Massive regulation changes are coming to F1 in 2022 and every team will be trying to take advantage of that, but which F1 team will see the most progress?

Now this is all just conjecture and guesses based on what the teams have told us and what their previous performance has been. We really won’t know what each team’s actual performance will be until pre-season testing and, even more likely, the first race.

So, by no means is this a comprehensive analysis of what will happen, rather what might happen.

Let’s take a look at the teams.

Ferrari

Of all the teams that will likely see progress that will actually put them in contention for race wins, maybe even a title win, Ferrari is the most likely. The team have made significant improvements in 2021 over 2020 and are no strangers to title fights. They also managed to improve their power units in 2021 using a modified hybrid system in the final third of 2021, that features a new energy store from 400 volts to 800. This certainly left the gap between McLaren much larger than it was during the first half of the season.

The team have promised something that the others have never mentioned – “significant innovations”. As Ferrari Team Principal, Mattia Binotto, said,

The power unit is significantly different to the current one, except the hybrid. There will be some changes to the hybrid system for 2022 as first for the regulations because more sensors are required from FIA in all the systems. But the overall system is very similar to the one we raced at the end of the season. The rest, especially on the internal combustion engine, I have to say is significantly different.”

On top of the engineering, the team have the best driver duo on the grid with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc who, when given the right machinery, can produce some fantastic results.

We go into more detail in another article

Haas

Credit: Haas F1 Team

For Haas, the only place they can go is up… or remain stagnant. But that doesn’t seem likely either. It is well known by now that the team had essentially written off 2021 in order to focus solely on 2022. Given this is the case, there’s no excuse in 2022 for lacklustre results. They won’t win any races in 2022 but they do need to start seeing results higher up in the midfield like they did just a few years ago. It’s certainly achievable too given that they have a bunch of Ferrari talent working for them now. Ferrari had to shuffle around a few employees due to the budget cap and given their working relationship with Haas, they sent most of their members down their way. Midfield fights are certainly achievable for Haas in 2022.

Aston Martin

It was a weird year in 2021 for Aston Martin. When the team began underperforming in comparison to their Racing Point days, they put more of their focus on 2022. Since being bought by billionaire Lawrence Stroll, Aston Martin have access to a crazy amount of resources. They are no longer the small overachievers but aim to play with the big dogs.

As Aston Martin Technical Director, Andrew Green, said,

“We are expanding. There are growing pains and we are in the process of a lot of change management as we develop out of the small team into the big team. The processes have to change, new processes have to be brought in that didn’t exist before. You expect all of that as the team grows and that’s a big part of what we’ve been working on in the background over the last 12 months.”

They also would have learnt a lot from copying Mercedes as Racing Point and maybe with their new access to resources mixed with this knowledge could provide a car that, at least in 2022, will be up the front of the midfield. It’s too early for them to be with the leaders but it is entirely possible that they will be a strong midfield team.

AlphaTauri

AlphaTauri were very strong in 2021 as their car had the performance to keep up and compete with Ferrari and McLaren. I always called Pierre Gasly the real scourge of Ferrari (in particular for Charles Leclerc). It was really Yuki Tsunoda that hampered the team’s progress, but given his rookie status, it was somewhat acceptable. But by the end of the season, Tsunoda showed some significant improvement.

The team are confident that if they just keep doing what they’re doing, they’ll be alright as Franz Tost, AlphaTauri Team Principal, said,

“It’s completely new everything and we don’t have any comparison with others. I trust our engineers because they have built two good cars – the AT01 was already a good car and last year’s car was a next step forward. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to make AT03, even if it’s a completely new car, also very competitive.”

The most likely outcome for Alpha Tauri is to probably stay put in the rankings. Maybe slightly higher as long as Tsunoda performs well, which given that he outqualified Gasly in six of the last seven races of 2021, he just might.

Alpine

Alpine are looking ahead a little further down the line than 2021. As Laurent Rossi, Alpine’s CEO, said, “We have a long-term project, the objective is to reach a level of competitiveness that places us on the podium as many times as possible in 2024. It’s a 100-race project, four years, four seasons.”

That doesn’t mean that 2022 is written off for the team. After all, they did quite well last year having managed to end an almost decade long drought of wins when Esteban Ocon won at Hungary. Fernando Alonso also managed to snag a few podiums as well. So the driver line-up is good to decent. It’s really the car that needs work in order for Alpine to catch up.

The team know this too which is why they have a new power unit concept that adopts the split turbo design popularised by Mercedes. Fernando Alonso seems to agree,

“We need to close the gap on the engine. That’s why there is this new idea, new project. And also we need to close the gap on the aero performance. I’m optimistic we have the right resources. We have the commitment from all our management. The budget cap should help because there is not an unlimited budget for the top teams now it is more or less the same budget for everybody. It’s up to us to make a good car. If we don’t do it, we will learn from our mistakes.”

McLaren

McLaren are very close to the pace of the frontrunners. That may be thanks to their use of Mercedes engines and with the 2022 car being the first time that McLaren will design a car based around this engine, the future is looking bright.

