Five teams will do “something special” and be able compete for championship glory in 2022 as Formula 1 sees a major regulation shake-up, new Mercedes signing George Russell has speculated.
The cars have been radically changed ahead of the new season, with the alterations intended to reduce the effect of dirty air through the corners in a bid to help the drivers follow each other and race one another.
The question as to whether the racing spectacle will be improved appears particularly important, as F1 will travel to several circuits in the early part of the season that are expected to prove tough to overtake at.
Ferrari and McLaren finished third and fourth respectively in the Constructors’ Championship in 2021, but they were a far cry from imperious pace-setters Mercedes and Red Bull throughout much of the year.
23-year-old Russell, who was signed from Williams to replace Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes, is confident that the new regulations for this year will help those two in particular to bridge the gap.
“A team like Ferrari that have been through a difficult period for the last two years are going to be so hungry, especially with this new rule change, to come back fighting, similar to McLaren as well,” Russell told Formula1.com.
“These teams have got the infrastructure, the talent within the engineering department, with the drivers as well, to really fight.”
An engine freeze has been implemented for the upcoming season, resulting in manufacturers being unable to develop their power units as the year wears on.
Therefore, whatever specification the teams use at the beginning of the year is what they will have to stick with for the entirety of 2022, making development on the chassis even more focal.
“I truly believe there are five teams all capable of really doing something special next year, so you’ve got to be absolutely on it, and I think development is going to be absolutely key [next season],” Russell explained.
The Briton reckons that adaptability to the new specification of cars is going to be just as important as the ability to go fast.
“It’s not going to be whoever has the fastest car [at testing or the first race]; it’s whoever manages to understand the car well and can develop and build from those foundations throughout the year.
“And I think all of the teams are going to make big progress from race one to the end of the season,” he added.
Russell scored his first podium finish at last year’s Belgian Grand Prix, a few weeks after scoring his first points for Williams in Budapest.
He previously got behind the wheel of the Mercedes in a racing capacity, replacing Sir Lewis Hamilton at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix after the serial F1 champion tested positive for COVID-19.
Russell was twice on course to take victory, but was undone by a botched pit stop and a late puncture, having out-performed Bottas for much of the race.