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today is Feb 04, 2023

The dust has just about settled after a mammoth 2022 season that saw Max Verstappen set records, Mercedes lose their constructors' crown to Red Bull, and Ferrari win races – but fall short of a championship challenge. But what did our team of writers and presenters make of the campaign gone by?

Who were the best drivers of 2022?

David Tremayne, Hall of Fame F1 Journalist: Max Verstappen – 15 wins says it all, and he seemed so much calmer and settled (bar Brazil) than he did in 2021.

George Russell – he fitted in perfectly at Mercedes from the outset, was very competitive with Lewis Hamilton, and scored superb wins in the Sprint and the Sao Paulo GP in Interlagos, underlining just what a threat he will be in 2023.

Charles Leclerc – he took the fight to Max right from the start, then watched as his season went off the rails. A couple of errors hurt him, but much of the decline was down to Ferrari’s strategies, yet he never lost his cool and barely uttered a critical word publicly. Heroic!

Honourable mention to Lewis Hamilton for never giving up and generally keeping a lid on the massive frustration he was feeling.

READ MORE: Ross Brawn on a stellar 2022 season, pride at seeing F1 ‘as strong as it’s ever been’ and his next chapter

Will Buxton, F1 Digital Presenter: Lando Norris pulled a P5 car into positions it shouldn’t have been in on a consistent basis throughout 2022, overcoming ill health twice and demolishing his highly regarded team mate in the process. A brilliant season. Charles Leclerc made a few key mistakes at Imola and Paul Ricard but in the wider picture there was nothing he could have done to pull the title any closer than he did. His best season yet in F1.

But nobody can touch Max Verstappen. Peerless and nigh on perfect, aggressive when he needed to be, moderate and calm when it mattered, brilliant on his tyres, sublime. Showed there’s still space to mature and put the past behind him with the Brazil team orders mess, but that in itself should be terrifying. Unbeatable, but still with room to grow.

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Verstappen delivered a dominant, record-breaking season

Chris Medland, Special Contributor: Max Verstappen, Lando Norris and Fernando Alonso. Verstappen was just so consistent when there was something to fight for, and was involved in some great racing against Charles Leclerc in the first part of the year. Norris is another who can count this year’s mistakes on one hand and he almost single-handedly dragged McLaren to fourth in the constructors’ championship (and got the only podium of any driver outside the top three teams), and Alonso really should have had many more points but for reliability issues.

WATCH: The drivers revisit their pre-season predictions for 2022 – but who got theirs right?

Lawrence Barretto, F1 Correspondent Presenter: Top of the list is Max Verstappen for delivering the most dominant campaign in recent memory. Charles Leclerc may have made some mistakes, but he handled his first campaign – under more pressure than most as a Ferrari driver – with a championship-contending car incredibly well. And thirdly, I’d choose Lando Norris. He may not have scored as well as last year, but he was a better all-round racer this year and got far better results than his McLaren deserved.

Mark Hughes, Special Contributor: Verstappen, Leclerc and Norris.

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Norris delivered the only non-Ferrari/Red Bull/Mercedes podium of the season

Which race weekend did you enjoy most of 2022?

MH: Australia, as always. Such a brilliant venue, closely followed by COTA. It's not so much the race as the environment it's in and it was great to be back three years after the last race there and the aborted 2020 weekend.

DT: Zandvoort and Monza were fun, via an amusing road trip. But Texas gets the nod. I love being in America and this was my first time back since 2019. Max and Lewis put on terrific performances to create an exciting race, there were good support events and demonstrations, the paddock was buzzing with interesting people, and I met Willy T Ribbs, who proved as entertaining and enlightened as I had expected. Thank you, Uncle Sam!

WB: Brazil. Every session had something to get your teeth into. A thrilling wet qualifying with an unexpected new pole-sitter, a cracking sprint and a thrilling race. It had everything. I don’t ever want to lose Interlagos from the calendar.

WATCH: Jolyon Palmer explains where the season was won and lost with his end-of-year review

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Sao Paulo delivered high drama with Kevin Magnussen taking his first career pole before a terrific Sprint and Grand Prix

CM: The two American races stood out for me. If I have to pick one, it’s probably going to be COTA, because that was a weekend with some fun events and a massive crowd, but edges out Miami (as cool as that week was) for the on-track action being really exciting too. I’d have to say Interlagos came close to taking it a few weeks ago though.

