Car W13 Engine Mercedes Principal Toto Wolff Debut France 1954 GPs 249 Titles 8 Last season Champions. Struggled in testing with a car that may prove to be more of a diva than previous models. It suffered from heavy “porpoising” (ie the car heavily jarring up and down on a straight) and a consequent lack of balance, brake-locking and understeer. Believe they can solve the issues and in doing so will have a very quick car but this may be the most trying opening to a campaign they have faced for many years.
Lewis Hamilton (GB, age 37) No 44 Debut Australia 2007 Wins 103 Poles 103 Titles 7 Last season 2nd. Strongly motivated by the bitter disappointment of being controversially denied his eighth title in 2021’s season finale, Hamilton is geared up for a fight. He drove as well as he ever has last season and there are no signs he has lost any of his remarkable edge. If Mercedes can deliver the car he will be fearsomely hard to beat.
George Russell (GB, 24) No 63 Debut Australia 2019 Wins 0 Best race finish 2nd Poles 0 Best qualifying 2nd Titles 0 Best season finish 15th Last season 15th. Delivered well at the back of the field for Williams but faces the toughest test of his career at the front of the grid and partnered with Hamilton. Has real pace, confidence and is clearly relishing this challenge. Should he step up to the challenge, how the dynamic within the team and across the garage develops will be fascinating.
Car RB18 Engine Red Bull Principal Christian Horner Debut Australia 2005 GPs 325 Titles 4 Last season 2nd. Looked comfortably to have the best car in testing. Well-balanced, quick and reliable it was crucially less prone to porpoising than almost any other team, strong over the bumps and on long runs. Their final updates were a real step forward and on the back of a standout last season are confident and fired-up again. Enter as favourites for the opening rounds.
Max Verstappen (Neth, 24) No 1 Debut Australia 2015 Wins 20 Poles 13 Titles 1 Last season Champion. The Dutchman is defending a title he genuinely earned last season, despite the manner in which it was clinched. He drove exceptionally well, if on occasion too aggressively but can be sublime. Fearless and unintimidated, he is soaring in confidence with that first title and has every chance to make it two this year.
Sergio Pérez (Mex, 32) No 11 Debut Australia 2011 Wins 2 Poles 0 Best qualifying 2nd Titles 0 Best season finish 4th Last season 4th. Performed well in his first season with Red Bull but was comprehensively beaten by Verstappen. Will be expected to step up if he is to earn a seat beyond 2022. Needs to qualify stronger as Red Bull will expect a partner for Verstappen at the front and the Mexican, who has pace and touch, must deliver.
Car F1-75 Engine Ferrari Principal Mattia Binotto Debut Monaco 1950 GPs 1,030 Titles 16 Last season 3rd. Having poured last year’s resources into this car, the Scuderia are hopeful of ending a win drought stretching back to 2019. They have every chance, the car is clearly quick, well-balanced, reliable and, crucially, the drivers are at ease with it. With an improved engine and a superb driver lineup, expectations are high.
Charles Leclerc (Mon, 24) No 16 Debut Australia 2018 Wins 2 Poles 9 Titles 0 Best season finish 4th Last season 7th. Ferrari have huge faith in their young charger who has proved he can win but has yet to have the machinery to challenge consistently. If the car is there Leclerc will take it to Hamilton and Verstappen with verve. Out-drove an average car last year and will absolutely shine in a resurgent Ferrari.
Carlos Sainz Jr (Sp, 27) No 55 Debut Australia 2015 Wins 0 Best race finish 2nd Poles 0 Best qualifying 2nd Titles 0 Best season finish 5th Last season 5th. Settled in well in his first season at Ferrari and against Leclerc around whom the team has been forged. The Spaniard has proved he has real talent with a fine touch and real consistency. Capable of at least matching Leclerc and if he does so having found his feet at Ferrari the pair will be a formidable partnership.
Car MCL36 Engine Mercedes Principal Andreas Seidl Debut Monaco 1966 GPs 902 Titles 8 Last season 4th. Building on an upward curve from their recent nadir the team have produced an impressively quick car but one stymied in the second test by a front-brake cooling problem. Unable to solve it they lost time and long-running data. Solving the issue is paramount and should unleash a ride very much on the heels of the big three.
