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F1 2022 - top 10 drivers

F1 2022 - top 10 drivers

F1 News

F1 2022 - top 10 drivers

F1 2022 - top 10 drivers

It was a season spiced up by new aerodynamic regulations designed to deliver closer racing and more overtaking, and for the most part, it delivered.

Unfortunately, the title race ultimately turned into a one-sided affair as Max Verstappen set a new record.

GPFans counts down our top 10 drivers of the year [article reproduced by kind permission of Goodwood Road & Racing where it was first published with this writer].

10. Esteban Ocon

Much like team-mate Fernando Alonso, the French driver was not immune to Alpine's battle with unreliability, most notably retiring from the British and Singapore GPs with fuel pump and engine failures.

There is no doubt, however, his veteran team-mate bore the lion's share of the woes, and yet there were only 11 points between them by the conclusion of a season in which Ocon was also out-qualified 12-10 by Alonso.

Ocon is as solid and dependable as they come, and he did provide the team's best result of the season with fourth in the rain-affected Japanese GP.

But he falls behind the 41-year-old in these standings simply because the latter extracted more from his car on a more consistent basis.

9. Alex Albon

Similar to Alonso, the performance-to-car-performance ratio was a night-and-day difference, with Albon delivering - like George Russell for the team previously - qualifying and grand prix drives that went beyond the limits of his Williams.

Albon was not 'Mr Saturday' like Russell, but he still drove consistently over one lap, deservedly reaching Q3 for the first time at the Belgian Grand Prix.

On Sundays, he produced stand-out displays, such as starting last in Australia and still claiming a point; starting last at Imola and finishing 11th; ninth from 18th in Miami; a point for 10th at Spa.

He also defied the odds to return for the race in Singapore two weeks after suffering anaesthetic-related respiratory failure following appendicitis surgery that forced him out of the Italian GP.

8. Carlos Sainz

After finishing above Charles Leclerc in his first year with Ferrari last season, Sainz was expected to continue to take the fight to his arguably more illustrious team-mate this season but it never materalised.

Despite six podiums in the first 10 races, culminating in his maiden victory in the British GP, Sainz struggled with the car from the outset given the new regulations, in contrast to Leclerc. He has openly stated he has to make changes if he is to improve in 2023.

There were also six retirements to blight his scorecard - three of his own making, two mechanical, and one in Austin where he started on pole, only to be punted out by Russell after making a slow start that seemed to sum up his season.

7. Sergio Perez

When you have the same machinery as your team-mate and yet you only manage to win two grands prix to his 15, it suggests that Perez fell considerably short of what he would have hoped for at the start of the season.

There were nine additional podiums, including seven as runner-up, and the Mexican did play his part in helping Red Bull secure its first constructors' title since 2013, but finishing 149 points behind Verstappen underlines the gulf between the duo.

And what are we to make of the alleged claim that Perez deliberately crashed his car in qualifying for the Monaco GP, serving as the cause for Max Verstappen's angst in Brazil? It makes you wonder if the trust between the pair will ever be the same again.

6. Lando Norris

This one might be controversial given the championship standings, but I'm going to suggest Norris all too often drove beyond the limits of an underwhelming McLaren to clinch the best-of-the-rest tag behind the pairings from the top-three teams.

The Briton was the only other driver to secure a podium after Verstappen, Perez, Leclerc, Sainz, Russell and Lewis Hamilton, finishing third at Imola, whilst he was inside the top 10 in 16 other races.

When you consider what Norris achieved in contrast to team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, outscoring the ousted Australian by 85 points, and in a MCL36 he openly conceded he did not enjoy driving, in my opinion, the 23-year-old deserves his lofty position on this list.

5. Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton is elevated above Sainz for similar reasons as with Russell over Leclerc, simply because the W13 was far inferior to the F1-75 for the majority of the campaign, yet he managed to finish within six points of the Spanish driver.

But for suffering a first mechanical failure since the 2018 Austrian GP in the traditional curtain-closer in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton would have finished above Sainz.

Yes, the 37-year-old did not win a race for the first time in his 16 seasons in F1, whilst he also finished outside of the top five in the standings across the same period.

But he played a pivotal role in helping develop the car through its early-season issues and lifting team morale at key times. It is not all about the results on this list.

4. Charles Leclerc

A case of what might have been for Leclerc following a blistering start that saw him win two of the first three races and finish second in the other to open up a 46-point cushion over Verstappen at such an early stage.

One victory in the following 19 grands prix, and just two wins from nine pole positions, however, tells its own story as unreliability, a raft of strategic errors from the pitwall and mistakes from Leclerc, all contributed to a sorry tale of woe and a title challenge that petered out into the aether.

The Monégasque driver at least managed to claw back some semblance of respectability with six podiums in the final eight races and finishing runner-up in the drivers' standings to Verstappen, albeit a staggering 146 points adrift.

3. Fernando Alonso

Like a fine wine, Alonso continues to improve with age, and this year was no exception as his all-around racecraft and speed again shone, only to be undermined by the woeful reliability issues of his Alpine.

A run of 10 results in the points across the middle of the season was bookended by a catalogue of technical problems early and late on in the campaign.

By his own argument, they contributed to a loss of around 70 points, with his final failure in Abu Dhabi the sour cherry on top of a bitter cake that sparked his summer decision to join Aston Martin for 2023.

Even in Canada, after qualifying a season-high second, Alonso endured mid-race engine trouble that saw him drop through the field to seventh, whilst a late-race penalty for weaving in trying to defend himself because of those problems, demoted him to ninth at the flag. It summed up his year.

2. George Russell

To finish just 33 points shy of championship runner-up Charles Leclerc and 35 points clear of seven-time champion team-mate Hamilton represents a remarkable achievement from the British driver in his debut campaign with Mercedes.

The W13 was insufferable over the first half of the season, especially as Russell and Hamilton were jolted violently by porpoising and bouncing in the cockpits of their cars.

Yet Russell somehow managed to finish in the top five in 19 of the 22 races, culminating in a thoroughly deserved maiden grand prix win in São Paulo, to add to his sprint triumph the day before, and seven other podiums across the year.

1. Max Verstappen

Just an outstanding season, not quite from start to finish when you consider the Red Bull driver suffered two retirements in the first three races, but from the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola onwards, Verstappen was near-faultless.

Calm, measured, mature driving delivered a record-breaking 15 victories across the campaign, as well a further two wins in the sprints, and a seismic 146-point gap to his nearest rival.

The only blemish was his refusal to allow by team-mate Perez in the São Paulo Grand Prix, citing an unnamed incident earlier in the season as his reason.

They've apparently forgiven one another, but such moments are rarely forgotten as we now begin the countdown to next season.

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