This season has delivered a title fight that fans of Formula One have craved since Nico Rosberg’s 2016 World Drivers’ Championship victory. However, this time, instead of a rivalry between teammates, seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton has been engaged in a long-awaited battle against the audacious Max Verstappen. With the 2022 season closing in, now is a perfect time to recap the wild ride so far.
Hamilton and Team Mercedes’ dominance has long been established, ever since the introduction of the turbocharged V6 power units back in 2014. However, Verstappen and his team, Red Bull Racing, have proven themselves a force to be reckoned with, potentially stopping Team Mercedes’ seven-year streak in its tracks. This is all thanks to the competitive RB16B — Red Bull Racing’s new car model — that they are competing with this season.
The season started off with the implementation of new aerodynamic regulations that reduced overall downforce levels on cars. Despite the fact that it was aerodynamically hampered, Mercedes’ low-rake model — a model with a reduced angle between the front and rear of the vehicle — fared well enough to land Hamilton a win in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix (GP). However, Verstappen was close enough to stop the championship from slipping from his grasp completely after he won the iconic Monaco GP.
Although Monaco was the beginning of Mercedes’ troubles and Red Bull’s winning streak, the Azerbaijan GP turned the championship on its head following unfortunate circumstances for both Hamilton and Verstappen. With just five laps left, Verstappen’s lead turned into a sudden did-not-finish status following a massive tire blowout on the rear left side of his car that sent him into a high-speed collision with the main straight barrier, causing the race to be temporarily halted. Hamilton also faced great misfortune after his right front wheel locked up, which caused him to finish 15th.
At his home race at Silverstone for the British GP, Hamilton was poised to win in front of 140,000 spectators. However, this was not the main focus of the weekend. Verstappen won the sprint qualifying session to start on pole for the race on Sunday with home-town hero Hamilton following closely behind in second. Although Hamilton did walk away with an eighth Silverstone win, controversy overshadowed his victory following a tussle in the first lap that rendered Verstappen’s race finished in a matter of seconds — Hamilton’s aggressive overtake into the Copse turn led to a contact that sent Verstappen sliding across the gravel trap.
Just when we thought the season had reached its peak, conditions at Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian GP resulted in the shortest race in Formula One history, consisting of just one lap.
Later, the first Dutch GP in 36 years saw Verstappen engulfed in praise from a sea of ‘Orange Army’ Verstappen fans from all around Zandvoort, for a race one could only describe as designed for Verstappen. The Red Bull driver disappeared into the lead, taking a historic home-turf victory around the banked circuit.
After racers returned to Italy’s Monza circuit, there was a rehashing of the rivalry following the dramatic crash between the two championship contenders. When he left the pits on lap 26, Hamilton wound up alongside Verstappen as the two scuffled side by side into Variante del Rettifilo, colliding into each other and launching Verstappen’s vehicle into the air. The crash led to the end of both drivers’ races, as well as a three-place grid penalty for Verstappen at Sochi.
Recently, after his car failed a rear wing test, Hamilton was disqualified from qualifying races and thus had to start the last of sprint qualifying sessions in position P20. In an all but stellar drive, Hamilton recovered from the back of the grid to finish fifth. However, following a change in the W12 Internal Combustion Engine, an additional five-place penalty led to a start at position P10. A total 25 place grid penalty did little to deny Hamilton’s victory.
The two racers are currently separated by just eight points as of November 26, making for a scintillating end to the championship — there are just two races left, and Red Bull threatened by the strength in the Mercedes’ cars’ new package. The drama is reaching new heights, and Formula One fans have a lot to look forward to before the season is up.