My big F1 predictions - 2021/2022
This has only involved a lot of swearing and rewriting!
I've had to just bite the bullet here. I woke up this morning thinking today would be the day that I finally put out my finished F1 predictions for 2021/2022. I had it all written out, I'd proofread it, checked it, thought about illustrations, planned a cover shot. I was ready to go. Then I checked my phone and nearly cried. Not only had my hard work crumbled away but my beloved Romain Grosjean was not going to be racing for Haas in 2021. Neither was Kevin Magnussen, but I feel a weird kinship for Romain on the grounds of we crash a lot, like Lego and making models, and are in reality oversized children barely staying afloat in an adult's world. So after reading through the news, wishing the other half a happy birthday, yes in that order, and then getting out of bed it dawned on me that again I'd need to adjust my predictions.
If you spend any time poking around the F1 corner of Drivetribe you will have seen a giant predictions post for the next two years. When Isaac reached out to me asking for my brains on the matter I excitedly hammered out nearly three thousand words on what could happen. Fairly enough, my ramblings were cut down to five key points, most of which became wrong or moot once the Eifel GP had been run. None the less, I figured I'd let some time pass, post my full predictions and then forget about it until the 2022 season ended and I looked like a mug having predicted nothing at all. Turns out that while I can't see two years into the future, I can barely see two weeks into the future. So what follows is a reworking of my original essay, to feature the latest tearful news.
2021; Hamilton and Bottas
2022; Russell and Bottas
Russell’s Williams contract ends in 2022 and then I reckon he’ll be drafted up to the “big leagues". I reckon 2022 may see Hamilton leave F1 hence Russell steps up and fills his place. I won’t say number one or number 2 driver because I reckon Mercedes might look for a 2016 Nico Rosberg “surprise” champ. So possibly leaving it open so Bottas gets a WDC before potentially stepping back. It’s a new set of technical specs so the playing field is going to be a lot more even than for much of the hybrid era so far, meaning Mercedes might gamble a lot more. If Bottas gets his WDC I can see him potentially following the Kimi route and going to Williams to act as their Robert Kubica, helping the team with development, using his extensive years in the F1 scene, while still racing. Then maybe moving to a development seat, with reserve driver potential. However, let's not forget Esteban Ocon. He's a Mercedes junior driver and is being managed by Toto Wolff, who is reportedly stepping back a little within the Mercedes team at the end of this season. While he's said that if he left, the team won't change dramatically, and it's unlikely the driver line up will change. But I wouldn't be surprised if there's a little clause about Ocon in any contract he signs.
I want to see number 63 on a Silver Arrow. It must happen.
2021; LeClerc and Sainz
2022; LeClerc and Sainz
LeClerc is contracted to Ferrari until 2024, and Sainz for two years, which I should think he’ll stick out. He was reluctant to move in the silly season when Ricciardo left Red Bull, so if he performs well in the supporting role to wonderboy Charles then Ferrari will keep him as the Scuderia attempts to ape the Mercedes winning formula of one star driver and then a clear number 2 driver.
So LeClerc and Sainz for 2022 and possibly beyond. Charles seems like he’ll stick out at Ferrari until he gets to his early 30’s. He’ll accrue a few WDCs and then move off to a senior role, or playboy it up in Monaco. He’s on £7.5 mill this year alone, and if he keeps up his performance he could comfortably retire and go down the Nico Rosberg route, maybe setting up his own Extreme E team to fully ape Rosberg.
This image just has a beautiful vibe.
2021; Verstappen and Albon
2022; Verstappen and someone from the RB driver academy.
They will keep Alex for 2021, they shot themselves in the foot royally by swapping out Pierre Gasly and giving the Frenchman such a fire in his belly. We saw a new Pierre after that, and Pierre has seen the reportedly toxic workings of RB and the concerning leadership tactics of Horner. Drive to Survive painted him in a sketchy light, either clever editing, or he’s actually like that? Not a boss I’d want. So I cannot see Pierre taking up an offer to go back to the big boy team if it comes.
Daniil Kvyat is too much of a wildcard. Again a fortunate podium in 2019’s German GP saw him refloated with energy and he is a good driver, let's not forget he had an RB seat for a while. But again, he’s seen inside the beast and is happy to live out his days mopping up points (and good points at that, these days) in a very competitive Alpha Tauri.
Which leaves Max, the only other driver in the Energy Drink stable. Max wants a WDC and he is driving at a level that in a Mercedes, he’d romp home with one. Power unit issues might make him think twice about renewing his contract. It depends on what route Red Bull goes down to get engines. Buy Honda’s IP and slap a Tag badge on the valve covers and call it their own? Sure, they were allowed to do that with the Renault engines, but would the missing Honda full backing, now Honda has found its feet in F1 for the umpteenth time, would this missing know-how from Japan hinder the development of new PUs? I fear it might.
Red Bull needs a bit more money to keep butting up against the price cap if they are to buy Honda’s brains for future seasons. If they can keep the Honda units, I reckon they'll keep Max.