Lando Norris (GB, 22) No 4 Debut Australia 2019 Wins 0 Best race finish 2nd Poles 1 Titles 0 Best season finish 6th Last season 6th. Beyond the title fight, Norris was the standout last season as he produced some of the best performances of his career. Often out-driving quicker cars, Norris has developed his pace with some fine judgment, decisive overtaking and is utterly unintimidated vying with the world champions against whom he is now being measured. A first win is easily achievable.
Daniel Ricciardo (Aus, 32) No 3 Debut GB 2011 Wins 8 Poles 3 Titles 0 Best season finish 3rd Last season 8th. Struggled to adapt to his new ride at McLaren but began finding his feet in the final third of the season. Delivered a consummate victory at Monza, a reminder of this talent but this year will be expected to show his real form from the off in the new car. If he does, McLaren will have one of the best lineups on the grid.
Car A522 Engine Renault Principal Otmar Szafnauer Debut Bahrain 2021 GPs 22 Last season 5th. Had the worst attack of the porpoises in early testing but appeared to have a handle on it by the close. The former Renault outfit are still in their rebuilding phase and taking on Szafnauer was a positive step. Likely once more to be mired in another tightly contested midfield fight but with a driver lineup able to shine when given the chance.
Fernando Alonso (Spa, 40) No 14 Debut Australia 2001 Wins 32 Poles 22 Titles 2 Last season 10th. Still able to turn in eye-catching drives, Alonso remains ambitious and convinced he has lost none of his touch. The pace and judgment returned quickly last year after his sabbatical from F1, including a fine top-three finish in Qatar but he came back to compete and Alpine need to start coming good on their promise to give him the machinery to do so.
Esteban Ocon (Fra, 25) No 31 Debut Belgium 2016 Wins 1 Poles 0 Best qualifying 3rd Titles 0 Best season finish 8th Last season 11th. Impressively well matched with Alonso last year and confirmed his promise with a deserved inaugural win in Hungary. Alpine recognised his talent, signing him until 2024. He is settled now and in the most promising seat of his career. Likely to be spurred on once more by Alonso, Ocon is a vital asset in the midfield battle.
Car AT03 Engine Red Bull Principal Franz Tost Debut Austria 2020 GPs 39 Titles 0 Best finish 6th Last season 6th. Reliable and productive in testing, AlphaTauri put in an impressive number of laps and looked solid and pacey throughout. The Red Bull engine (effectively last year’s Honda unit) is clearly strong. If the drivers can return consistent points they have every chance to make life torrid for nearby rivals and even steal a podium if given the chance.
Pierre Gasly (Fra, 26) No 10 Debut Malaysia 2017 Wins 1 Poles 0 Best qualifying 2nd Titles 0 Best season finish 7th Last season 9th. Still eager to make his point that he deserves another shot at the Red Bull seat, Gasly repeatedly showed some superb licks last season. His qualifying was often well beyond the expectations of the car and he is clearly more comfortable with the team than he was in the crucible of driving alongside Verstappen. Should go well.
Yuki Tsunoda (Jpn, 21) No 22 Debut Bahrain 2021 Best race finish 4th Poles 0 Best qualifying 7th Titles 0 Best season finish 14th Last season 14th. Showed flashes of brilliance but was let down by too many unforced errors in his rookie season. Has a second chance to come good, he is fast but must temper the pace with control, eliminate the crashes and return good points if the Red Bull machine is not to discard him as too unreliable. This is make or break for Tsunoda.
Car AMR22 Engine Mercedes Principal Mike Krack Debut Netherlands 1959 GPs 27 Titles 0 Best finish 7th Last season 7th. Quietly efficient in testing, Aston kept their heads down, put in the laps and they look strong on it. Not searching for lap time they did have impressive long-run speed and there were approving acknowledgments of the car from the drivers. The new principal heads a team that may well emerge to lead the midfield.
Sebastian Vettel (Ger, 34) No 5 Debut USA 2007 Wins 53 Poles 57 Titles 4 Last season 12th. Appears to be enjoying driving a whole lot more since moving from Ferrari to Aston and in the cut and thrust of the midfield dogfight. The team are still expanding with a new factory and grand ambitions and Vettel seems to be at home. Proved last season he was able to turn in a quality shift and should lead the team in doing so again but will miss the opener due to Covid-19.
