Verstappen’s wins. Ferrari’s faults. Vettel’s retirement. Porsche’s return. Boardroom rings in the Summer Break with the most important Formula 1 news stories of 2022 (so far).
The 2022 Formula 1 world championship campaign is technically more than halfway over — we’ve got 13 races in the books and 9 still to go — but you’re not wrong to call the all-important Summer Break something of a halfway point, not unlike Major League Baseball’s All-Star interlude.
With the racing officially on hiatus until Aug. 28, we’ve got a wonderful opportunity to catch our collective breaths and take stock of everything that’s happened since this year’s F1 campaign kicked off on March 20 in Bahrain.
Join us as we roll through the 10 most important narratives and Formula 1 news items from the first half of the 2022 season.
10 Biggest Stories in Formula 1 Entering the Summer Break
1. No stoppin’ Verstappen?
There have been 13 races so far this season and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has won eight of them. His lead in the Drivers’ Championship race is a sensational 80 points over closest rival Charles Leclerc of Ferrari, 258 to 178. Note that winning a Grand Prix race earns a driver 25 points in said standings — that means Leclerc could win the next three on the trot accompanied by three Verstappen DNPs and still not have the lead in the title race.
With seven-time world champ Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes not quite able to compete with Red Bull and Ferrari’s pace, it’s not enough to say that a second straight world title is Max’s to lose. Rather, any other outcome would likely require nothing short ofdeus ex machina intervention.
2. Ferrari strategy in shambles
Speaking of the ol’ Prancing Horse… what the hell is going on with regards to race strategy? After Leclerc got off to a fast start in winning two of the first three Grand Prix events of the year, Ferrari have been plagued by major blunders that have less and less to do with driver error and mechanical failures (though they’re not fully immune to either!) and increasingly more to do with shambolic race strategy.
From questionable team orders to poorly timed pit stops to a ridiculous choice to opt for hard tires down the back stretch of last weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, the self-inflicted hits just keep coming. And by season’s end, it might just force top brass — perhaps including team principal Mattia Binotto — out of their jobs.
3. Mercedes don’t have the car (but it could be worse)
Lewis Hamilton would have won a record-setting eighth F1 world championship if the on-the-books rules had been followed by since-ousted FIA Race Director Michael Masi at last year’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Since then, it’s been even tougher for Hamilton and Mercedes, as they haven’t managed a win this year to date. Their car just isn’t fast enough — simple as that.
But it could be a lot worse. The Silver Arrows are third in the Constructors’ Championship and, following back-to-back double-podium finishes, they have enough wind in their sails to catch second-place Ferrari.
4. George Russell is really good!
In 2022, his first year with Mercedes, George Russell has earned 158 points and sits fourth in the title race. Aside from an unfortunate retirement at Silverstone, he’s recorded a top-five finish in every single other Grand Prix, including five podiums. He won his first-ever Formula 1 pole in Hungary.
Not bad for a young lad who respectively earned 0, 3, and 16 points in the Drivers’ Championship over his first three F1 seasons. And at age 24, the best is surely yet to come.
5. Sebastian Vettel retires
The man who still owns the distinction of being the youngest F1 world champion of all time is officially taking part in his last hurrah. Entering the Summer Break, four-time champ Sebastian Vettel announced that he will retire following the 2022 season.
His last Grand Prix win may have come in 2019, but few can claim they’ve made an impact on the sport as big as Vettel’s, whose intentions to walk away arise from his desire to spend more time with his family and explore interests beyond motorsport.
6. Porsche returns to F1 with Red Bull
We heard rumblings throughout the year that Porsche and Audi — both owned by Volkswagen — had intentions to buy into Formula 1. Things came to fruition in July when Porsche made a deal with Red Bull to buy a 50% stake in their racing organization.
As part of the agreement, Porsche will reportedly play a role in the manufacturing of future Red Bull engines, but the details on that front are yet to be finalized.
7. The porpoising party doesn’t stop
Why do drivers’ heads keep bobbing up and down at high speeds, particularly on straightaways? Well, that’s because the entire car is doing so thanks to a phenomenon known as porpoising that emerges when airflow through wind tunnels built into the car’s floor becomes rapidly and periodically interrupted.
This year, it’s been a particularly agonizing issue — and even some of the faster teams, especially Ferrari and Mercedes, haven’t been immune to it. It got so bad for the latter that Lewis Hamilton developed debilitating back pain, necessitating some vital car upgrades earlier this summer.
8. Fernando Alonso moving to Aston Martin
Someone needed to take Vettel’s seat at Aston Martin, and in short order, it turned out to be a fellow former world champion: Fernando Alonso, who brings El Plan with him from Alpine to Lawrence Stroll’s organization, starting in 2023.
As for his own replacement at Alpine, well… that’s a different story, and awkward as all hell.
9. The wait is finally over Carlos Sainz
Carlos Sainz Jr. first entered Formula 1 in 2015, and in the intervening years, a narrative came to emerge that he just couldn’t figure out how to be a winner. That all changed at the rip-roaring British Grand Prix, when he parlayed pole position — also a career first in F1 — into that long-elusive victory.
All told, the Spaniard has six podium finishes to his name this year and sits fifth in the world championship standings.
And speaking of the British GP…
10. Delirious fun at Silverstone
There’s nothing worse than a by-the-numbers race, typically on a street course, in which overtakes are teeth-gnashingly difficult and the guy who wins the pole is preordained to win the whole thing without much drama. That did not happen at July 3’s British Grand Prix, an absolute delight of a race that included more drama and thrills than the business end of Better Call Saul Season 6.
A collision between Pierre Gasly and George Russell sent the latter right into Zhou Guanyu, whose car flew through the air and over a barrier, landing upside down (he was okay!). The brouhaha ensnared Alex Albon, who clipped a braking Valtteri Bottas and spun out into a wall, recovered, and quickly collided with two more cars.
And that was just the first lap.
A furious flurry of overtakes down the stretch saw Red Bull’s Sergio Perez fight all the way up to second with Hamilton and Leclerc furiously nipping at his heels, while Verstappen could only settle for P7 due to a mechanical issue. Six different cars couldn’t finish the race. Haas’ Mick Schumacher scored his first-ever F1 points after starting the day in 19th.
To be sure, there were no half measures on this day.