A flurry of exercise within the driver market for the reason that mid-season break has seen the F1 grid for 2022 virtually utterly settled in fast time.
There’s nonetheless a number of races to come back in 2021 however all however just a few seats have already been snapped up after Kimi Raikkonen’s retirement triggered a speedy recreation of musical chairs.
The few spots that stay vacant, in the meantime, have already got drivers lined up who’re anticipated to be confirmed within the coming weeks.
Right here’s how the 2022 F1 grid has formed up.
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It’s been on the playing cards for years, and now the all-Briton partnership is lastly set to come back to fruition.
George Russell’s three-year stint at Williams has come to an in depth and, with Valtteri Bottas lastly being moved on, Mercedes has promoted the 23-year-old.
Russell is a highly-rated Mercedes protege who impressed throughout his developmental stint at Williams, whereas he virtually gained for the Silver Arrows in a one-off race in Bahrain final 12 months when he changed Lewis Hamilton who had examined optimistic for COVID-19.
Russell is anticipated to push countryman Hamilton — 13 years his senior — in a means that Bottas by no means may.
Publicly, Hamilton mentioned Russell will assist “energise” Mercedes, though reviews within the UK say that the seven-time world champion was secretly angered by the appointment.
A well-placed supply instructed Sportmail: “Toto has made up his thoughts to herald George. Lewis has been instructed and he’s not completely satisfied.
“He needed Valtteri as a teammate as a result of he’s compliant and never fairly fast sufficient to hassle him, however that’s not what is occurring.
“You could possibly say, so far as Lewis is anxious, it’s gone down like a lead balloon.”
It guarantees to be an thrilling twin between the 2 Brits subsequent season.
Crimson Bull has been constructed round Max Verstappen for years and he’ll result in the staff for a lot of to come back.
As for who his teammate will likely be, staff bosses have been completely satisfied sufficient with the type of Sergio Perez to increase his keep for at the least one other 12 months.
He was one of many final drivers to earn a contract after the 2020 season when Crimson Bull threw the Aston Martin castaway a lifeline having axed Alexander Albon.
Perez hasn’t precisely set the world alight in his debut Crimson Bull season and has been nicely behind the tempo of Verstappen, though he nonetheless gained in Azerbaijan and claimed one other podium in France.
Crimson Bull boss Christian Horner mentioned Perez’s expertise will play an vital position for the staff shifting ahead given the wide-ranging rule modifications that may come into impact subsequent 12 months.
Daniel Ricciardo’s debut season at McLaren hasn’t gone to plan — however he signed a three-year contract with the Woking outfit, which means he has a while on his facet to come back good.
Nonetheless, the stress will proceed to be utilized from the opposite facet of the McLaren storage the place Lando Norris continues to take massive steps ahead.
He’s been the faster of the 2 drivers this 12 months and was earlier this season handed a contract extension till the tip of 2023.
Norris seems to be poised to come back out on high of the intra-team contest in 2021 — nevertheless it’s 2022’s battle that may actually matter.
F1’s regulation modifications will successfully change the character of the game, together with how vehicles behave amid a raft of technical tweaks that may usher within the new period.
As such, F1 is in for an enormous shake-up and it’s unclear the place every thing will land — together with the Ricciardo-Norris dynamic.
As issues stand, Norris is snug and due to this fact has extra to lose than Ricciardo, who is understood to be sad with the temperamental nature of the present McLaren vehicles.
Given Ricciardo has had main enter on 2022 growth — and has had little say on this 12 months’s automotive that’s undergone few modifications — he’s anticipated to point out massive indicators of enchancment subsequent 12 months.
If he doesn’t, nonetheless, and Norris continues to enhance then Ricciardo will merely be preventing to maintain his drive in 2023.
Carlos Sainz Jnr
No modifications at Ferrari for 2022 — and it’s straightforward to know why. Charles Leclerc is undoubtedly one of the crucial gifted drivers within the area, as he re-proved with pole laps in Monaco and Azerbaijan this season. He’s on a long-term contract that takes him by means of to the tip of 2024 and is a key piece to Ferrari’s ambitions of returning to a championship contender.
Carlos Sainz, in the meantime, is simply 27 and seems to be a superb match at Ferrari the place he has settled in rapidly. Forward of the Italian Grand Prix, he was trailing Leclerc within the drivers’ championship by simply 2.5 factors.
Regardless, he’s not but midway into his Ferrari contract that takes him by means of to the tip of subsequent season.
