Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Suzuka, 2022

From F1 to Formula Ford, 2022 was the year of the championship anti-climax

2022 F1 season

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Winning a championship is one of the best feelings in the world, as any racing driver lucky enough to do so would tell you. But sometimes the ‘winning’ bit doesn’t quite go to plan.

Formula 1 and its top open-wheel support series produced championship conclusions that were either short on action, downright confusing – or simply did not happen at all.

Formula 1: Points rule read wrong

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen knew after the summer break he was on course to become a two-times F1 champion, and his inevitable crowning came at the Japanese Grand Prix.

This was an apt location as Suzuka is the home track of Red Bull’s power unit designer Honda. For the grand prix weekend, Red Bull expanded the visibility of Honda’s logos on their cars. Unfortunately the resolution of the title fight left many bemused.

Verstappen put in a masterclass performance, edging the Ferrari drivers for pole position and then charging away in a race that was hit by a deluge of rain, was stopped for several hours and then run to a shortened distance.

Report: F1 “needs to get better” after confused end to championship in Japan – Leclerc
This led to misunderstanding among teams and media over whether full points would be awarded or not. New rules had been introduced following the widely-criticised Belgian Grand Prix last year defining the points which would be handed out based on how much of the race distance had been completed. The consensus when Verstappen reached the chequered flag to win was that he was not yet champion, even if his pursuing rival Charles Leclerc was penalised for going off-track and gaining and an advantage, as eventually happened.

So when Verstappen was told in the post-race interview by Johnny Herbert he did not immediately believe it. Eventually the FIA admitted that, due thanks to an unintended quirk of the rules, full points had indeed been awarded for the shortened race and Verstappen was therefore champion.

Work is underway to revise the rule again. When the world championship trophy was received by Red Bull at the FIA’s prize-giving Gala, Horner referred to the “confusion” over the deciding race, which triggered a swift response from president Mohammed ben Sulayem. “The FIA was blamed for the points but it was not the FIA which made the rules,” he insisted. “It was the teams who made the rules and we were implementing it.”

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Formula 2: Pit wall coronation

Drugovich won the F2 title on the pit wall
As was the case for Verstappen in F1, it was a foregone conclusion that Felipe Drugovich would clinch the Formula 2 title. But he didn’t get to seal the deal with a win, a podium or even a points finish. Instead, he became F2 champion after being taken out on the first lap of the Monza sprint race.

A five-place grid penalty had left Drugovich mired in the midfield at the start, and on the opening lap he was fighting for 10th place with Amaury Cordeel. Drugovich had the inside line entering the Roggia chicane, which became the outside line as they exited the corner. He ran on to the exit kerbs then was squeezed off track entirely by Cordeel, wheel-to-wheel contact breaking Drugovich’s steering.

He managed to drag his broken car back to the pits, but the damage was too much and he retired. It rested in Theo Pourchaire’s hands to keep the title fight alive after that, but he finished a lowly 17th and Drugovich was on the pit wall when he was crowned.

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Formula 3: Red flag confusion

Martins had an anxious wait to learn he’d won the F3 title
The FIA Formula 3 Championship’s conclusion beats F1 for confusion and F2 for messiness, and ruined what was a six-way showdown going into the final race at Monza.

After two drivers crashed, the Safety Car was brought out on the 16th lap of the 22-lap title-decider. If the race concluded behind it, Victor Martins would be crowned champion. But then red flags were waved on the next lap.

The fielded headed to the pit lane and waited for confirmation of whether a restart would happen. The first message to come from race control was that Martins, who was in third place, would be penalised five seconds for exceeding track limits.

Based on the gaps behind the Safety Car when the race was stopped, Martins would still be champion if the order went unchanged in the restarted race and the gaps remained the same. But then the timing screen showed a changed order, several times, as other drivers were penalised without explanation, causing significant confusion.

Eventually it was communicated the race would not restart. But the timing screen had still not stabilised. So was Martins champion or not?

Once penalties had been handed out to six drivers, the chequered flag was shown on the pit wall and Martins – now in fourth place – won the title. The words “upset” and “angry” were used by Martins at the time rather than “overjoyed” or even “relieved”, and many fans had a similar sentiment.

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W Series: Championship gets cancelled

W Series’ troubles ensured Chadwick’s third title
Jamie Chadwick wasn’t even at a track when she won her third W Series title, although she probably didn’t need to be given the scale of her domination.

She won every race in the first half of the season, and her run of seven consecutive wins carrying over from 2021 was finally ended in round six at the Hungaroring where a new engineer helped Alice Powell beat Chadwick to pole and victory.

That meant the pair went into the final three rounds, all flyaways, split by 75 points with 100 available to score. Beitske Visser was also level on points with Powell, and she took the biggest possible chunk out of the points leader’s advantage in Singapore by winning while Chadwick crashed out.

