F1 predictions: Lewis Hamilton revenge vs Max Verstappen? Ferrari back on top? Big Debate


F1 preview: A lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix

The 2022 Formula One season gets underway with the Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend. Express Sport’s team of reporters predict who will reign supreme in both championships in the latest Big Debate with Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, George Russell and Charles Leclerc among the main Drivers’ Championship contenders.

Luke Chillingsworth

Drivers’ Championship winner – Max Verstappen

Red Bull has impressed in pre-season testing and we could be entering an era of Verstappen dominance. Ferrari could push them close in the opening races but traditionally Red Bull have called a better strategy which will be crucial over the course of a season.

Constructors’ Championship winner – Ferrari

Ferrari has won the ‘winter World Championship’ once again with a sublime performance in Bahrain. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz is probably the second-best driver line-up on the grid and both have the ability to deliver results on a regular basis.

VOTE NOW: F1 POLL: Will Hamilton topple Verstappen? And can Ferrari cause upset?

Biggest surprise – Haas

Haas won’t be challenging for the top step of the podium but they could be one of the most improved teams on the grid. Haas claimed they had started to focus entirely” on their 2022 car before last year even started and looked quick at Bahrain’s pre-season test. A move off the foot of the table would be a massive achievement for what has been a torrid few years.

Biggest disappointment – Mercedes

Say it quietly, but Mercedes does not look as competitive as previous seasons. The Silver Arrows struggled with its porpoising issues throughout the Bahrain test sessions and struggled to match the pace of Red Bull and Ferrari. They could solve their issues and still challenge for the titles but are unlikely to be as dominant as Merc fans have come to expect.

F1 predictions: Lewis Hamilton revenge vs Max Verstappen? Ferrari back on top? Big Debate

F1 predictions: Lewis Hamilton revenge vs Max Verstappen? Ferrari back on top? Big Debate (Image: GETTY)

Jordan Seward

Drivers’ Championship winner – Lewis Hamilton

Last season’s Hollywood ending has perfectly set the stage for Lewis Hamilton’s glorious redemption this time around. There will be plenty of scrapes and uncomfortable moments but my money is on Lewis.

Constructors’ Championship winner – Red Bull

The romantic in me tells me to go with Ferrari. My head on the other hand is saying Red Bull. I think this is the year Mercedes’ grasp on the Constructors’ Championship slips, anyhow. George Russell is still earning his stripes and I think he could ultimately cost Mercedes.

Biggest surprise – Carlos Sainz

Carlos Sainz. Not only do I think he has the talent, ambition and drive to win races this season, but critically, I also think he now has the car to do it as well.

Biggest disappointment – Pierre Gasly

I fear Pierre Gasly could become a victim of his own success. Against the odds, he proved his class last season but I’m not sure the AlphaTauri AT03 will be competitive enough in this new era of F1 to see a repeat of that, unfortunately for him and his Red Bull intentions.

F1 predictions: Lewis Hamilton revenge vs Max Verstappen? Ferrari back on top? Big Debate

F1 predictions: Lewis Hamilton revenge vs Max Verstappen? Ferrari back on top? Big Debate (Image: GETTY)

Neil Squires

Drivers’ Championship winner – Lewis Hamilton

No one really fell for the Hamilton walk-away storyline but the travails of Abu Dhabi definitely hurt. They will also have lit a fire to right the wrongs of the back-of-a-fag-packet officiating which cost him the title last year. Expect No 8 by way of retribution and by a bigger margin than most expect.

Constructors’ Championship winner – Mercedes

There is more uncertainty than usual surrounding Mercedes after the complete car rebuild and pre-season testing only added to that but you can be certain the crafty Toto Wolff was holding plenty back. It may take them a while but once Mercedes get into their stride they will, as ever, take some beating.

Biggest surprise – Kevin Magnussen

The supposed hole Haas were in after the eve-of-season exit of Nikita Mazepin has been filled with a driver upgrade in Magnussen. And with the car that Haas sacrificed last season for purring nicely, the Dane looks to have the machinery to make a mark on his return to F1.

Biggest disappointment – Sebastian Vettel

Copping Covid and being ruled out of Bahrain wasn’t the greatest of starts and it may well be the signpost to a season of struggle for the former world champion. Vettel has the CV but put your money on teammate Lance Stroll ending up with more points at Aston Martin.

