Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain speaks during a press conference at the Formula One Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain. The Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix will take place on Sunday. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: It looks like Red Bull will be the team to beat again in the Formula 1 2022 season which begins this weekend at the Bahrain International Circuit. But, Ferrari could be a title challenger this time as we start again with a clean slate. However, this may be hard for some to do such as Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton who will still be feeling very frustrated by the final race of last season in Abu Dhabi which cost him the championship to Max Verstappen.

It is bound to be another epic tussle between the pair not to mention the likes of Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly. Sebastian Vettel will miss the first race after testing positive for COVID-19 and could rue the missed opportunity of 25 points come the end of the season.

A lot has happened since the race in Yas Marina last December. Race director Michael Masi was removed from his role following the FIA’s review of events. FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem announced that Niels Wittich, former DTM race director, and Eduardo Freitas, WEC race director, will alternate as race director. Meanwhile, Russia will not have a race due to the conflict. There are 10 teams, 20 drivers and 22 races and you can be sure there will be thrills aplenty when the action gets under way.

Switching teams

Haas F1 Team terminated its contract with Nikita Mazepin and signed Kevin Magnussen. George Russell left Williams and joined Mercedes, who dropped Finland’s Valtteri Bottas. He will instead drive for Alfa Romeo with rookie Zhou Guanyu. Thai racer Alexander Albon is with Williams.

Meanwhile, Lando Norris penned a new deal keeping him with McLaren through 2025 while Verstappen signed an extension keeping him with Red Bull until his thirties.

Hamilton isn’t changing teams but he is changing his name. He announced at the 2022 Dubai Expo that he wishes to include his mother’s maiden name, Larbalestier.

Teams and drivers:
Alfa Romeo: Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu
AlphaTauri: Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda
Alpine: Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon
Aston Martin: Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll
Ferrari: Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz
Haas F1 Team: Mick Schumacher and Kevin Magnussen
McLaren: Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo
Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton and George Russell
Red Bull: Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez
Williams: Nicholas Latifi and Alexander Albon

Dark Horses

It will be Red Bull and Mercedes dominating proceedings again but McLaren look pretty quick but Ferrari are the dark horse this season thanks to the one-two punch of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Charles Leclerc. During preseason testing the Italian brand was a standout and impressed in Barcelona and Bahrain.