The knowledge gap is also beginning to close or maybe it has already. But McLaren CEO, Zak Brown, believes that the team is almost there,

“We have the team in place, we have the drivers in place, we have the resources in place and the majority of the technical infrastructure. We need the windtunnel to come online for us to really feel like we’ve got what everyone else has. Given how competitive it is, for us to take that final big step, we need to have all of our technical infrastructure in place to feel confident that we’re able to take on the other teams on equal footing.”

They probably will be stuck in the midfield but they could surprise and eke out a few wins but a title fight is unlikely.

Mercedes

It is difficult to talk about Mercedes without direct reference to Red Bull as they face the same challenges going into 2022. What we can say about Mercedes with some confidence is that they are very unlikely to struggle in 2022. The only two things that may hamper their standing in 2022 is the driver duo and their lessened amount of available windtunnel runs.

We don’t know how Lewis Hamilton and George Russell will work together. Will they play nice, or will they compete with each and hamper their progress, leaving Red Bull to pick up the points left behind? Maybe they will push each other to reach new heights?

In regard to their available windtunnel runs, they have performed the same amount as Red Bull so no disadvantage there, but maybe Ferrari have the edge here.

A question that must be asked of both Red Bull and Mercedes is whether or not they used up all their resources in the 2021 championship fight? It doesn’t seem that Mercedes have according to Mike Elliot, Mercedes’ Technical Director,

“The gains to make on this year was relatively small, but the gains on the ’22 car are pretty large. So you wouldn’t put all your eggs in this year’s basket. We had a plan in mind. We sat down with the senior engineers, looked each other in the eye and said ‘with what we know, what do we think is the right point to stop?’ We picked a line in the sand and stuck to it.”

Red Bull

Did they spend too much to win 2021? You might be tempted to think so, but they have likely spent no more resources than Mercedes did. As it stands, there is no evidence to suggest that Red Bull are at a disadvantage against Mercedes. Red Bull spent a lot towards the end of the season but Mercedes had to spend just a much at the beginning of the season thanks to aerodynamic rule changes. It seems the team definitely knew when and how to spend their money according to Pierre Wache, Red Bull’s Technical Director,

“The last development was in Sochi, with manufacturing lead times that was a July development. So not a massive compromise. It’s not just development time you are trading off, it’s also manufacturing because you want a lot of spares and parts for the new car. At some point you have to stop. But we have a good manufacturing facility and that gives us a lot of freedom in terms of longer development. I think our release dates for parts can be later than some others.”

Red Bull and Mercedes are not the best just because they have a lot of money (yes, it’s a prerequisite for success, but it doesn’t always deliver results i.e., Ferrari). What adds to their success and why they won’t fall towards the back anytime soon, is their team. They have high quality personnel, fantastic facilities, superb working practices, and a culture of success.

What can we say is that the title fight will almost certainly still be between Mercedes and Red Bull but with the added possibility of a third challenger – Ferrari.

Williams

Williams have had a lot of rebuilding to, and they have already shown progress in 2021 since being bought by Dorilton. They managed to achieve a few points finishes and some impressive qualifying results. But one has to ask, was that all thanks to George Russell?

Nicholas Latifi also showed improvement in the car but never quite reached the same heights as his partner did. Maybe Alex Albon will bring something fresh to the table and take Williams further up the midfield. After all, he did drive for Red Bull, but… he was also fired from Red Bull.

For Williams, retaining eighth position is the minimum expectation for 2022. If they drop further down the grid, something has gone very, very wrong. They have the potential to climb a little further into the midfield and who knows maybe up a little further in a few years.

Alfa Romeo

For Alfa Romeo, the acquisition of Valtteri Bottas has been described by Alfa Romeo team principal, Frederic Vasseur, as a “huge asset”. He’s fast, he’s experienced, and he’s in it for the long haul after having signed a multi-year deal with Alfa. The company are keen to see Bottas lead the team into a new era and beyond.

Newcomer, Guanyu Zhou, won’t likely make a huge impact in 2022 as each of the rookies last year faced their own share of problems.

What will make the difference is Alfa Romeo’s improved financial situation. They’ve got solid backing from the car company and the sponsorship deals that came with Zhou. As Fred Vasseur said,

“We still have some negotiations in progress, on the sponsor side and so on, but I think we’ll be very close to the budget cap. This is a mega opportunity for the company. I’m convinced of that. I’m not just speaking about the company, but even for the team, to know that you are at the limit. This is a different approach, different mentality. It will be a good push for everybody. “… we know perfectly that if you want to get results, you have to first build up the foundation of the house and to then go step by step. It’s a new project [for 2022], it’s a new project developing under the cost cap, and we have a new line-up. We’ll have a new engine from Ferrari and we are trying to put everything together.”

The team are convinced they are heading in the right direction but likely aren’t expecting huge gains in 2022. They could earn more consistent points and maybe take Williams’ position. It seems likely those two will continue to fight each other for the lower end of the midfield.

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