Lewis Hamilton to change his name

Matthew Dunn

Drivers’ Championship winner – Lewis Hamilton

Having had a record eighth world title snatched away from him by the scriptwriter, sorry race director, Hamilton in a Mercedes at his most determined will be too good to beat.

Constructors’ Championship winner – Mercedes

They have won the title for each of the last eight years and there is nothing to suggest that Red Bull will topple them because however good Max Verstappen is, there’s always George Russell (see below).

Biggest surprise – George Russell

Mercedes have gone down the Chelsea route of blooding a talented youngster in their “Young Driver” programme, “loaning” him out to Williams and then sticking him in the first team. He will be an expectedly useful team-mate to Hamilton up there in the podium spots and could frustrate Verstappen at times.

Biggest disappointment – Michael Masi

The former race director’s non-involvement may mean a more logical and less populist, made-up-on-the-spot conclusion to the race calendar this season, but he did at least get people talking about Formula One again. Another Mercedes-dominated season may be a step backwards.

F1 predictions: Lewis Hamilton revenge vs Max Verstappen? Ferrari back on top? Big Debate

F1 predictions: Lewis Hamilton revenge vs Max Verstappen? Ferrari back on top? Big Debate (Image: GETTY)

Charlie Gordon

Drivers’ Championship winner – Max Verstappen

Many, perhaps with rose-tinted spectacles on, will expect Lewis Hamilton to come roaring back this season to right the wrongs of 2021. While the Brit will be hungry, Verstappen has a point of his own to prove after Michael Masi’s interjection tarnished the perception of his maiden title.

Constructors’ Championship winner – Red Bull

While Ferrari threaten to close the gap, I still expect the upcoming season to be a battle between Red Bull and Mercedes. The Silver Arrows have won eight team titles in a row, but every streak comes to an end, and Christian Horner will smell blood after Mercedes’ pre-season mishaps.

Biggest surprise – Mick Schumacher

Haas look set to improve after making up the numbers in 2021. Having banked a full year of F1 experience, put in some blistering pre-season times and blown Nikita Mazepin out of the water during his debut campaign, we could finally see what Schumacher is made of in the coming months.

Biggest disappointment – The race for the Drivers’ Championship

F1 fans will keep their fingers crossed that the title race can live up to last year’s blockbuster battle. That is an impossible task, and unless Mercedes have been bluffing this pre-season, Red Bull and Verstappen could run away with it before Toto Wolff and co have got their act together.

F1 predictions: Lewis Hamilton revenge vs Max Verstappen? Ferrari back on top? Big Debate

F1 predictions: Lewis Hamilton revenge vs Max Verstappen? Ferrari back on top? Big Debate (Image: GETTY)

Tom Parsons

Drivers’ Championship winner – Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton’s F1 career appeared to be hanging by a thread following his huge disappointment last season. And, at the age of 37, the ace might not have many more opportunities to claim that elusive eighth title. The Briton is a true champion – and champions deliver when it matters. So Hamilton could well make history before deciding to call it a day while he’s still at the top.  

Constructors’ Championship winner – Mercedes

Mercedes have won the last eight Constructors’ Championships so they certainly know what it takes to achieve glory. There are doubts about how their new car will fare in 2022. But, with George Russell in the hot seat next to Hamilton, don’t put it past them to triumph once again.

Biggest surprise – Charles Leclerc

Charles Leclerc hasn’t won a Grand Prix since 2019 and only finished seventh in the Drivers’ Championship last year. But Ferrari appear to have developed a decent car over the winter – and Leclerc could be the man to benefit.

Biggest disappointment – Sergio Perez

Sergio Perez might have produced an imperious display to frustrate Hamilton during the Abu Dhabi season-deciding Grand Prix in December. But the fact he was only handed a one-year extension by Red Bull is a clear indication of how the team view the 32-year-old. Perez only secured five podium finishes last season – and he could disappoint this time around. 

Lando Norris loves the Hamilton and Verstappen drama

Gideon Brooks

Drivers’ Championship winner – Max Verstappen

For the first time in years, Lewis Hamilton goes into the drivers’ title fight not as clear favourite. And while the controversial finish denying him an eighth title will ensure he is fired up, at 37, having thought about packing in, the 13-years-younger Verstappen could do him again.

