The 2022 Formula 1 field is one of the strongest grids in the sport’s history, with 10 race-winners and three multiple World Champions.
There have been just four driver changes from the 2021 season, including the debut of Guanyu Zhou, the return of Alex Albon and George Russell joining Mercedes from Williams.
Seven teams have retained the same line-up, but who has the best driver pairing?
10) Haas: Mick Schumacher – Nikita Mazepin
Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin will embark on their second season in F1, with the expectation of being able to fight in the midfield.
It was difficult to measure how well both drivers fared in their rookie campaigns due to the uncompetitive 2021 Haas machine.
Without doubt, Schumacher had the upper hand in every department on Mazepin, whilst the Russian was often a long way off the pace.
9) Williams: Alex Albon – Nicholas Latifi
After a year on the sidelines, Albon is back in F1 in the hope of repeating Pierre Gasly‘s revival following a difficult spell at Red Bull.
It’s a massive season for Albon, who knows he must beat Nicholas Latifi to catch the attention of the top teams.
However, Latifi was no slouch in 2021 as he particularly pushed George Russell in the races.
8) Alfa Romeo: Valtteri Bottas – Guanyu Zhou
An all new driver line-up at Alfa Romeo sees Valtteri Bottas and Zhou replace Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi.
It feels like the start of a new era for the Swiss outfit, and they will be relying on Bottas to lead the team forward.
Expectations are relatively low for rookie Zhou, but he could spring a surprise. A driver’s junior career doesn’t necessarily reflect how they will cope in F1, so it’ll be intriguing to see how the Chinese driver fares.
7) Aston Martin: Sebastian Vettel – Lance Stroll
Aston Martin had an underwhelming 2021 season, with not a lot to be overjoyed about for Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll.
Both drivers are very inconsistent and you have to question whether they frequently get the most out of the car.
When Vettel and Stroll are on form, they can be excellent, but it doesn’t happen enough over a season.
6) AlphaTauri: Pierre Gasly – Yuki Tsunoda
AlphaTauri‘s Gasly continued his excellent form from 2020 into 2021, with a string of consistent, strong results.
Gasly was able to compete for the top five throughout the season, dominating teammate Yuki Tsunoda.
Tsunoda will hope to close the gap to Gasly in his second F1 campaign, in what could be a make or break year for his career.
5) McLaren: Lando Norris – Daniel Ricciardo
Lando Norris had a breakthrough season in 2021, and was arguably the most impressive driver.
The 22-year-old is now among a series of drivers who are capable of becoming World Champion, after comfortably outperforming teammate Daniel Ricciardo.
Ricciardo‘s drop in form is the reason McLaren are just fifth on our list, as it’s not easy to predict whether he can hit back this year.
4) Alpine: Fernando Alonso – Esteban Ocon
Some stunning performances from Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon gave Alpine a shock win and a surprise podium in 2021.
Alpine may not have had the fifth fastest car, but Alonso‘s and Ocon‘s strong results gave the team fifth in the Constructors’ Championship.
Both drivers are evenly matched and should continue to push each other forward in 2022.
3) Red Bull: Max Verstappen – Sergio Perez
Defending champion Max Verstappen has every quality you would want as a racing driver and he will only get better which is a scary prospect.
His 2021 was outstanding, especially for a first title challenge, with very few mistakes and the ability to deliver under the highest of pressures.
Teammate Sergio Perez did very well to keep his head to pick up valuable podiums for Red Bull.
The Mexican will just have to be careful that Verstappen‘s dominance doesn’t drain his confidence.
2) Ferrari: Charles Leclerc – Carlos Sainz
Ferrari‘s driver pairing of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz was the strongest combination in 2021, and some people may have them as their number one line-up for 2022.
Leclerc‘s one lap pace is outstanding and his pace has improved significantly too.
Sainz was expected to be beaten comfortably by the Monegasque driver, but he held his own and even finished ahead of Leclerc in the Drivers’ Championship.
Without doubt, both drivers are ready to fight for the title.
1) Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton – George Russell
Lewis Hamilton didn’t have his best season in 2021, but he showed his true colours in the second half of the season by winning a hat-trick of races, including an exceptional drive at the Brazilian GP, to give himself every chance of winning an eighth title.
We all know what happened in Abu Dhabi and although Hamilton will have been gutted, he’ll only come back stronger.
Hamilton will have a new teammate for the first time since 2016 as Russell joins Mercedes to make an all-British partnership at Mercedes.
Whilst Russell is capable of pushing Hamilton in qualifying, whether he can do it in the race remains to be seen.
Nevertheless, Mercedes have a formidable driver line-up and the mix of one of the greatest F1 drivers ever, and a potential future champion will be tough to beat.