22 predictions for motorsport in 2022: Part 1
Saturday 1st January, 2022 - 1:32pm
For all the unmissable narratives that motorsport provided in 2021, the slate is now wiped clean with the new year upon us.
And with sweeping regulations to debut in Formula 1 (not to mention NASCAR and the World Rally Championship), there is refreshing, genuine uncertainty about the pecking order.
Even with stable rules in Supercars for one last season, so much change has unfolded behind the scenes that there’s bound to be surprises.
Speedcafe.com takes a look at motorsport around the globe to offer a series of predictions which may prove either prophetic or plain foolish during the course of the next 364 days…
1) Leclerc wins the Formula 1 drivers’ world championship
Yep, let’s start with a make-or-break tip: this will be Ferrari’s year.
Besides the fact the iconic Italian outfit is massively due, there are some real signs of optimism.
Ferrari ushered through a power unit upgrade before the freeze from 2022 onwards, and that seems to have been a huge step forward based on what we saw in the latter stages of 2021 (where they suddenly propelled well clear of McLaren).
Plus, unlike powerhouse rivals Mercedes and Red Bull, it didn’t have an intense 2021 title fight to distract it from its new car preparations.
And yes, Carlos Sainz did outscore Charles Leclerc last year… but something tells me the Monegasque will come to the fore if given the car to do so.
2) Erebus faces battle to keep Brown, Kostecki
After some wild silly seasons, most of the key 2023 Supercars seats appear sown up – but not all.
Erebus Motorsport’s Will Brown and Brodie Kostecki are just about the hottest properties going around after both finishing their rookie seasons inside the championship’s top 10 and with multiple podiums to their credit.
Could Dick Johnson Racing or Tickford Racing have a red-hot crack at luring either driver into a Gen3 Mustang?
Erebus boss Barry Ryan has maintained its up to his team to prove their drivers don’t need to look elsewhere for race-winning machinery… so how the #9 and #99 ZB Commodores perform in the first half of this season may be pivotal.
3) Supercars championships are split between two teams
In a season where identical cars are pretty well being carried forward, it’s hard to see how Shane van Gisbergen suddenly loses his ascendancy. So, he’s the out-and-out favourite for the drivers’ crown.
But, with a teen rookie alongside him, Triple Eight Race Engineering faces a tall order to hang onto top spot in pit lane. That’s no disrespect to Broc Feeney, who is a champion in the making, but history says it takes time for rookies to get up to speed in Supercars.
Look for DJR or Walkinshaw Andretti United to win the teams’ championship.
4) Alonso drives on into 2023*
*If Alpine delivers a competitive car.
That of course doesn’t fit the Oscar Piastri planned promotion, but will Alonso really call it a day just two years into his F1 comeback if he sniffs a chance for podiums and wins in 2023?
Age is not slowing him down, he’s proved that much.
The catch-22 for Alpine though is it most probably would lose Piastri to a rival team if it makes the Australian wait any longer for a race seat.
5) Supercheap Auto Bathurst International proves worth the wait
It’s been a couple of years in the making but 2022 hopefully is the year the Supercheap Auto Bathurst International gets off the ground.
Assuming travel is unrestricted by November, it will be interesting to see what sort of international contingent can be mustered.
And we’ve already seen that TCR at Mount Panorama is good fun…
6) Things get tense at Andretti Autosport
Hopes should be sky high in the Andretti camp after a strong second half of the season and the off-season addition of a third A-grade driver in Romain Grosjean.
While Grosjean has taken to the IndyCar scene swimmingly, it feels like there’s potential for tension between Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta if the stakes are high.
And there is already talk that Rossi may be on the move for 2023…
7) Newgarden wins IndyCar title
While that’s going on, expect to see Josef Newgarden and Team Penske come out firing.
The 2021 campaign was very un-Penske-like, with several opportunities bungled amid an unusually long victory drought.
Newgarden is an ace though and is surely not ready to let the even newer generation led by Alex Palou, Pato O’Ward, Herta, et cetera push him around.
8) McLaughlin seventh in IndyCar end-of-season standings
With motivation high and a return to a three-car model confirmed, expect to see Team Penske bounce back in some fashion this year, with Will Power and Scott McLaughlin too.
There’s no questioning McLaughlin’s talent and his rookie effort was more than sound.
Already, he’s shown himself to be much more competitive every time he has revisited a circuit – and the only new track for him to learn in 2022 will be Iowa Speedway.
McLaughlin will further establish himself as a global motorsport superstar by this time next year.
9) Supercars CEO handover happens sooner
We already know that a change is coming at the top of Supercars; Sean Seamer having announced his resignation a matter of weeks ago.
In doing so, he flagged a new career opportunity in the United States but noted he’ll stay on as Supercars CEO until mid-2022.
Don’t be surprised if things play out far quicker than that, should the right successor be determined sooner – and especially if that person is an internal appointment, like Shane Howard. It’s a win-win for Supercars and Seamer to each move on to their next chapter now.
10) A new star emerges in WRC
There’s a special quality that makes a driver stand out in the World Rally Championship, and that’s why the likes of Sebastien Ogier have been able to consistently win no matter who they’re driving for.
With neither Ogier nor Sebastien Loeb – who collectively have won 17 of the past 18 titles – likely to contest the full 2022 season, the door is wide open for a new champion.
My tip? Kalle Rovanpera.
Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans are at risk of falling into the Mikko Hirvonen/Jari-Matti Latvala forever bridesmaid category.
Craig Breen and 2019 champion Ott Tanak should be contenders too, but there’s something special about Rovanpera, who last year became the youngest ever WRC event winner at age 20.
11) Miami a hit with F1
Formula 1 has enjoyed a resurgence in the United States and that trend should only be cemented by the debut of the Miami Grand Prix.
The east coast beach city sounds like a truly spectacular location – one can only hope it is as well attended as IndyCar’s new-for-2021 race on the streets of Nashville.
The above views are those of this writer and not necessarily the wider Speedcafe.com team. Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow.