We’re approaching round 12 in a total of 22, as we head to France for the next instalment of this year’s Formula 1 season.
2022 has been a year of intense battles both on and off the field with Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen fighting it out on the track, while Red Bull and Mercedes bosses Christian Horner and Toto Wolff debate how the new regulations have most negatively impacted their campaigns.
With half the races of the 2022 season now complete, the contention for Drivers’ Championship is beginning to heat up.
While Charles Leclerc emerged as the initial lead contender, Verstappen fought back and took a dramatic lead, only for the 24-year-old Monegasque driver to counterattack once more in the last episode in Austria.
As Formula 1 heads to a country rich in racing history, here are some of the most exciting storylines to watch out for in Marseille:
Ferrari fight at critical time
Ferrari looked the clear front-runners for both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships when the season first began, however a string of engine failures for both Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc have meant the Italian horses have dropped behind their main 2022 rivals.
The first two races were confidently won by the Monegasque driver bidding for his first championship but that glory soon fell as his team made poor calls and his engine failed at critical points.
However, the last two races have put Ferrari back on the map. Not only did Leclerc manage to win his third race of the year in Austria but Carlos Sainz won his first ever F1 race at Silverstone the week before.
With this momentum, Ferrari should be able to go into this next race, a track on which they have tremendous historical success and look to make it a 1-2 finish.
Ferrari strategists and engineers still have a huge amount of work to do in order for both cars to finish a race up in the top positions at a consistent rate, but they have shown it is possible, and it must start this weekend if a real title battle is on the cards.
The rise of Schumacher
Another who could benefit from this concept of Momentum is Haas’ Mick Schumacher.
Just a few weeks ago, the son of seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher was on the brink of being pushed out of the Haas team when the season concluded.
But not this week. No, this week Schumacher comes into a race having secured an eighth place and sixth place finish in Silverstone and Austria respectively.
After 31 races, Schumacher had finally joined the points party and now he looks unstoppable.
His fight for those points places both included overtaking battles with drivers such as Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen showing that, contrary to what many speculated at the beginning of the season, he really does have what it takes to be amongst the very best.
Schumacher’s addition to his team’s success has also propelled Haas into seventh place amongst the constructors.
Schumacher first hit Q2 at this track in 2021, and while he subsequently crashed in Q1, he highlighted a dramatic shift in pace that had not yet been seen by the young German.
With this history at the circuit and his recent rise in form, Guenther Steiner suddenly finds himself with slightly less to worry about than on normal race days.
Can Alpine take on McLaren?
Two years ago McLaren came third in the Constructors’ Championship and last year they found themselves fourth.
This year, they could drop one more if Alpine are able to monopolise their recent success at their home circuit.
Zak Brown and the rest of the Papaya crew would have been hoping to be competing for third once again but now they find themselves at risk of finishing amongst the rest of the middle-order teams.
McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo has found himself struggling much more this season than his team can afford and he would have expected, but this has given way for the French-based team, formerly Renault, to maximise the gap the Australian has left.
A strong double-points finish for Alpine in Austria saw the drawing level with the Papayas in fourth and as they are heading to France, the crowd could very well cheer on homegrown driver Esteban Ocon and former two-time F1 champ Fernando Alonso to finally overtake their British-American rivals.
What better place to do it than in your own back yard?