There was now 50 points between the top two and 75 available to score. Chadwick could guarantee herself the title by finishing no lower than fifth in the remaining three races if Visser was to win all three.

But eight days after Singapore, it was announced that due to financial problems the final rounds would not go ahead. Chadwick therefore won the title by default.

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British F4: Cardboard cut-out crowned

Dunne’s British F4 title win felt a bit flat
British Formula 4 moved closer to its European counterparts this year by deciding to run with the same car, engine and tyres. Rather than bring more continental drivers to Britain, it instead encouraged British F4’s drivers to double up abroad.

Former KCMG junior Alex Dunne signed with Hitech for British F4, and with US Racing for Italian F4. In a season of success he had one problem: the British F4 finale clashed with the penultimate Italian F4 round.

By that point of the year Dunne had a huge lead in British F4, but was in a closer fight for second in the Italian F4 standings. He chose to travel to Monza to race in the latter.

A cardboard cut-out of Dunne went to Brands Hatch that weekend and took the champion’s laurels on behalf of the absent real-life Dunne when he officially secured the title following the first race of the weekend.

China: COVID-19’s calendar impact

China’s ‘zero Covid-19’ policy has heavily disrupted its motorsport schedules this year, while other countries have returned to near normality on holding big events. The final rounds of its juniors single-seater series have left been in limbo waiting to learn if races will go ahead.

The third round of the Chinese F4 season was supposed to take place on a new street circuit in Pingtan in September. However the organisers of the Pingtan International Racing Festival did not gather all the permissions required to run on the planned date, so it was postponed to the first weekend of November. However by that point the national policy on Covid made such a large-scale event impossible.

The organiser then looking at delaying the race to the second weekend in December. That date made the event the season finale and meant November’s intended season finale, the Macau Grand Prix, became round three.

While the Pingtan event did run, it ended up being no consequence to the title fight due to one dominant name. Gerrard Xie has been the runaway leader in Chinese F4 and the Formula Renault Super Challenge, and second place in the Macau GP earned him the F4 title there regardless of whether Pingtan’s races went ahead or not. He then dominated all four Pingtan races anyway.

The Super Challenge’s fourth and final round was due to take place at the Shanghai International Circuit F1 track in September, but was postponed to the end of October, then called off entirely as the track only remains open for testing due to the current restrictions.

While the series had wanted to find a replacement venue and date, Xie doesn’t expect to be out racing in a FR2.0 car again this year and therefore doesn’t know when or how the champion will be determined.

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Formula Ford 1600: Acrimonious wins

Max Esterson’s Formula Ford win was controversial
The two end-of-year classics for this entry-level single-seater category both ended with paddock drama that overshadowed the wins.

At the Formula Ford Festival, the organising BRSCC club failed to reschedule the final of the knockout event once it was clear that heavy rain was forecast to hit Brands Hatch at the time of the race. As a result the highly anticipated winner-takes-all bout was declared complete after just two laps as a heavy storm hit.

Due to how the red flag rules are applied, the final results shuffled several drivers up and down the order, and left much of the paddock furious about the situation. Half an hour after the final the skies cleared, but soon after the sun set. The race had been run later in the day than is traditional, and it raised questions on whether two laps could count as a completed race.

The arguments were left in the paddock on that matter, and Red Bull athlete Max Esterson was crowned winner having led the brief encounter from pole.

Two weeks later the arguments over the winner of the Walter Hayes Trophy went far further, and Esterson was at the centre of it again. He won the Silverstone event, celebrated on the podium, then was summoned to the stewards over a clash with another driver in the final. There was deliberation for hours before Esterson was penalised, which was immediately appealed.

Cue another few hours of waiting. The appeal failed with the stewards, so was then taken to the national court. A month later in December the case was heard and the appeal was rejected, with confirmation of victory being delivered to winner Joey Foster via a phone call.

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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7 comments on “From F1 to Formula Ford, 2022 was the year of the championship anti-climax”

  1. W Series – the most pointless championship ever.

    1. Should give a seat in formula 3 to the champion for it to make sense, but as far as I read chadwick refused to join formula 3 except she was given a seat at a top team, which is probably a hint of being afraid to not be able to compete with the formula 3 field.

  2. Jonathan Parkin
    22nd December 2022, 15:13

    As Charles Leclerc said once ‘What a mess!!’

    Remind me why don’t we have corrected time for red flagged races again

  3. Verstappen won the most climatic and anticlimactic championships, that’s pretty cool

  4. He was handed the most exciting and won the most boring championships… there I fixed that for you.

  5. “causing significant conclusion”
    I hate when bad stewarding causes significant conclusion

  6. Indycar. The ‘pinnacle’ of motorsport entertainment?

Comments are closed.