Super Max secures Second World Championship in Abu-Dhabi

Max B (Year 10), Chief Contributor

The 2022 Formula One season became what everyone would call “A Silly Season”. Fast track back in time to the beginning of the season, the vast majority of fans were rooting for the Scuderia and their golden boy Charles Leclerc, winning two of the first three races. But the Redbulls finally gained their mojo. They levelled up their game, taking the top step of the podium in almost every race for the rest of the season. Bagging every constructors championship during the turbo-hybrid era, everyone was shocked when the W13 placed Lewis Hamilton and George Russell down in the midfield, but after figuring out their performance issues, they obtained a 1-2 at the penultimate grand prix in Brazil.

After battle after battle, win after win, Leclerc and Verstappen were heavy contenders for the Championship of 2022. But the iconic team from Maranello began to fell apart. Poor strategic choices placed a huge amount of stress on the number 16 driver, and driver mistakes ultimately let Max Verstappen pull further ahead in the championship. Then Suzuka. Leclerc had to take either first or second at the Japanese track to still be a contender for the championship. The heavy rainfall over the track forced multiple yellow and red flags, and the redbull of Sergio Perez was sticking tight to the rear end of Leclerc’s red Ferrari. The pressure was eventually too much for Charles, running off the track, being given a five second time penalty, and pushing him out of second into third place, giving Max Verstappen his second championship. You heard that right. The 25-year-old Dutchman is now a double world champion.

As in every season, the driver market begins to pick back up, and the 2022 season could be seen as one of the “silliest” seasons yet. Just after the summer break, four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel posted on social media, where he sat and announced that this would be his last season in Formula One and he would be retiring at the end of this year.

It was then announced that Fernando Alonso was to take Vettel’s vacant seat at Aston Martin from 2023, and Pierre Gasly left Alpha Tauri (finally) for the French team, Alpine. Rookie drivers will also make themselves at home in new teams such as Oscar Piastri taking Daniel Ricciardo’s seat at McLaren, with the two-time Formula E championship and Formula 2 Championship winner Nyck De Vries taking the open spot at Alpha Tauri. Haas decided to split ways with Mick Shumacher taking on Nico Hulkenberg. The American Logan Sargeant ended up scoring enough super license points, and will be taking Nicholas Latifi’s spot at Williams.

And rumour has it that the Australian Daniel Ricciardo has also secured a possible seat next season as a reserve driver for Redbull team.

Finally, we’ve reached the end of the season.

 Abu Dhabi, the Capital of the United Arab Emirates, sits off the mainland on an island in the Persian Gulf. The Yas Marina Circuit holds sixteen turns, two DRS zones (Drag Reduction System), runs a length 5.28km, and on race day the drivers have to face down the final 58 laps of the 2022 season.

After three practice sessions the drivers hit qualifying. As per usual, three qualifying sessions happen in succession, knocking off the bottom five drivers, then another five until we hit a top ten shootout in Q3.

The two Williams of Albon and Latifi were out in 19th and 20th respectively, Valterri Bottas in 18th, Pierre Gasly in 17th, and the previous weeks polesitter Kevin Magnussen just missing out. As the timer ran out in Q2, the slowest five to be dropped were Fernando Alonso’s Alpine in eleventh followed by Yuki Tsunoda’s Alpha Tauri in twelfth Infront of Mick Schumacher’s Haas in thirteenth, Lance stroll landed his Aston Martin in fourteenth and Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo in fifteenth.

Only ten remained and so begun Q3 and the Top 10 Shootout. It was a one-two line up on the front row for the Redbulls with Max Verstappen taking the fastest lap with teammate Sergio Perez in second. On the second row the two Ferraris of Charles Leclerc in third and Sainz in fourth, the two Mercedes took fifth and sixth, followed by the McLaren of Lando Norris in seventh. The Alpine of Esteban Ocon had eighth and the retiring four-time champion Sebastian Vettel in ninth with Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren in tenth. But Ricciardo, taking a penalty from his collision with Kevin Magnussen in Brazil, was put into thirteenth on the grid lining up.

As the night sky rolled onto the track, the mechanics and drivers got prepared to go.

The start lights dropped to black…

“It’s lights out and away we go”

Into turn 1 the pole sitter Max Verstappen fended off the attack from his teammate Sergio Perez, and after the long straight Leclerc looked for a shot down the inside on Perez, but losing a good exit out of the corner, letting Perez breathe for now. Coming off the straight Sainz dived down the inside of Hamilton, fighting for position. Hamilton left the track going over the kerb, which lead to a broken floor, until Hamilton had to give the place back to Sainz.

During the opening laps we also watched as the Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel fought for eighth with Esteban Ocon.

Coming into the first pitstops George Russell took a 5 second penalty for an unsafe release into Lando Norris.

On Lap 23, Alonso overtook both Tsunoda and Bottas out of turn 9, and it was until lap 28 when an engine problem forced Fernando Alonso’s Alpine into retirement.

On lap 39 Nicholas Latifi’s Williams and Mick Schumacher’s Haas decided to have a tango and put their cars into the barriers from a tap to the back of Latifi’s Williams. Both the cars got back into the race without any damage.

On lap 55 Lewis Hamilton brought the car in and had to retire the vehicle after having power and gear problems “I’ve lost shifts, shifts aren’t working”.

As Max Verstappen crossed the finish line in first place, fireworks exploding, the rollercoaster of 2022 finally concluded. Ferrari strategy masterclass allowed Charles Leclerc to keep third place Sergio Perez at bay, beating him not just in the race, but securing second in the championship battle. To end his time at McLaren, Daniel Riccardo finished on a high, coming across the line in ninth to score points, but it was the retiring four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel making everyone emotional by finishing in the final points position.

What a year of Formula One it has been. Another tough year for Ferrari, another double world champion, Lewis Hamilton ending his ‘winning one race a year’ streak, and the retirement of one of the greats.

The 2023 season kicks off at pre-season testing in Sakhir, Bahrain, and it will be interesting to see how the teams develop their car over the winter break. But for now we have season 5 of Drive To Survive on Netflix to get us through these next months.