Lance Stroll (Can, 23) No 18 Debut Australia 2017 Best race finish 3rd Poles 1 Titles 0 Best season finish 11th Last season 13th. A solid if unremarkable season last year did little to throw off the label that comes with racing for a team your father owns, but Stroll does occasionally shine, especially in qualifying. If Aston have a good car it will be perhaps the acid test of his career. With the team’s grand ambitions Stroll needs to prove he can deliver for the old man.
Car FW44 Engine Mercedes Principal Jost Capito Debut Spain 1977 GPs 766 Titles 9 Last season 8th. Another year of building back under new owners after the Williams family sold the team and progress is not expected to be drastic. Enjoyed reasonable testing but lost time with a brake fire that was costly. However, they did good mileage, the car was stable and appears to be a solid platform on which to build. Can aim to challenge to be top of the back of the grid.
Alexander Albon (Thai, 25) No 23 Debut Australia 2019 Wins 0 Best race finish 3rd Poles 0 Best qualifying 4th Titles 0 Best season finish 7th Last season N/A (7th in 2020). Returning after his torrid time alongside Verstappen at Red Bull and then a year out in DTM, this is a chance Albon will grasp. An opportunity to prove himself out of the spotlight, Russell has already shown how he could shine at the back with Williams and on his day Albon is capable of similar feats. A real asset for the team.
Nicholas Latifi (Can, 26) No 6 Debut Austria 2020 Wins 0 Best race finish 7th Poles 0 Best qualifying 10th Titles 0 Best season finish 17th Last season 17th. Entering his third season, Latifi had been overshadowed by Russell and needs to prove he brings more than backing to the party. On occasion can put together quick laps but has yet to do so consistently. Williams are ambitious and at the very least Latifi must begin to match their aims by extracting the maximum from the car.
Car C42 Engine Ferrari Principal Frédéric Vasseur Debut Britain 1950 GPs 170 Titles 0 Best finish 6th Last season 9th. Reliability problems plagued the first test – porpoising once more often to blame – but Alfa followed it with better running in Bahrain. They are on top of the bouncing and with the Ferrari engine look to have a quick car. Reliability remains the main concern but if they nail it Alfa could be the dark horse at the back.
Valtteri Bottas (Fin, 32) No 77 Debut Australia 2013 Wins 10 Poles 20 Best season finish 2nd Last season 3rd. Thoroughly outraced by Hamilton at Mercedes, the Finn was not returning nearly good enough performances last season but may find a new lease of life at Alfa. When the car and indeed track are to his liking he can produce and will be expected to lead the team’s charge, a role he was never going to assume at Mercedes.
Guanyu Zhou (Chi, 22) No 24 Rookie season Last year 3rd in F2. China’s first F1 driver will be enormous in his home country but his credentials beyond the backing he brings are unspectacular. He failed to light up F2 in his three seasons in the championship but did at least return some wins on his way to third last year. Faces a daunting task in being measured against the vastly more experienced Bottas.
Car VF-22 Engine Ferrari Principal Guenther Steiner Debut Australia 2016 GPs 122 Titles 0 Best finish 5th Last season 10th. Endured a torrid build up, dropping their Russian title sponsor and driver Nikita Mazepin but Haas may yet emerge all the better for it. Having Kevin Magnussen back in the car is a boon and having written off last year in favour of developing the new ride appears to have paid off with no little pace in testing and Mick Schumacher very pleased with the results.
Kevin Magnussen (Den, 29) No 20 Debut Australia 2014 Best race finish 2nd Poles 0 Best qualifying 4th Titles 0 Best season finish 9th Last season N/A (20th 2020). Just the fillip the team needed, Magnussen knows them well having raced for Haas from 2017-2020. He was dropped in favour of the Mazepin millions and went to race in sportscars last year but has jumped at the chance of another shot in F1. Brings experience, aggression and a singular determination not to give up, all qualities Haas will need. The back of the field is a livelier place for his return.
Mick Schumacher (Ger, 23) No 47 Debut Bahrain 2021 Best race finish 12th Poles 0 Best qualifying 14th Titles 0 Best season finish 19th Last season 19th. Endured a tough rookie year in a woeful car well, getting his head down and displaying the famous Schumacher work ethic. Showed some pace but also admitted to making needless and often costly mistakes. With a more competitive car will face the real test against a teammate who is a known quantity and talented. Matching or beating Magnussen would be an impressive feat.