So I originally wrote this all before the Eifel GP, and oddly enough things haven't changed a lot since then. The toxic environment at Red Bull seems to be lining up to ditch Alex Albon. Horner has said a lot that they are keeping Alex, so for Albon's sake, I hope the buck their ideas up and look at how they are managing their team and their expectations. You can't expect poor Alex to keep pace with Max when there's such a difference in their experience in the big leagues, and when Max is such a vastly different driver. I'm not sure what the team's thinking was in pulling Alex in to retire, there's a lot more going on there than I think.
Still no word on a Red Bull power unit, and bear in mind, this will affect sister team, Alpha Tauri too. My new reckoning is that they will offer a very very healthy contact to Max, regardless of engine supplier, and they'll likely have some sort of performance clause in it, but on their end, to sweeten the deal for him. Red Bull wants a WCC, and know they need Max to do it if they are going to do it before the tech specs change. He's the only driver on the grid in the current cars who can consistently take the fight to Mercedes and Hamilton. I don't want to see Alex leave F1, as it'll be too soon. He's a brilliantly genuine guy and he clearly yearns to do well and deserves so, but Red Bull just isn't the place for him. But I doubt they'll keep him in 2021, maybe there'll be room for him back at Alpha Tauri in 2022? According to my brain anyway...
Who's going to be filling that empty seat next to Max?
2021; Ricciardo and Norris
2022; Ricciardo and Norris
Mclaren seems to fancy the idea of hanging onto their drivers, even if their drivers don't seem keen on hanging around. But maybe with a new power unit, they'll be able to keep up their growing performance. Mercedes grunt and a McLaren chassis? We've seen success with that team and a young driver before, I'm sure of it... So hopefully we'll see this same support with Lando Norris who's partnered with an exceptionally talented driver in Daniel Ricciardo... This all sounds familiar? If they can keep and work hard with this driver set up, I have high hopes for McLaren in the years to come.
Literal chaos. But hopefully, if they develop well, a strong driver line up!
2021; Alonso and Ocon
2022; Alonso and a junior driver
I'm expecting a strong finish from Ocon this season. Danny Ric has shown what the car is capable of putting it on the podium in Germany, and Ocon is really coming into form this season, putting in some decent performances against his established and competitive teammate. He keeps pushing himself every race, and his radio messages relay this. Go back and listen to how beaten up he was after the chaotic Monza race. His hunger for a good drive is insatiable, and I want him to get a good seat at some point. Which is why I haven't put him at Alpine for 2022. I reckon if Bottas doesn't stick around for 2022 Ocon will get the Mercedes seat.
Great, now I need to buy new Renault merch... and I think Alonso could be quick. Second year of the new specs and we'll see some fast performances from him!
2021; Gasly and Kvyat
2022; Yuki Tsunoda and Jüri Vips, or maybe by 2023.
Both have shown some excellent skills this year, and last year capitalising in tricky races, so AT will be looking to keep them on board for as long as possible.
Gasly seems to be a bit more forward-thinking than Daniil, and likely will make moves to another team to make a run for WDC, maybe 2022 alongside Alonso at Alpine? They’d love having a French driver in a French car, same as with Ocon.
So 2022 could be a clean slate for AT with them sourcing from their driver academy and F2/F3 talent pools. Jüri Vips and Yuki Tsunoda strike me as the best choices for the AT seats, with Daniil stepping back from F1. He’s not the full enough package to make ac WDC challenge and faces too much competition. If there were more teams he could easily stay on the grid but new drivers are coming through with a lot more gusto! Maybe they'll leave Yuri in F2 for a season, as he's not done a full one there, and plug the gap with Pérez or Hülkenberg.
Also, without wishing to sound horrendously smug, but I did predict Yuki's call up quite a way in advance, and then he's been given some test seats! I do know some stuff.
I called it! I did get this one right! This makes up for my garbage hopes for Haas.
2021; Vettel and Stroll
2022; Vettel and Stroll
We know it’s going to be Lance. He doesn’t have a contract at the time of writing, but it is Daddy’s team, and Perez’s contract has been summed up really. I’d be surprised if they don’t keep Lance on, one because he’s Daddy’s special boy, but also because he’s really proving his worth. He was a Ferrari Academy driver for a bit, and a podium finisher too. I’m planning on doing a stats comparison between him and Perez to see who, numerically at least, is the better driver.
At the moment, Lance is only a sole WDC point ahead of Sergio, and with him sitting out the Eifel GP that gap is bound to reverse and grow. So Lance is going to hang around for a few more years, and hopefully, we’ll see him mount a WDC challenge in a season or two, working with and against Vettel who like Lance is on a year by year contract it seems. Depending on how Seb does in 2021 will likely impact if the team keeps him for 2022. I reckon the new lease of life, and determination to prove Binotto wrong will see him come back with a real fire in his belly in 2021 and cement a 2022 seat very early on. I reckon by the 5th round of 2021 Aston Martin will quietly sign Seb for a 3-year contract.
Let's just hope that Stroll has put Monza 2019 behind him, or else it'll be frosty when Vettel gets there!
