One of Formula 1‘s biggest aims for 2022 was to improve the racing and after five events we can safely say this target has well and truly been met, which shouldn’t be forgotten.
Yes, DRS is still needed and will likely be here to stay for the foreseeable future, but some of the battles we have seen this year would not have happened in previous seasons.
Overtaking has not been easy in F1 for a long time and the state of the racing might just be the best it has been for over three decades.
Leclerc vs Verstappen has been sensational
Whilst the championship battle between Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen is yet to seriously light up, the title protagonists have been wheel to wheel in each of the opening five events, which is one better than Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton last season.
The season-opening Bahrain GP set the tone with Leclerc and Verstappen passing and re-passing over three consecutive laps. It was reminiscent of Hamilton versus Nico Rosberg in 2014, which is probably the only other year when overtaking and following was not too difficult.
A week later, Leclerc and Verstappen were at it again, this time on the streets of Jeddah where overtaking was arguably a little too easy. The Imola sprint race saw the first ever lead change in the 100km Saturday race as Verstappen attacked and overtook Leclerc in the final few laps.
The latest round in Miami where Verstappen first got by Leclerc with a great move into Turn 1, before the Monegasque driver was on the offensive and we were treated to an intense finish.
Both drivers were going for it and even though there was no overtake, it was very exciting. Battles like that wouldn’t have happened last year, or at least wouldn’t have lasted for as many laps.
F1 has always had good racing in the midfield, but now we’re getting it at the front too and the drivers with the best racecraft are standing out.
No longer is the dirty air from the car in front a major problem due to the simplified aerodynamics and wheel covers which are deflecting the air flow.
Ross Brawn and his team have done an outstanding job because so often F1 say they will improve the racing, and it doesn’t come to fruition. This time though, it certainly has.
Pirelli have done a great job too
Another key factor for the improved racing is the new Pirelli tyres which are less susceptible to overheating, this allowing the drivers to push harder.
Pirelli did extensive testing with the 18-inch rubber throughout 2021 and the early indications were that the working window was wider and the tyres were less sensitive, which has proved to be the case in the opening five events.
There has been a lot of criticism fired at Pirelli since they came into F1 in 2011, much of it rightly so, but they have to be given huge praise for producing a tyre that is very raceable.
It seems the harder tyre compounds are allowing the drivers to push more and the other great aspect about the new rubber is we have hardly heard the drivers complain or get told by their engineer to save the tyres.
In previous years, drivers had to back off so the tyres didn’t overheat but now they can just keep pushing harder and harder.
There is still degradation, as we saw in Bahrain when the three-stop strategy was utilised by much of the field, and we might see something similar with multiple pit stops at this weekend’s Spanish GP.
A long time coming
It’s about time F1 had a car which can race as well as the current machine. The balance of the 2022 car is significantly more predictable than the previous generation cars, where you would get sudden snaps of oversteer when within 1.5 seconds of another driver.
Now, the drivers have the confidence to push when following closely so they can get into DRS range more easily to try and get a move done.
The new regulations have passed their test, adding to the positive state of F1 with a quality set of drivers, a close championship and great racing on some of the world’s best tracks.