2022 F1 driver rankings #7: Sebastian Vettel | 2022 F1 driver rankings


Before the season began it didn’t seem likely Sebastian Vettel’s 15th full season in Formula 1 would be his last. But although the four-time world champion bade farewell to F1 with his only season without a podium, he also showed flashes of the brilliance that help him capture those titles.

Vettel’s Aston Martin team may have been the quickest to get their new 2022 car from the factory to the circuit before pre-season testing officially began, but Vettel had to wait longer than his peers for his season to begin. A positive Covid test days before the season was due to begin in Bahrain meant Vettel could only watch the opening two races in isolation – not that he missed much as far as Aston Martin were concerned.

As Formula 1 returned to Melbourne, Vettel reappeared in the paddock. But however eager he may have been to make up for lost time, his first weekend of the year was among the worst – arguably the worst – any driver had all season. As compromised as he was from a power unit problem robbing him of track time in practice, he did himself no favours crashing on his first timed lap in practice.

Vettel’s start to the year in Melbourne was abysmal

He only managed to get any lap in qualifying at all thanks to his team mate Lance Stroll causing the Aston Martin mechanics even more work to do by hitting Nicholas Latifi. Then on Sunday, Vettel threw away his team’s tireless efforts by running off track early in the race, then crashing out of it entirely laps later.

After the poorest possible start to the season, Vettel went a long way towards repaying his team in Imola. He put Aston Martin into Q3 for the first time in qualifying but sank down the order to 13th in the sprint race. But after navigating through a slightly chaotic start, Vettel drove hard to keep himself in contention for the points, eventually kicking off Aston Martin’s tally for the year with a well-deserved eighth place.

He should have scored again in Miami but after being forced to start from the pit lane due to a fuel technicality, he was on course for another top ten before an awkward clash with Mick Schumacher put paid to any hopes of that.

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Back-to-back points finishes around the street circuits of Monaco and Baku were vital in helping to keep Aston Martin’s constructors’ championship haul ticking over. The latter was an impressive sixth, scored after successfully completing a spin-turn out of an escape road while battling Esteban Ocon, then hunting the Alpine back down and finding a way past.

But then the driver who has amassed the fourth-highest collection of pole positions in history suffered a Saturday slump that saw him eliminated in F1 for three consecutive weekends – including being dead last at the Red Bull Ring after his final lap time was deleted for exceeding track limits. He still recovered to the points at Silverstone, but contact with Pierre Gasly left him fuming in Austria.

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, Spa-Francorchamps, 2022
Sundays were far kinder to Vettel than Saturdays

In Paul Ricard, Vettel’s biggest competition was his team mate. He qualified three places ahead but Stroll’s excellent start saw Vettel fall behind over the early laps. At the end of the race, Vettel chased down the second Aston Martin until the final lap, but Stroll parked his car on the apex of the final hairpin to deny Vettel from snatching the last available point in tenth.

If Vettel felt aggrieved by his team mate’s actions, he earned a retribution of sorts when his team allowed him to overtake Stroll in the later laps in Hungary so he could attack Ocon. But by the time they reached the chequered flag having failed to pass the Alpine, he was conveniently too far ahead to return the place to his team mate.

Despite Aston Martin’s AMR22 gradually getting faster as the season progressed, it seemed Vettel could not get out of Q1 no matter how hard he tried. He missed the cut by just two-thousandths of a second at Spa as Stroll went through, then went off the circuit at Zandvoort after hitting a patch of dirt which had been kicked onto the entry of the penultimate corner. In Monza loose bodywork hampered him further, although an ERS failure put an early end to his race.

But after that disappointing run, Aston Martin’s fortunes picked up quickly from around Singapore, the scene of Vettel’s final grand prix victory three years ago. He jumped five places at the start to run in the top ten and kept Lewis Hamilton at bay in the second half of the race, only losing seventh on the final lap to Max Verstappen.

At Suzuka, Vettel’s favourite track, he was mighty. He stormed into Q3 for the first time since Baku to start ninth, but misjudged the approach to turn one in the spray and spun, falling to the back. After the red flag ended, he immediately pitted for intermediates, which helped him gain ten places over the pack ahead. He held off his old sparring partner Fernando Alonso by just 0.011s to claim sixth place. That put Aston Martin in with a serious chance of overturning Alfa Romeo in the constructors’ championship, and of the two drivers it was Vettel who did most of the heavy lifting.

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Heading into the final races of his F1 career, Vettel was determined to bow out on a high. He put in a brilliant, fighting drive at the Circuit of the Americas, gaining five places on the opening lap but falling down to 13th after a painfully long pit stop. Despite the setback, Vettel worked his way back up the order before prevailing over Kevin Magnussen in a thrilling final lap duel to gain eighth at the flag.

Aston Martin struggled for pace in the high altitude in Mexico and were well out of the points, but fared better in Brazil. Once again, Vettel had to contend with some fairly robust defending from Stroll in the sprint race, but in the grand prix, he deserved better than he got when a late Safety Car left him vulnerable on his medium tyres, eventually being asked to let Stroll through into 10th – his debt from Hungary repaid.

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, Circuit of the Americas, 2022
Austin showed that Vettel had lost none of his fight

Abu Dhabi was a fitting farewell deserving of one of the sport’s most successful drivers. Even on track, some of his rivals openly confessed they would be treating him kindly in the race to avoid ruining his final outing. With Aston Martin in with a modest chance of snatching sixth from Alfa Romeo, Vettel simply out-performed Stroll on all three days.

Vettel reached Q3 at the final attempt but his race was heavily compromised by a one-stop strategy which cost him several places by the time he emerged from the pit lane. He fought his way back to tenth place and was pressuring Daniel Ricciardo for ninth over the final laps, needed to only find a way past the McLaren to secure sixth for his team. Try as he might, he could not find a way by the McLaren, but still secured a point as he reached the chequered flag in his 299th and final grand prix of his career.

Although Vettel’s final year in Formula 1 was one of his weakest in terms of results, it was far from his worst from a driving standpoint. While his final two seasons at Aston Martin may not have offered as many opportunities to score big results than he would have wished for, he departs from the grid with his head held high, knowing that his remarkable record of achievements will always speak for themselves.

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