LB: The Sao Paulo Grand Prix weekend was the best of the year for the second season in succession. Qualifying saw a new pole-sitter in Kevin Magnussen, the Sprint delivered an incredible spectacle and the race itself was a cracker as Mercedes secured their first win of the year.

WATCH: From Magnussen’s ‘Viking comeback’ to Nyck ‘Debris’ – The top 20 team radio messages of 2022

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COTA produced another enthralling race

What shocked you most in 2022?

LB: I was shocked Mercedes went from reigning eight-time world champions to third-best overall and subsequently struggled to understand why their car was so slow and suffered so much with porpoising. That they turned things around to secure a first one-two in two years was very impressive.

MH: It has to be Max refusing to give Checo back his sixth position in Brazil. It made more sense when we got the background to it, but in the moment of it happening and Max's comments immediately afterwards it was genuinely difficult to understand why a sixth place would matter after having clinched the title and won 14 races.

DT: I guess the way in which Mercedes dropped a ball in the weeds with their interpretation of ground effect aero, how difficult it was to get to grips with the resultant porpoising and how long it took them to figure out exactly what was wrong, and then how long it took to go about fixing it. That showed how even the best can get caught out, and the manner in which Red Bull went on to dominate served to highlight just how far the champion team had fallen from grace.

TECH TUESDAY: The most improved, most innovative, best-developed, and most dominant F1 cars of 2022

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Mercedes' title-winning run ended with the W13

WB: Firstly, that Mercedes could get it so wrong. But then, a pleasant surprise that it took them so long to catch back up. That’s not intended as a dig against Mercedes, who as we know are a phenomenally impressive outfit, but as praise for the new financial and development regulations. In years gone by they could have thrown money and development time at the issue. Restricted in their abilities as reigning world champions to do so in 2022, it was the first example of how these regulations might help close the field up.

CM: How long it took Mercedes to get on top of their car. I remember the early races and thinking it would just be a matter of time for them to unlock the pace that appeared to be there if they could run the car the way they wanted to, but it just never seemed to really click. Even glimpses of pace were rarely enough to make them true contenders for a win until much later in the season, and I’d have certainly put money on Lewis Hamilton winning a race at some stage even when Mercedes looked their least competitive.

READ MORE: ‘Next year, we’re back’ declares Wolff, as Mercedes aim to recover from ‘character-building’ season

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This season was Hamilton's first winless campaign in F1

What was the best individual performance of 2022?

CM: Max Verstappen in Belgium. The championship was basically over anyway, but to be starting a long way back in the field at Spa could have thrown a spanner in the works. But Max and Red Bull were just on an absolutely different planet that weekend, and the way Verstappen carved through the field with such ease to lead so early – and win by such a massive margin – was when it all clicked perfectly for driver and team.

LB: Fernando Alonso’s performance in tough, rainy conditions in qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix was the stuff of legend. Quickest in final practice, the Spaniard was then P2 in Q1 and Q2 before staying there for Q3 to secure his first front-row start since the 2012 German Grand Prix.

MH: Max Verstappen's Spa weekend, just unbelievable, getting access to performance only available to a great. That car was super-fast there but would have spat most off the road.

READ MORE: How Red Bull engineered the RB18 to dominate at Spa

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Alonso pulled off P2 in qualifying for the Canadian GP

WB: It’s sometimes easy to overlook just how incredible an athlete a Formula 1 driver is, and how essential it is for them to be at their physical peak to endure a Grand Prix and perform at the highest level. Watching Lando Norris race with tonsilitis [in Spain] and then again with food poisoning [in Brazil] having lost 4kg, and pull off the races and the results he did was astounding.

DT: He had the best car in the Red Bull RB18 (which is no crime since it’s the whole point of the exercise) and he used it to its maximum on virtually every occasion, so overall Max Verstappen deserves this accolade. A new record of 15 race wins was outstanding, and of them all Spa demonstrated the absolute synergy of man and machine as he came from behind to win in tremendous style.

WATCH: From Leclerc battles to comeback wins – The best moments from Verstappen’s record-breaking season

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Verstappen produced one of F1's great dominant displays at Spa

What made you laugh the hardest?

DT: This is always a hard question. Certainly, I laughed in pleasure when I watched Mario Andretti driving a 2013 McLaren MP4-28A at COTA as if he was a 21-year-old getting his first chance in F1. But overall it would have to be when, having learned that Alpine had lost Fernando Alonso to Aston Martin, that very same day it transpired that they weren’t going to keep hold of Oscar Piastri, either. To lose one may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose two looks like carelessness, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde. Sorry, Otmar!

