Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen renew rivalries with new rules and eyes on the FIA: The F1 agenda in 2022

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·3-min read
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  • Max Verstappen
    Max Verstappen
    Dutch-Belgian racing driver
  • Lewis Hamilton
    Lewis Hamilton
    British racing driver
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Formula One will start the new year, look ahead to a curious, fantastic future - and immediately screech into a 180-degree spin and stare back at last year.

Such was the magnitude and ferocity of Lewis Hamilton’s 2021 title fight with Max Verstappen - and such was the controversy of its ending - that the first signs of life for the 2022 season will be immediately obsessed with its predecessor.

The fact that this will occur serves to underline the reason we had the controversy in the first place. The FIA, and its team who oversee individual races led by Michael Masi, not only did what they did in Abu Dhabi but they utterly failed to provide fans, drivers and teams with any sense of closure on it.

A review is underway - for how long that will last is anybody’s guess - and the FIA, now under a new president, will have to come down on one side or another: that on-the-spot tinkering of how rules are applied in order to manufacture theatrical race scenarios is right or is wrong.

Furthermore, there are questions over how teams radio in to Masi to make their case mid-race, which are then broadcast publicly; how stewards balance punishing and rewarding tough-but-fair and sheer aggressive racing; and the increasing toxicity of certain fandoms that are stoked by tight fights and mouthy team principals.

It is not unimportant that the new season of Netflix series Drive to Survive comes out in the weeks before the first race, in Bahrain on March 20.

The new interest in the sport by the hugely popular, if often only tangentially related to reality, series is increasingly minded towards creating the sort of last-lap drama witnessed in Abu Dhabi - sat starkly against the ‘just not cricket’ mentality of the more traditional fans.

Once the racing finally gets underway, the new rulebook handed out in 2022 will kick into effect and quickly begin to dominate conversations.

These clean slates always throw up one or two surprises as the sport’s busiest brains pick through loopholes and technical advantages that can propel an otherwise ordinary car up the grid. Naturally, the big bucks at Mercedes and Red Bull are most likely to make the difference, powered by the supreme Hamilton and Verstappen.

But then there are the continually improving McLaren and Ferrari, the latter of whom are very capable of the sort of wildcard approach that could see them leap to first as easily as it could kick them back to 15th.

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

One thing is for sure, that the top four teams of 2021 simply do not have a bad driver among them. There are no passengers with Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc and now George Russell just as worthy contenders to the throne as Verstappen was this time last year.

Daniel Ricciardo, Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz are all perfectly accustomed to the podium too and further down the grid comes the veteran appeal of Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and the newly Alfa-Romeo’d Valtteri Bottas.

But it will be all eyes on Hamilton and Verstappen as the cars are unveiled and the two weeks of pre-season testing get underway in the early spring.

That both men, often polar opposites of each other on the track and in their demeanour, raise their game to such superhuman levels - and yet still show the cracks of pressure in enthralling moments - is once again set to dominate this new campaign... so long as F1 can clear up the debris from the last one.

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