prix was a snooze fest.
The poor showing is a shame because it is a circuit that many really like and the environment itself is amazing. Formula 1 overhauled their regulations to create more downforce, which in theory provided more grip to make it easier to pass.
The benefits were reaped most of the season from the opening race in Bahrain. However, Mexico City is a track with low-speed, long corners, so the effects of the changes were negated.
On a circuit in which overtaking was always decent in the past, it was exceedingly difficult in 2022. During the Mexico City race this year there were a total of 24 on-track overtakes.
As a comparison, the Sprint Qualifying race in Brazil just two weeks later had 39 overtakes.
In fact, looking at overtakes in each sprint race, there were 22 in Austria and 18 at Imola. Putting it all together, the full Grand Prix in Mexico offered only two more overtakes than the Austrian Sprint and just six more overtakes than the Imola Sprint.
In other words, you could have slept through the entire Mexico City Grand Prix and not missed a thing.
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