CM: A bit niche, but after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix I interviewed Guenther Steiner on the SiriusXM live show I report for, and I asked him about the turnaround in being disappointed with ninth place for Kevin Magnussen (who finished fifth the week before in Bahrain) after a scoreless year in 2021. He admitted that “Last year for two points I would have hugged the whole paddock”, but with his accent I misheard him and apologised for his language… As we moved on with the show he was frowning at me so I went back to him – live on air – to ask the word he used, and when he said “HUGGED” the penny dropped for everyone.

LB: Spending the day being personally styled by Yuki Tsunoda for a video feature was one of the most entertaining experiences of my career. Tsunoda is hilariously funny, great to be around and his bromance with team mate Pierre Gasly makes for brilliant company. I laughed so hard my stomach hurt.

READ MORE: Gasly says he'll miss 'outspoken, no bull****' Tsunoda as he departs for Alpine

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Tsunoda's sense of humour proved popular in 2022

MH: Usually Yuki Tsunoda on the radio because of the creativity of his curses in what is not his first language. His best one from last year 'traffic paradise' has even become a sort of meme among other drivers and you'll hear Valtteri Bottas, for example, explain why his previous lap wasn't ideal because he had some traffic paradise. Some of Yuki's other exclamations are fruitier but no less funny.

WB: I’m not sure but I can guarantee it involved Laura Winter. She’s been such a fantastic addition to the F1 TV team and we’ve become firm friends. She’s super professional, knows her stuff inside out, but as you’ll no doubt know from watching her on screen, has a wicked sense of humour and an infectious laugh. Add her to what are already calamitous rehearsals for F1 TV shows, and you have quite the mix.

We’re a small team both on site and back at base in the UK, and love our jobs and the sport with genuine passion. We put a lot of ourselves and our personality into what we do, and our rehearsals are rarely taken terribly seriously as they’re predominantly to check the tech is all working OK. They usually always end in fits of laughter. I’m very proud to be part of our little team, who put so much joy into everything they do.

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Plenty of characters provided the laughs this season...

Who needs to do better in 2023?

WB: Ferrari. They may have proclaimed early in the season that the title wasn’t their sole goal in 2022, but let’s be honest, Ferrari never enter a season with any goal other than the world championship. Even if they were using this year as a preparatory season for a full assault in 2023, the second half of the season should have them worried.

Mistakes were too frequent and too expensive. They ran out of development budget after detailing their intention as early as Miami to spend big in the second half of the season. Indecision on the pit wall. Strategic blunders. Pit stop errors. If they’re getting the basics so wrong, the title really shouldn’t be in their thoughts.

ANALYSIS: Why Binotto's gone now, what’s next for him – and who will replace him at Ferrari

DT: On the driver front Pierre Gasly needs to find his mojo again after a year in an uncompetitive car; Checo Perez needs to find that elusive half-second; Lewis Hamilton needs to buy Lady Luck dinner; Ferrari need to sort out their strategy; and Haas need to find a way to keep up development. But overall, I’d say Alfa Romeo. They began the year with a super little car which was on the weight limit and had great aero, but somehow reliability and other issues prevented them from realising its full potential.

CM: Aston Martin. That’s a team with huge potential and historically they have completely maximised their results even when they didn’t really have the resources to fight at the front of the midfield. That trait appears to have been lost, and they really didn’t hit the ground running with the new regulations. The team was excellent once again at getting the most out of races in the second half of the year and the car did improve, but expectations are high and Alonso hasn’t moved there to finish seventh in the constructors’ championship again.

LISTEN: ‘I don’t feel completely done’ – Ricciardo opens up on his chances of F1 racing return in our Beyond The Grid podcast

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There's plenty of room for improvement, according to our writers

LB: AlphaTauri. Franz Tost’s team had hopes of finishing P5 in the constructors’ championship, having finished one place lower the previous year. But their first shot at the new-for-2022 cars was not good and they ended up down in ninth, their worst performance since 2018.

MH: All of us, all the time. But in terms of team performance, Ferrari need to improve its race day operations and reliability, as does Alfa Romeo. Williams needs to get itself off the back of the grid more regularly, McLaren needs to correct its recent aero shortfalls and the pressure is on for Aston Martin to begin delivering, given all the investment and recruitment.