The 2022 Formula 1 season is in the books, and while we’ve known Max Verstappen is the World Champion for weeks now, we now know the runner-up following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc came into the Abu Dhabi finale knotted at 290 points. This meant that whoever finished ahead of the other would like up P2 in the Drivers’ Championship.
There was no doubt who was going to win the Grand Prix from the start. Verstappen was on pole for the third time in three years. Once the lights went out, Verstappen and Perez scampered off, with the Dutchmen dropping his teammate outside of DRS range by Lap 6.
That’s all she wrote. Verstappen cruised to the win, leaving Leclerc and Perez to duke it out.
Red Bull chose the sager two-stop strategy for Perez, while Ferrari tried to stretch the life of their hard tires and pull off a one-stopper.
While Perez had the pace to catch Leclerc, he just couldn’t get it done before the checkered flag.
The Battle For P2 Hinged On A Ferrari Strategy Call
Ferrari’s strategy calls had been in the news all season, so it couldn’t be more fitting that P2 in the Drivers’ Championship came down to a Ferrari call.
Pirelli brought their softest compounds to Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit, which is known to eat away at tires. However, teams found the degradation wasn’t as bad as expected, which is why Ferrari went ahead and threw a one-stop Hail Mary.
It worked, but the reason it worked probably has as much to do with Perez hitting battles between back markers at several key moments as it did with Ferrari making the right call.
Leclerc also did a great job nursing those tires to the finish line to cap off a runner-up campaign. While the Monegasque had his share of unforced errors during the season, he was also let down by his strategists or his equipment on several occasions. If the team can get some of those kinks ironed out, I certainly wouldn’t be shocked by a title-worthy season from Leclerc in 2023.
Hamilton’s Day Looked Good… Until It Didn’t
Lewis Hamilton looked like he could contend for a win at times during the race, but it was ultimately not meant to be.
On the opening lap, Hamilton was on the receiving end of a move from Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz at Turn 6 that forced the 7-time champ over a sausage curb and across the runoff area. Oddly enough, he did something similar at the same corner last season.
Hamilton yielded the position to Sainz and carried on with a car that had surely suffered some floor damage. Still, Hamilton caught Sainz and had his teammate George Russell just behind him, making Mercedes look like they had the best car on track in the first stint.
While that pace tapered off, Hamilton was still in shape to finish P5, if it weren’t for an apparent hydraulic issue on lap 55 of 58. That was Hamilton’s first mechanical retirement of the year, and it capped off a season he’d probably like to forget.
That sealed a winless 2022 for Sir Lewis. It’s his first season without a win in his F1 career.
2022 also marked the third time Hamilton was outscored by his teammate with George Russell besting him by 35 points. The only other times this happened were when he was beaten by Nico Rosberg in 2016 and by Jenson Button in 2011.
Vettel Calls It A Day, Nearly Gifts Aston Martin $12 Million
In the final race of his Formula 1 career, Sebastian Vettel had a chance to help net his team $12 million if they could score enough points to jump Alfa Romeo for P6 in the Contructors’ Championship.
Vettel did what he could to pass McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo on the final lap, but couldn’t get it done.
Thanks to the hole the team dug themselves into early in the year, the best they could do was tie Alfa Romeo at 55 points but lost due to the tie-breaking procedure.
After the race, Vettel blamed the decision to go for a one-stop strategy for the team falling a point short of P6 and an extra $12 million in prize money.
“We were going backwards,” Vettel told the media after the race. “I was really trying, I gave it all I could.
“It would have been great for the team to get the sixth in the Constructors’ Championship, but we sort of threw that away with the strategy we chose.”
Vettel had a phenomenal second half to cap off a career that included 4 championships, 53 wins, and 12 podiums.
And that’s it. We’ve reached the end of the 2022 Formula 1 season. There’s still a young driver’s test in Abu Dhabi, but then it’s all eyes on 2023.
There’s a lot to look forward to. Drivers switching teams, an American in F1, and a 24-race schedule that includes the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix.
For F1 fans, 2023 won’t come soon enough.
Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle