Back in March during Bahrain pre-season testing I made a piece giving some bold(ish) predictions for the upcoming Formula One season. Some of these have come true, whilst others have aged about as well as a glass of cravendale left out on the counter on a warm summer’s day. We hoped that the racing would be better with the cars under the new regulations and for the most part I’d say that’s happened. There have been great battles, tense finishes, and more horrendous Ferrari strategies that you can shake a stick at. With it officially being over half way through the season now after a somewhat more interesting race than I was expecting at Paul Ricard on the weekend, and the summer break approaching shortly, it seemed like a good a time as any to look back at the predictions I made back in March where I was younger, more optimistic about this year having an exciting championship battle, and just as irritating as I am now. I’m going to grade them on a verdict scale ranging from “it happened” to “Jesus Christ man what the hell were you thinking” (and believe me, there’s a few of them). So without further ado, let’s get into it!
Prediction 1: Haas Score Points
Verdict: It happened!
Haas have made huge strides since their absolutely abysmal season last year. It would’ve been difficult for them to do much worse, but they’ve definitely improved. They currently sit P7 in the constructors standings on 34 points. Of those points, Kevin Magnussen has scored 22 whilst Mick Schumacher has scored his first 12 after finishing P8 in Great Britain and P6 in Austria. Maybe this seems like a bit of a weak prediction to make considering how the new regulations were going to make the smaller teams more competitive (even if they haven’t really) but think back to how bad Haas were the last few years. They did their best Great Britain at Eurovision impression in 2021 and ended up getting nil-pointed, scored only 3 points in 2020, and scored 28 in 2019. But now they look like a changed Haas who can definitely be midfield contenders, much like how Great Britain are now somehow hosting Eurovision next year (if any of the Eurovision committee are reading which I know you won’t be but if you are, then please choose Cardiff as the host city). We’re at the point now where it’s more of a shock if both Haas’s don’t make it out of Q1 when last year it was just a given. The team have gone through a bit of an image change off the track as well. Nikita Mazepin and former lead sponsor Uralkali were rightfully binned off after the Russian invasion of Ukraine back in February, but Mazepin shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Gone are the days of the Mazepins in the team and the god awful Rich Energy fiasco, and hopefully this is a new page in the always bonkers story that is Haas F1 Team.
Prediction 2: Yuki closes the gap
Verdict: So far so good
I never outright said that I thought Yuki Tsunoda would out perform and have a better season that Pierre Gasly, just that he’d close the gap. However that gap is definitely getting narrower. Currently Yuki sits in P16 in the Driver Standings with 11 points with Gasly only just ahead of him in P13 with 16 points. In terms of the head to head, Gasly leads Tsunoda in highest qualifying position 8-4, 7-5 in terms of race results, but they’re shared at 1-1 in terms of sprint race results. Considering how behind Tsunoda was at this point last year, he’s closed the gap massively. However conversations are still needed about the state of this year’s AlphaTauri. In short, it’s not a great car. As the stats show it rarely finishes in the points and they’re currently P8 in the constructor standings ahead of only Aston Martin and Williams. It’s disappointing considering how good they were last year, and especially how well Gasly performed. Whilst overall it’s been a bit of a dud for AlphaTauri, the gap between Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly has definitely gotten smaller.
Prediction 3: Alfa Romeo get a podium
Verdict: Work in progress
So this one hasn’t happened yet, but I thought there would be more different teams on the podium this year. The only ones that have are the big 3 (Ferrari, Mercedes, and Red Bull) and McLaren (somehow). It’s entirely possible that this could still happen, Valtteri Bottas has really impressed me in the Alfa this year and Zhou Guanyu has had a pretty decent start to his F1 career. It’s just a shame with Zhou that the Ferrari engines this year are rapid at the expense of having the reliability of Hermes and they break a lot. If either of them end up on podium then I think it’ll be Bottas, but much like Haas they’ve come far since last year. The artist formerly known as Sauber stunk up the grid a bit last year only scoring 13 points, but so far this season they’ve scored 51 and sit in P6. It’ll take a mental grand prix for it to happen where some of the big players get taken out (much like Hungary and Azerbaijan last year), but it’s not too beyond the realms of possibility.
Prediction 4: Maiden wins for Sainz and Stroll
Verdict: 50% spot-on, 50% WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING YOU ABSOLUTE MORON!
