An assessment of teams with the biggest graph differentials between the start and end of the season.

FIA announced new regulations for Formula 1 2022 season as teams prepared to make a mark for the coming few years. Being the first year, reliability remained a common issue throughout the year. The start of the season saw the rise in usage of the term ‘porpoising’, which happens when the car has enough downforce to have air flow irregularities. It creates bouncing effects which cause harm to drivers’ bodies. It affected a few teams more than others. However, the term vanished over the course of the season.

As the Formula 1 season comes to an end, we make an assessment of which teams upgraded and downgraded the most from the start of the season.

Losers: Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Alpine

The biggest losers of 2022 have to be Ferrari. Their season started with a bang when they secured 1-2 in Bahrain. And before that, they were the front-runners in the pre-season testing. The Numoto Scuderia appeared to have the best car on the track. Like Mercedes, they also had porpoising problems, but the F1-75 was still the most efficient of all. The seedpods made the airflow in corners smoother, resulting in quicker overall timings.

Mechanical reasons, strategic blunders and personal mistakes dragged them down as the season progressed. Leclerc grabbed the pole at Monaco but a strategic blunder threw him out off the podium. His spin from the lead in France was the moment when his title fight was over. Team Principal kept insisting that team only needs to “work on the car than the strategies”. He even kept assuring that Ferrari can go on to win the remaining ten races but it all made no sense. Now his job is in danger and Ferrari is looking for alternatives.

Alfa Romeo kicked the season off with a bang when their brand-new driver pairing delivered double-points finish. Valtteri Bottas put the car in the third row alongside the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton. He finished the race P6 while rookie teammate Guanyu Zhou finished P10, securing a point in debut. The Finn once again put the Alfa Romeo in Q3 but had to quit the race in Lap 36 when he had to pull over to the side. His Q2 knockout in Australia marked the end of a 101 Q3 appearances streak that started before his time at Mercedes. He still managed to grab points. However, the reliability issues kept mounting up and the race pace of the C-42 kept degrading. At the end of the season, they were the team who lost the most speed from the start of the year to the finishing point.

They were still grabbing points until Canada. But starting from the British Grand Prix, they could only score a total of 4 points in 15 races (3 sprints). That underlines everything that needs to be said about the Italian squad’s season. But on the back of their start, they couldn’t quite get dislodged by the late-surging Aston Martins for P6 in the championship, despite tying in points.

Alpine was the centre of attraction during the summer break when their academy prospect Oscar Piastri put out that tweet where he disowned the contract and seat with them. The French team let go of Fernando Alonso to accommodate the Australian star. However, upon Alpine’s announcement, Piastri denied that he ever signed a contract for racing with them in 2023. The drama was put to an end when Webber spread the word about him already securing the drive with McLaren. That was a lot to take in, especially for team principal Otmar Szafnauer who still seems to be in denial about that.

Those were the off-the-track things. On-the-track things weren’t smooth either. Alonso himself lost over 60-70 points due to no fault of his own. He and Esteban Ocon came together on a few occasions, starting from Jeddah to the Interlagos Sprint. When Ocon caused damage to his veteran teammate in Brazil, Alonso iterated with: “I have damage. Thanks to our friend. Only two more races and it’s over.” The Spaniard is headed to Aston Martin to replace the retired Vettel.

The championship table does no justice to Alonso’s performance throughout the season. He was looking destined for at least second row in Australia when a hydraulic failure sent him to the wall. He later did put his A522 in the front row at the wet Gilles Villeneuve Circuit. Ocon had a consistent run. Despite having a much faster car, Alpine wasn’t far from the struggling McLaren. They got the championship P4 in a dodgy but fair and square way.

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Gainers: Red Bull, Mercedes, Aston Martin

Red Bull was entitled to be the front-runner alongside Ferrari when the testing results came out. Which anticipated a chaotic but classy title fight between Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen. Red Bull spent the first few races with a reliability scare. In the season opener, they suffered a double DNF which was the result of a mechanical failure in the final few laps. Sergio Perez grabbed a pole in Saudi Arabia, but the unfortunate timing of the safety car cost him and he eventually ended the race on the podium. However, Max had an intriguing duel with Charles where he came out as the winner by just 0.549s.

Another mechanical failure succumbed to Verstappen in Australia. Perez secured second behind Leclerc. Red Bull secured a 1-2 at Imola after they beat Ferrari one-on-one in Sprint. Earlier in qualifying, Verstappen beat Leclerc by a whopping 0.779s for the pole. That weekend and Miami Grand Prix sealed that if Red Bull finish the race, they are the better favourites. Red Bull’s reliability got better and with the straight-line speed RB-18 possessed, they won six back-to-back races from Imola to Canada and then went on a nine-race winning spree from France to Mexico. They wrapped up the Formula 1 constructor’s title at COTA and ended the season with Verstappen’s record 15th win of the season. At Yas Marina, they also set up their first-ever front-row lockout since 2018. However, they couldn’t round off the championship with their first-ever 1-2 finish in the driver’s standings.

Mercedes were heading into the first year of new regulations on the back of eight consecutive constructor’s championships. 2022 was unkind to them but they got their things right as the season progressed. If porpoising affected any team the most, it was Mercedes. They got a 3-4 finish in the season opener by the virtue of Red Bull’s mechanical faults. Most of the podiums they got during the initial rounds were scraps they picked up from the front-runners’ mistakes. They were still sorting out their final setup when they entered the Monaco Grand Prix, experimenting with things in Hamilton’s car. The W-13 finally got running as Hamilton secured five consecutive podiums from Canada to Hungary. Russell, too, had a consistent run as he had finished in the top five for 15 consecutive races. He finally won his first Grand Prix in Brazil after winning the sprint race earlier. Hamilton, however, never managed to grab a pole or a race victory. Which made 2022 the first year since his debut where he failed to win a race or grab a pole.

On the development of the 2023 car, team principal Toto Wolff mentioned that this year’s car has consumed a lot of time to let them develop the next year’s car. Cautiously indicating that Mercedes won’t really be the favourites right away.

Aston Martin is a team with high ambitions. They even ended up getting fined by FIA for overspending in 2021. But they could only finish P7 in the no man’s land between Williams and Alpha Tauri. At the end of the season, team owner Lawrence Stroll hyped up the team for 2022 saying, “Let’s show them who the f*** we really are!”. But 2022’s start was nothing they would have wanted. Both the Astons were kicked out in Q1. Lance Stroll made up a few places but Sebastian Vettel’s substitute Nico Hulkenberg finished the race last. The team’s first Q3 appearance came with Vettel at Imola. They got their first points too as both the drivers finished Top 10 (Stroll P10 and Vettel P8).

Their race pace improved over the season but the qualifying speed remained a problem. They were able to make places but starting down the grid affected their overall result throughout the year. However, compared to where they started this year, the final result is a massive improvement. They tied in points with the stalled Alfa Romeo but they couldn’t get the P6 in constructors’. Vettel scored 67% of the total points scored by the team this year.

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