Fernando Alonso will nonetheless be racing in F1 when he’s 41 because of a contract extension. The Spaniard’s comeback was meant to coincide with the wholesale rule modifications however they have been pushed again by a 12 months as a result of coronavirus pandemic.
As such, Alonso will stick round for at the least another season, whereas teammate Esteban Ocon has prolonged his contract till 2024.
Ocon was mentioned to be within the combine to interchange Bottas at Mercedes given he’s managed by Toto Wolff and was beforehand contracted by the staff, however that door swiftly closed.
*Topic to affirmation
Aston Martin is but to formally affirm its driver line-up for 2022 however it’s broadly anticipated that Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll will as soon as once more lead the cost.
The main points of Vettel’s contract aren’t clear, though the staff mentioned final 12 months that the German had joined on a deal that coated “2021 and past”.
The staff hasn’t clarified what “past” means or if there’s a goal Vettel should meet to set off an extension, however staff principal Otmar Szafnauer that it’s only a matter of “timing” earlier than his keep is confirmed.
In the meantime, Stroll hasn’t been confirmed both, though the staff’s proprietor is his father, Lawrence, who picked him to remain on the staff over Sergio Perez final 12 months.
It appears extraordinarily doubtless that Stroll will likely be retained as soon as once more.
AlphaTauri will go into 2022 with an unchanged line-up after providing extensions to each Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda.
Each drivers would have been wanting over their shoulders given the seemingly unending manufacturing line of Crimson Bull juniors. Liam Lawson, Jehan Darvuvala and Juri Vips have been all choices — and can proceed to be intently watched in F2 by Helmut Marko.
Nonetheless, staff boss Franz Tost mentioned Gasly and Tsunoda have shaped a uncommon, harmonious pairing that’s working nicely for the staff.
“Now we have seen that the optimistic relationship between the 2, made from a competitiveness on-track and a friendship off-track, has confirmed efficient for the staff,” he mentioned.
The one real hole within the 2022 grid.
Raikkonen has introduced that, at 41 years of age, he’ll lastly be calling it a day in F1.
That opened the door to Bottas who noticed the writing on the wall at Mercedes and pounced on the likelihood to increase his F1 profession by taking a seat on the considerably weaker Alfa Romeo.
Who companions Bottas in 2022 is unclear. Antonio Giovinazzi has held a seat at Alfa Romeo since 2019 however has proven little indicators of progress.
Alfa Romeo, together with Haas, nonetheless has a relationship with Ferrari — its energy unit provider — that sees the staff open to handing a drive to Ferrari Academy skills.
Robert Shwartzman and Marcus Armstrong are due to this fact contenders given their spectacular performances in F2.
Nonetheless, Alpine Academy driver Guanyu Zhou is reportedly set to say the spot and grow to be China’s first F1 driver.
Other than his expertise, he brings with him a wealth of Chinese language monetary backing that will likely be exhausting to disregard for Alfa Romeo.
The sport of musical chairs that Raikkonen’s retirement triggered opened the door to an unlikely F1 return for Alex Albon.
Not many drivers get a second likelihood in F1 after being chewed up and spat out, however the 25-year-old finds himself as one of many fortunate few.
Russell’s departure for Bottas’ vacant seat at Mercedes has seen Albon — who was dropped by Crimson Bull on the finish of 2020 — handed a contract.
Given Williams is a buyer staff of Mercedes, the transfer has meant Albon has needed to sever ties with Crimson Bull, the place he was retained as a take a look at driver.
Nonetheless, Crimson Bull says that it nonetheless has a relationship with Albon who has “future choices” with the staff.
In the meantime, Nicholas Latifi has been retained and brings to the staff vital monetary backing from rich father Michael.
Nikita Mazepin is assured of his spot in 2022 given the staff is relying closely on the funding of his father Dmitri Mazepin.
Mick Schumacher’s Haas future is much less clear. He definitely has a vibrant future in F1 and is worthy of a seat, whereas his identify is of course hooked up to important monetary alternatives for whoever he drives for.
Haas is taken into account only a stepping stone for Schumacher, though it appears doubtless he’ll keep for at the least another 12 months given Alfa Romeo has the one different vacant seat — and that appears set to be stuffed.
Schumacher mentioned this week that he’s near confirming a contracting for 2022.
“For the time being, that’s the place issues are going to,” he mentioned when requested if he was readying for an additional season with Haas.