Motorsport in 2022: Verstappen prospers, Mercedes flops

In 2022, the two premier championships in motorsport witnessed sensational racing and hard-fought title battles. Here’s a look at some of the highlights.

Numero Uno: Max Verstappen won the championship at a canter, finishing on top in 15 out of 22 races.

Numero Uno: Max Verstappen won the championship at a canter, finishing on top in 15 out of 22 races. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

In 2022, the two premier championships in motorsport witnessed sensational racing and hard-fought title battles. Here’s a look at some of the highlights.

Formula One had a challenging task to live up to the blockbuster season of 2021, when Max Verstappen won the title on the last lap of the season finale in Abu Dhabi, beating Lewis Hamilton.

The tournament ushered in a new era of technical regulations designed to make racing better by allowing cars to follow each other closely. Every new rule cycle gives a chance to reset the competitive order, and 2022 was no different.

Mercedes, which had dominated F1 since 2014, tripped up with the new regulations. It had a fundamental weakness in its car that made it difficult for the team to fight for wins.

Ferrari had the fastest car on the grid in the first part of the season, with Red Bull not far behind. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc won two out of the first three races, building up a sizeable lead, while Verstappen had two retirements.

But over the next few months, the tables turned. Red Bull found pace and Ferrari suffered due to reliability issues and poor strategic decisions, allowing Verstappen to take the lead in the standings.

In France, Leclerc made a crucial mistake while leading the race, and crashed. Even as Ferrari was busy scoring own goals, Verstappen and Red Bull embarked on a winning run.

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Their five consecutive wins effectively ended the title race by September. Verstappen successfully defended his driver’s crown at the Japanese Grand Prix to join an elite list of drivers to have won two titles.

En route, the Dutchman set new records, including the one for the most wins in a year: he won 15 out of 22 races even as his team won the constructor’s title for the fifth time in history.

An aerial view of the Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida. F1 races were held here from 2011 to 2013. It will host a Moto GP race next year.

An aerial view of the Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida. F1 races were held here from 2011 to 2013. It will host a Moto GP race next year. | Photo Credit: RAMESH SHARMA

Defending champion Mercedes did fight back towards the end of the season, but had to settle for third place. George Russell gave the team its only win in Brazil. Team-mate and seven-time world champion Hamilton endured his first winless season since his debut in 2007.

Moto GP

After Marc Marquez’s dominance ended in 2020 due to his injury troubles, Moto GP witnessed new champions. Just as in 2021, the battle this year was between Fabio Quartararo, the reigning champion, and Francesco Bagnaia.

Until the last few rounds, the battle between them went neck-and-neck. Eventually, Bagnaia in his Ducati prevailed over Yahama rider Quartararo to clinch his maiden title.

In the early part of the season, Quartararo led the race with a handy cushion, thanks to three wins in the first 10 races. Bagnaia then fought back with four consecutive wins, cutting the deficit.

While Bagnaia won only one race after that, he was consistent enough, his three podium finishes helping him take the lead in Australia. The Italian then cemented his position at the top with a fine victory in Malaysia that gave him a 23-point cushion heading into the season finale in Valencia. Quartararo had an outside chance, with 25 points up for grabs, but needed to win the race and his rival to finish 15th or lower.

In the end, he settled for fourth place. Bagnaia thus became the third driver in as many years to win the Moto GP crown.

Indian motorsport

2022 witnessed some promising developments in India. Two world championship events are coming to India in 2023: Moto GP signed a deal to race in India in September 2023 at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida, which hosted F1 races from 2011 to 2013, and Hyderabad was announced as the host city for a Formula E race in February 2023.

Coming to goings-on on the racing track, India’s Jehan Daruvala had a subpar outing in his third attempt at the FIA Formula 2 Championship.

He could finish only seventh in the standings, just as in 2021. Daruvala has now signed as a reserve and test driver for Mahindra Racing in Formula E. Mahindra Racing had a disappointing outing in the electric single-seater championship, finishing eighth in the standings in the 2021-22 season with just 46 points.

With the new Gen3 car to be introduced this year, Mahindra will hope for a better car in the new season when it races in front of home fans.

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