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2022 Formula 1 Awards: Max Verstappen Too Good

The 2022 Formula 1 season didn’t end up having the fireworks that 2021 did in the driver championship, but it was still an exciting year for the series.

There was plenty of drama, action — and, thanks to Ferrari, comedy. 

Here’s some of the happenings most worth calling out.

Michael Schumacher Award for Most Outstanding Driver: Max Verstappen

Despite not having the fastest one- or two-lap car through the balance of the season, Max Verstappen was able to put together a record-breaking 15-win season thanks to his massive amount of talent.

Case in point: despite Verstappen’s domination, he actually scored less poles and less fastest laps in his second championship season than he did in his first in 2021, and didn’t lead the field in either category in 2022. But that didn’t matter; Verstappen’s excellent tire management combined with the Red Bull’s superior tire management and stupid-fast straightaway speed went together like peanut butter and jelly. 

And no, this isn’t a case of Ferrari giving Verstappen the win thanks to clown-car strategy. Verstappen and Red Bull very clearly found another gear midway through the season and won nine of the last 11 races largely on pace alone, with their only blemishes being an off-weekend at Singapore and a Brazil race where he had damage from contact with Lewis Hamilton on the first lap.

Read all of Frontstretch‘s content looking back on 2022 here

When Verstappen was plugged in, which was very often this season, he was all but unstoppable.

See also
2022 IndyCar Awards: Will Power Makes A Powerful Statement

Alain Prost Award for Most Valuable Driver: Lando Norris

This may be a weird selection considering the last entry on this list, but Lando Norris gets this award because, well, no driver was more individually valuable to their team than he was.

McLaren scored 159 points this season, and Norris alone accounted for 122 of them. Without Norris, teammate Daniel Ricciardo’s 37 points would have dropped the team to eighth in constructor standings, instead of the fifth it finished. Norris also defeated Ricciardo in every head-to-head stat.

With Carlos Sainz and George Russell both scoring wins this season, Norris is now undisputedly the best driver in the field without a career win. But the lack of wins, Sochi last year aside, has nothing to do with Norris and is more indicative of McLaren struggling to break out from the midfield in recent years.

Next year may well be his breakout season.

Ayrton Senna Award for Best Qualifier: Charles Leclerc

Leclerc proved this season that he could be a viable championship contender and could play to the strengths of a good car Ferrari gave him — but also couldn’t make up the car’s weaknesses.

Leclerc’s 10 poles led the field, eight more than his teammate. Leclerc was able to beat Sainz 15-7 in overall qualifying results and really put the superior downforce of the Ferrari to good use throughout the season.

But all that downforce came at a price. The Ferrari was fast in the corners but indulged itself on tires. There were some tracks where Ferrari could brute force it, but there were many tracks where Ferrari were just not going to cut it on that alone. Ferrari’s strategy and occasional unreliability also cost it multiple race wins, to the chagrin of many tifosi

The resignation of Mattia Binotto from the team principal position of the Prancing Horse is not a timely one, in that it will be pretty hard to address the issues of both the car and the organization as whomever the new boss accumulates themselves to the role. That being said, Ferrari does at least have a decent base to build itself on the next few years of this rules configuration.

Murray Walker Award for Biggest Story: The “Picasco”/Who Wants to Drive for McLaren?

The retirement announcement of Sebastian Vettel, although few would know at the time, would set off a chain of events that concluded with Alpine having a carton of eggs falling on their faces.

Alpine’s Fernando Alonso was announced as the surprise replacement for Vettel at Aston Martin a few days after the retirement announcement. So surprising that Alpine team principal Otto Szafnauer found out about it when Aston Martin sent out the press release.

Szafnauer then announced that Alpine reserve driver Oscar Piastri would drive for the team in 2023. Hours later, Piastri sent out this tweet:

Piastri was later confirmed to be a McLaren driver, leading to a legal challenge by Alpine. The full details of Piastri’s situation can be found here, but to make a long story short, Piastri had zero contractual obligations with Alpine past this season and the challenge itself was such a waste of time that Alpine had to pay for everybody’s legal fees.

Piastri will team up with Norris next season at McLaren, while Alpine eventually bought out Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri contract to field an all-French lineup with Esteban Ocon in 2023.

Dan Gurney Award for Most Underrated: Alex Albon

I was bullish on the idea of Alex Albon being able to do much more in F1 after flaming out in Red Bull in 2020, but the Thai driver proved doubters wrong in 2022.

Albon was able to drag a fairly uncompetitive Williams to a few decent point finishes. Most notably, he went all but the final lap of the Australian Grand Prix on a single set of hard tires, with good enough lap times to end the day in 10th for a point. 

He was still able to pretty decisively beat teammate Nicholas Latifi in the last two months of the season after being reintubated and in the ICU for respiratory failure following surgery for appendicitis, only missing Monza in the process. His drives were one of very few bright spots in the season for Williams, and he’ll be its lead driver in 2023 alongside American rookie Logan Sargeant.

See also
Looking Back: The 2007 F1 Season, Pt. 1

Narain Karthikeyan Award for Cucumber of the Year: Lance Stroll

It’s somewhat ironic that Lance Stroll won this award as Vettel’s final teammate. But Stroll cost his team owner, who also happens to be his father, millions of dollars because of his actions in the final month of the season.

At the United States Grand Prix in October, Stroll made a bonehead move on lap 22 trying to block Alonso down the long COTA back straight, causing him to DNF from his seventh-place running position. 

Then, in the Brazil Sprint, Stroll blocked his teammate all the way to the grass while fighting outside of the points, costing Vettel time he needed as he finished just one-and-a-half seconds off Kevin Magnussen, who scored the final point in the sprint.

Aston Martin ended up tied for sixth in points with Alfa Romeo, with Alfa Romeo taking sixth outright on countback. Had Stroll not made just one of those mistakes, let alone both of them, the Aston Martin team would have finished sixth instead of seventh in points and would have millions of more dollars in prize money awarded to it.

About the author

Michael has watched NASCAR for 20 years and regularly covered the sport from 2013-2021. He moved on to Formula 1, IndyCar, and SRX coverage for the site, while still putting a toe in the water from time-to-time back into the NASCAR pool.

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