2021; Mick Schumacher and Kimi Räikkönen
2022; Mick Schumacher and Robert Schwartzman
2021, keep the old guard for nostalgia and to train the new guy. So we keep Kimi and kick Antonio. Despite me professing my love for him earlier this week in a giant essay, it doesn't look hopeful for Italy's next top model. Kimi, as much as I love him, it’s fairly disheartening to see him relegated to just driving around at the back of the grid with George Russell nipping at his heels in the wheelie bin that is a Williams. So they'll keep the knowledge and add some fresh blood to the mix. And that'll come in the form of Mick Schumacher. Big name, people will pay to see that in a team. Probably. Then once he's trained up like some weird F1 based Obi-Ani thing, provided Mick Schumacher doesn't become a Sith Lord we'll see him stay on at Alfa with Robert Schwartzman in the second seat.
How can you not want him in F1 in red. Or we crowdfund a revival of Benetton... although technically it's Renault these days...
Oh boy... So originally I thought we'd see Grosjean stay on and train up Callum Ilot. That didn't happen, did it?
2021; Callum Ilot and Giovinazzi
2022; Ilot and Giovinazzi
So with Giovinazzi being pushed out of Alfa, I reckon he'll go back to the team he used to test for and drive for them with alongside Callum Ilot. They'll stick with that probably. Gio has talent and needs a team to work with him and unlock it and I don't think Alfa Romeo quite has that on tap at the moment, but Haas has this crazy energy of "we'll try this?" and a bit more drive to try. Plus if they can get a decent chassis sorted they'll hopefully be able to compete next year with a Ferrari engine that's getting a bit better each time, and with some decent chassis tweaks, we might see Haas back up to a strong midfield team from them again.
A future Haas driver?
2021; Russell and Latifi
2022; Roy Nissany and Jamie Chadwick (STFU Kym Illman) alongside Latifi
Russell’s skill, and Latifi’s money. Simple as. There’s little else holding that team together apart from nostalgia really. Russell has learned so much from Kubica and now plays such an instrumental role in the car set up, more than he could without the tutelage of Robert, who let's not forget is a brilliant driver.
Sure 2019 wasn’t a golden hour for the guy, but for a man with 1.5 arms to drive an F1 car and get that hunk of junk to win a point is damned impressive. Plus his spirit is a joyous thing to behold. You can’t not like Robert Kubica. Peak wholesome. But he was a keystone for Williams in helping them turn a corner, albeit slowly, and with terrible turn in. He helped develop a better car, even if they couldn’t get the PU to work quite as well as Tracing Point (is that joke still funny?) did. So now Williams seems to be on the up a little.
Competing with Haas, Alfa and Ferrari have shown that they aren’t dead yet. Hopefully, some more money to fill in the gap between their current levels and the cap will help them scramble ahead a bit more, and undo the work of Paddy Lowe. As for drivers? Russell will stick around until Hamilton or Bottas leaves Mercedes. Then he’ll move up, Latifi and his neck will become the number one driver and they’ll pull in an F2/F3 driver to fill the gap, or open it to Bottas for development work to keep growing.
If they do pull someone up, Roy Nissany, or, and I really would love to see this, and it would fit with Williams’ “advancing ideas” mentality, Jamie Chadwick. She needs a few more tick marks on her license, but by 2022 that can be done quite easily. She’s a boss driver and to see her finally get a chance in the big leagues would be amazing. She bossed the opening W Series... series, she's won in GT4 racing, racked up decent points in F3, and she's going into Extreme E, which let us not forget is FIA sanctioned and I think will count on her license. Stirling stuff indeed and I reckon she'll go all the way! Alternatively, if Latifi can’t muster up the goods and Bottas doesn’t join as a driver, leaving both seats open, Roy Nissany and Jamie. Not a bad combination.
Chadwick for Williams 2022, let's make it happen!
There are some big names in the lower leagues I’ve missed off, and one of those is Jack Aitken. I’d take a punt on him filling a seat that is vacated when an older tutoring driver retires. Although that sentence was written when I still dreamed of seeing Romain Grosjean in an F1 car for another season or two. Such distant and fond memories they are.
The same goes for Nick de Vries if they can pry him away from Formula E.
Nobuhara Matsushita, Luca Ghiotto, Sérgio Sette Câmara, Guanyu Zhou, any of them could move to Alpine assuming Ocon moves to Mercedes, in 2022/23 and race alongside Gasly if Alonso retires, assuming that Gasly moves to the French outfit.
The list goes on and the possibilities are endless. But that’s what I’d take a punt on happening for the next two years. Beyond that? It’s anyone’s game. By 2023 we’ll see evolutions of the 2022 tech-specs, the once levelled playing field beginning to show who’s had their eye on the ball and who was caught napping. Add in the target of being carbon neutral by 2030 seeing changes to the calendar, cars, and where the sport races what happens next in F1, and F2 and F3 is anyone’s game. Let's just hope they stick with Interlagos, as a zoologist I could find myself committing acts of physical violence and holding the severed moustache of Chase Carey aloft in front of Brazilian Parliament. It's 2020, that probably wouldn't be the strangest thing to happen. Anyhow, FP1 is on, so if you'll excuse me...