Constructors’ Championship winner – Red Bull

The last eight Constructors Championships have gone to Mercedes but it took until the 22nd and last race to secure it and it would not take much for the balance to tilt to a fresh name on the trophy in Red Bull.

Biggest surprise – Ferrari

Ferrari have been languishing under the radar for too long particularly given the talents of Charles Leclerc and their superb run through the pre-season testing suggests they might yet make it a three-way fight at the front.

Most looking forward to – Russell vs Hamilton

Seeing how the dynamic between Hamilton and Mercedes new signing and, probably eventual No 1, George Russell plays out. Another Brit in a competitive car is good for the sport in this country but whether Hamilton will see it that way if the understudy outshines on occasion is another matter.

Will Lancaster

Drivers’ Championship winner – Max Verstappen

It is more than likely going to be a two-horse race for the Drivers’ Championship this season – with the duo that battled it out last campaign gunning for the title once again. It really is tight to call, and Hamilton should have won last year’s competition. With Mercedes showing a poor showing in testing, that hasn’t helped Hamilton’s cause, and with Verstappen having the wind in his sails from Abu Dhabi he is my choice to just edge ahead for his second accolade.

Constructors’ Championship winner – Red Bull

The majority of the time, the Drivers’ Championship winner helps out with the Constructors’ Championship for his team – although that didn’t happen last year due to Sergio Perez lacking behind Valtteri Bottas. Yet with Perez having had a season of podium-level racing under his belt, and relative rookie George Russell replacing Bottas as Mercedes’ second driver, I expect Red Bull to win the title to end Mercedes’ dominance.

Biggest surprise – Daniel Ricciardo

This never would have been said a month ago, but McLaren’s extremely strong showing in pre-season testing has really altered many perceptions about how they will fare this year. With Ricciardo being the more senior driver as opposed to prodigy Lando Norris, the Australian really could upset the apple cart and at least pose a relatively decent title charge.

Biggest disappointment – Valtteri Bottas

It would be harsh on Bottas to expect disappointment as he has joined Alfa Romeo to replace fellow countryman Kimi Raikkonen. But having come third last season, the Finn will likely be further down the standings this season when he really should be aiming higher. It isn’t a disappointment as such – more of a ‘what could have been’ given the new change in regulations.

F1 predictions: Lewis Hamilton revenge vs Max Verstappen? Ferrari back on top? Big Debate

F1 predictions: Lewis Hamilton revenge vs Max Verstappen? Ferrari back on top? Big Debate (Image: GETTY)

Charlie Malam

Drivers’ Championship winner – Max Verstappen

It will be very interesting to see how much progress Mercedes will make through the season and it cannot be forgotten the job they did last year. But I just think Max Verstappen will make it back-to-back titles given the stronger launchpad Red Bull have at the start of the season. I also don’t think he’ll encounter as much misfortune as he did at times last year, like in Baku.

Constructors’ Championship winner – Ferrari

Mercedes’ incredible streak of team title wins may just come to an end for as exciting a partnership as Hamilton and Russell are. Verstappen and Perez are an exciting twosome too, but I think Ferrari’s pace bodes well, and I can see Charles Leclerc getting plenty of podiums. Carlos Sainz has great pace too and though Leclerc is the more likely championship winner, I think we’ll see five or more Ferrari wins, maybe even some one-twos and a whole load of second and third-place finishes.

Biggest surprise – Three new Grand Prix winners

After previous disappointments in Sakhir and Sochi for George Russell and Lando Norris respectively, I think we’ll see both of the pair win their first races this season for Mercedes and McLaren. And I also think Sainz will extend the list of Grand Prix-winning drivers, which currently stands at 111, in the Ferrari.  

Biggest disappointment – Alpine/Fernando Alonso

It looks like this will be Fernando Alonso’s final ever season in F1, given he turns 41 in July. Sadly I just don’t see ‘El Plan’ panning out as we’d all love it to, and I don’t see him regularly challenging for podiums or race wins, though he may sneak a third-place somewhere in the 23-race calendar. I hope I’m wrong. We’d all love to see the two-time champ bow out on a high. A win at the Spanish Grand Prix would be perfectly fitting!


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