With the 2022 F1 season reaching its summer break, we have chosen the top five drivers who have impressed us the most across the first 13 races of the campaign.
Just pipping Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz to a spot in the top five is Sergio Perez, who has enjoyed a much stronger sophomore campaign at Red Bull compared to his first season.
Perez is thriving in F1’s new-generation cars and until two costly retirements in three races in Canada and Silverstone, he looked to be a genuine contender in this year’s title race. Only Max Verstappen’s recent form, coupled with Perez being forced to play the team game, has seen the Mexican cast into a supporting role.
After a hugely consistent start to the season, including a maiden pole position in Saudi Arabia, and his first victory around the streets of Monaco, 32-year-old Perez was rewarded with a fresh contract which will keep him at Red Bull until at least the end of 2024.
Perez’s performances may have dipped slightly in recent rounds but he still holds third in the championship and has been a key factor in helping establish Red Bull’s healthy advantage in the constructors’ standings.
Ferrari started the season with a bang and Charles Leclerc found himself leading Max Verstappen by 46 points after Australia, having claimed two poles, two victories and a second place in the opening three races.
At that stage it looked like it was Leclerc’s title to lose but it has since gone horribly wrong. Leclerc has taken a total of seven poles in 13 races, but has only won three times in comparison to Verstappen’s eight victories and two poles.
This has largely been down to factors outside his control; twice he suffered engine failures while leading, and he has also been let down by several Ferrari strategic blunders. But Leclerc only has himself to blame for two high-profile errors – a spin at Imola and crash while leading in France – that have cost him a potential 32 points.
Leclerc has been blisteringly fast but his raw speed has not been able to prevent Verstappen from running away in the title race. Without Leclerc’s costly errors, Verstappen would still have a sizable lead, but one that could still be overturned. Leclerc will require more than a miracle to turn things around now.
Mr Consistency. That is the nickname George Russell has been dubbed following an impressive start to life at Mercedes, despite the team’s struggles for competitiveness so far this year.
Russell is the only driver to have finished in the top five in every race he has finished this season, with only a DNF at Silverstone interrupting his remarkable run. Five third-place finishes on the podium have helped the 24-year-old sit fourth in the championship.
He is two places and 12 points clear of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, having outperformed the seven-time world champion for seven races on the trot until his momentum was halted in Canada.
Russell held his own against Hamilton in qualifying, with the Saturday head-to-heads currently standing at 7-6 in Russell’s favour. He also claimed Mercedes first and only pole of 2022 so far, with an outstanding lap in Hungary.
The young Briton has stepped up to the tough challenge of being teammates with Hamilton and has performed superbly in a difficult and underperforming car. Can he maintain his consistency through the final nine races of the campaign?
Statistically, Lewis Hamilton is on course for his worst season in F1, with the seven-time world champion facing the prospect of losing his record of winning at least one grand prix in every season he has competed. Hamilton currently sits sixth in the championship and is behind his new Mercedes teammate Russell.
But those statistics don’t tell the full story of the seven-time world champion’s 2022 season.
In a bid to unlock more performance amid the porpoising and bouncing issues that plagued the W13 early in the season, Hamilton took the lead on Mercedes’ set-up experiments. These often put Hamilton on the back foot or ruined his weekend altogether, such as in Saudi Arabia.
Since Mercedes have got to the bottom of their issues and scaled back on experimenting, Hamilton’s results have drastically improved. The seven-time world champion is currently enjoying a streak of five consecutive podiums, including back-to-back second-place finishes. It is this recent form that sees him just edge Russell to runner-up spot in our list.
It is also worth nothing that Hamilton has had much more of the back luck of the two Mercedes drivers, mostly with the timing of Safety Cars, yet he is only 12 points adrift of Russell heading into the second half of the season, where his form usually hits a peak.
Verstappen has been a cut above the rest in 2022, despite early reliability gremlins threatening to spoil his title defence.
The Dutchman has won eight of the 13 races this year, and with a seemingly unassailable 80-point lead over Leclerc with nine races to go, is well on course to land his second world championship.
Verstappen’s combination of pure pace, aggression and race management has overwhelmed his rivals. His latest victory from 10th on the grid in Hungary was a real champion’s performance.
Aside from clumsy spins in Spain and Hungary that had no effect on his result, Verstappen has driven flawlessly. The reigning world champion’s form has been relentless and he has demonstrated a more controlled and calculated approach to his racing this year.
Despite the gap to teammate Perez being closer, Verstappen has been outstanding and seems to have stepped up another level since beating Hamilton in their intense title battle last season.
The way things are panning out, it appears to be more a question of when, not if, Verstappen will become a double world champion.