Remember what I said about some of the awful predictions? Yeah… So let’s start with the first half of this one, Carlos Sainz. If not for reliability issues and Ferrari wanting to do their absolute best to shoot themselves in the foot with absolutely horrible strategy every weekend then he’d be in much better contention for the driver’s championship. He has however had a very impressive season and managed to get his first win in F1 at Silverstone this year. I think he’ll probably end up winning another race or two this season as well. Now for the second part, yeah I’ve had a stinker. The reasons I said that Lance would get his first win this year are because 1) I predict it every year and when it eventually happens I’ll look like a genius and 2) I’m a Stroll fanboy (there’s really not many of us around). I thought that maybe there was a chance that one weekend the Aston Martin would find some decent pace with there being a few retirements for the usual main contenders and he could sneak a win just like Gasly did at Monza in 2020 or Esteban Ocon in Hungary last year. In reality, that’s not happening. Even if there is a mental race the Aston is getting nowhere near to the front. It’s been more like a green 2021 Haas than a green Mercedes (although this year a green Mercedes isn’t the worst description). Still, 10 races left and 10 opportunities for Super Stroll to make me look like a genius who’s played an absolute blinder. Come on Lance! Do it for your old pal Tom!
Prediction 5: Penalties for everyone
Verdict: I guess?
The reason I included this was because of how Abu Dhabi finished last year and people claiming that the rules were bended a bit for the sake of entertainment instead of being by the book. With the absolute storm it created online and in the media I thought that everything would be run by the book to the absolute T with appropriate penalties for any rule breaking so that F1 looked good again. The reality is that whilst it’s sort of happened, there hasn’t been a massive need for it. The driving overall has been pretty clean and any incidents were dealt with quickly. The only things that come to mind with leniency or strictness are how Yuki Tsunoda probably should’ve been black flagged at Azerbaijan after he finished the race with only half of his rear wing opening when using DRS but he was fine to carry on and how strict the stewards have been about track limits in Austria and France. Quite a lot of drivers saw their times deleted in either practice or qualifying and it was the reason why Mick Schumacher went out in Q1 in France. My personal take is that if they were infringed that much then surely they need to be wider? But what do I know.
Prediction 6: Charles Leclerc wins in Monaco
Verdict: Ferrari strategy team
Charles Leclerc is on pole for his home race. Charles Leclerc is leading home race. Rain is drying at home race. Time to pit for intermediate tyres. Ferrari call in Charles but do a u-turn bigger than a Tory Party Government. Ferrari don’t tell Charles Leclerc in quick enough time. Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc are double stacked. Really slow pit means Charles Leclerc comes out P4 behind Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz, and Max Verstappen. Nobody overtakes at Monaco. Bad Ferrari.
That basically sums it up. While he ended up seeing the chequered flag for the first time at his home race the relationship between Leclerc and the Monaco Grand Prix remains to be just as fragile and rocky as any relationship that’s ever come out of Love Island (with the exception of about 3). Ferrari end up annoying their driver who has the best shot of winning them a driver’s championship for the first time since Kimi Raikkonen did in 2007 and bad strategy costs them the weekend. But surely that’s the last time Ferrari will mess up their pit strategy that badly, right guys? Right?
Prediction 7: Lewis Hamilton, 8 time champion of the world
Verdict: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA no
Okay fine I admit it. Max Verstappen is winning the title again this year, Mercedes weren’t sandbagging in pre-season, porpoising actually is bad for cars, Mercedes aren’t too big to fail, Red Bull were never going to have a flop year. There I’ve said it (albeit with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat as I think back to how close Lewis was to breaking the championship record) now leave me alone. In all seriousness though, I thought plucky old Toto Wolff was playing the mother of all red herrings when in reality the W13 was just not that great a car. Granted it has improved as the season has gone on, and on its day it’s definitely the third best car on the grid, but it just hasn’t come together enough. I don’t think this will be the state of Mercedes for much longer and I do think they’ll end up bouncing back next year thus ending up in title contention, but it just wasn’t to be. I thought for a bit that Charles would win his first title but as I’ve mentioned many times, the Ferrari pit strategy exists and the engine is prone to just breaking (annoyingly a lot of the time when Charles is leading). I don’t see how anyone but Verstappen wins it at this point, it would take a monumental Tottenham Hotspur level of bottle to let this one slip. I was hoping for an exciting title battle like last year, just with less interesting interpretations of the safety car rules (last one I promise). I thought it would be a Merc/Sir Lewis constructors and driver double, but I’ll eat my hat if it ends up anything other than a Red Bull/Max double.
Victor Martins wins F3. Verdict: probably yes. It looks like it’ll be an exciting 3 way fight between Martins, Isack Hadjar, and Arthur Leclerc with 5 races left, but I think Martins just gets it.
Theo Pourchaire wins F2. Verdict: still possible but less confident. The boy is absolutely quality but Felipe Drugovich has found some frightening consistency since Saudi Arabia. I hope it can be a 3 way fight as well with Drugovich, Pourchaire, and Logan Sargeant, but I think Drugovich will do just enough to take the title.
Andretti F1 team get announced for 2023. Verdict: stop believing everything you read on the internet. I mean, it might still happen one day. They might still bring Colton Herta from Indycar with them, but it’s not happening in time for 2023.