By: TJ Dhir
The merry-go-round of F1 drivers traditionally kicks into high gear around the summer shutdown, and this season is no different. Much of the 2022 grid has already been confirmed, with 11 drivers already having seats for next season.
Although his deal has yet to be announced, Lance Stroll is not leaving Aston Martin anytime soon. Despite fellow Canadian driver Jacques Villeneuve claiming that Stroll could move to Mercedes to replace Valtteri Bottas. Lance’s father Lawrence, owns the team and is keen to keep his son at Aston Martin. Sebastian Vettel’s place has already been confirmed for next season, so Aston can take their time to announce next season’s lineup because there’s only one answer about who gets the other seat.
Predicted 2022 Lineup: Sebastian Vettel/Lance Stroll
Despite Villeneuve’s comments, Bottas’ place at Mercedes has never come under more pressure thanks to the fantastic performances of George Russell. The Williams driver finally scored points for the long-time backmarkers alongside teammate Nicholas Latifi at the Hungaroring, giving Williams their first double-points finish since the 2018 Italian Grand Prix. Russell’s qualifying performances have been the basis of his outstanding performances, and Mercedes is considering replacing Bottas with their protégé to partner with Lewis Hamilton.
Predicted 2022 Lineup: Lewis Hamilton/Valtteri Bottas
If Russell were to leave Williams, the team had put together “a long list” of potential replacements, according to Team Principal and CEO Jost Capito when he spoke to the media at the British Grand Prix. Of course, Bottas returning to the team that gave him his debut would be a nice story, but there are undoubtedly others who sense a fantastic opportunity. Among those on the list reportedly include Nico Hulkenberg and Daniil Kvyat and their academy drivers Jamie Chadwick, Roy Nissany, and Jack Aitken.
Predicted 2022 Lineup: Nicholas Latifi/George Russell
If Bottas were to leave Mercedes, there are reports that Alfa Romeo will snatch him up. Kimi Raikkonen is unlikely to stay at Alfa Romeo, given that his best days are behind him. However, Antonio Giovinazzi has improved this season despite only scoring one point at Monaco. Both have not signed contracts beyond this season. With Bottas and Ferrari academy drivers like Callum Ilott & Robert Shwartzman all available, Alfa could field an all-new driver lineup for next season.
Predicted 2022 Lineup: Antonio Giovinazzi/Callum Ilott
The only other intriguing situation is at Red Bull, with Max Verstappen’s teammate yet to be confirmed for next season. Pierre Gasly and Sergio Perez are the only two drivers with a legitimate claim to the second Red Bull seat. In Red Bull’s battle with Mercedes for the Constructor’s Championship, Perez has done an admirable job by regularly finishing in high points-paying positions. The Mexican driver has also picked up a win and a podium for the team. But Gasly has excelled at AlphaTauri again, with his best result being a podium in Azerbaijan, which is incidentally the race Perez won this year. Red Bull is notorious for switching drivers between their two teams when one excels, or another driver falters, as Gasly knows all too well. However, swapping Perez for Gasly would be a step too far, even for Red Bull.
Predicted 2022 Lineup: Max Verstappen/Sergio Perez
It’s only a matter of time before Gasly makes a move, whether it be back to the main team or a move elsewhere on the grid. If Gasly does not get the second Red Bull seat next season, which he likely won’t, he stays at AlphaTauri. The Italian team will be especially keen that he does, given that the regulations will drastically change for next season, and Gasly will be able to guide the team forward. Yuki Tsunoda is only in his first season in F1, and Red Bull’s Formula Two drivers have not done well enough to earn an F1 seat at AlphaTauri.
Predicted 2022 Lineup: Pierre Gasly/Yuki Tsunoda
Before Esteban’s shock win at the Hungarian Grand Prix, some people questioned Alpine’s decision to reward his good early-season form with a three-year contract. However, nobody is saying that now. Yes, the Frenchman inherited the lead at the Hungaroring thanks to an odd set of circumstances, but he bravely held Vettel off for the rest of the race, taking his maiden F1 win. Likewise, Fernando Alonso was instrumental in keeping Ocon’s chances of victory alive, given that Hamilton could have stolen the win. If not for the Spaniard’s valiant defensive driving. This latest display proves that Alonso is back to being the driver everyone knows and loves, and with his form improving, it will come as no surprise when the French team confirms their 2022 lineup.
Predicted 2022 Lineup: Esteban Ocon/Fernando Alonso
Charles Leclerc is the Prancing Horse’s “chosen one,” His contract is still valid for next season. If, for some reason, more proof is necessary, check out his fantastic drive at Silverstone. Carlos Sainz has proved he can handle being a Ferrari driver, with two podiums already this season. One was inherited due to Vettel’s disqualification in Hungary, but he qualified 15th and made Ferrari change their strategy mid-race, which proved to be a masterstroke. If Ferrari does not keep Leclerc and Sainz for next season, heads will undoubtedly roll at Maranello.
Predicted 2022 Lineup: Charles Leclerc/Carlos Sainz
For the only American team on the grid, it seems inevitable that they will also keep the same lineup for next season. The team is still struggling financially, thanks to necessary repairs due to both Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin crashing regularly. However, both drivers have multi-year contracts and bring different incentives to the team. Schumacher is a Ferrari academy driver, and the company owned by Mazepin’s father is the team’s title sponsor.
Predicted 2022 Lineup: Mick Schumacher/Nikita Mazepin
Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo have both delivered solid points. Norris was the only driver to score points in every race before being taken out at the messy start in Hungary. Three podiums to his name have also helped catapult him to third in the Drivers’ Championship, all of which earned him a multi-year contract with McLaren. Ricciardo has had a challenging adjustment period but has a car capable of delivering decent results for the first time since he left Red Bull in 2018. The results have been patchy to start, but the turn-in form will surely come. With the two also seemingly getting more comfortable with each other at a personal level, change at McLaren would result in anarchy on multiple levels.
Predicted 2022 Lineup: Lando Norris/Daniel Ricciardo