The Mercedes Formula 1 team have announced February 18th as the day they will unveil their 2022 W13 Formula 1 car. The launch will be staged in an online event from Silverstone just 24 hours after Ferrari take the covers off their 2022 challenger.
Traditionally car launches are a big deal, but in a year where a raft of regulation changes will see the cars revolutionised – and on the back of the most memorable season in decades – they will have significantly more importance.
And, unless there is an announcement about Lewis Hamilton’s future in the sport, it could be the biggest viewed ever. Speculation has been rife about the seven-time world champion’s future since the immediate aftermath of the remarkable season-ending race in Abu Dhabi during the second week of December.
Lewis is Back?
In his first tweet since losing last year’s championship, Hamilton broke his radio silence with a cryptic six-word tweet stating ‘’I’ve been gone. Now I’m back!’. The 7-time champ had gone quiet since his controversial defeat to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the final few laps of the season in Abu Dhabi last year.
Where is Lewis?
Lewis Hamilton’s has only made one public appearance since – to collect his Knighthood – and his team boss, Toto Wolff has indicated more than once that he has concerns the Brit will decide to retire.
Will there be an announcement on Lewis Hamilton’s future before the Mercedes launch?
Six weeks later the speculation remains speculation. But, without confirmation Lewis Hamilton will return and attempt to become the most decorated world champion of all time – his seven wins equal that of Michael Schumacher – doubts are growing about his future.
Will this conjecture go down to the wire? Hamilton is contracted to continue to drive for the team until the end of 2023. However, he will have get-out clauses allowing him to quit before the start of this and next season.
But he must attend his team’s official car launch. Technically this is the start of the season and pre-season testing begins on February 23rd.
Russell to Take the Title?
Punters who believe Hamilton will walk from the sport have clambered on George Russell to win the 2022 World Drivers’ Championship. Russell makes his full-time debut for the German team replacing Valtteri Bottas who has moved to Alfa Romeo.
Russell is as short as 4/1 (top-priced 11/2 with bet365*) to take the championship in 2022. That puts him in the F1 Drivers betting list as the third favourite behind Lewis Hamilton (top-priced 6/4 with Betfred) and Max Verstappen (9/4 Betfred).
At the start of December George Russell was 9/1 for the 2022 championship. By Christmas, he was 6/1 and his price has been shaved every week since.
F1 Drivers Championship Odds Update
- 6/4 Lewis Hamilton (Betfred)
- 9/4 Max Verstappen (Betfred)
- 11/2 George Russell (bet365*)
- 12/1 Charles LeClerc (Betfred)
- 25/1 Carlos Sainz (SportNation)
- 33/1 Lando Norris (BetVictor)
- 50/1 Sergio Perez (William Hill)
- 50/1 Fernando Alonso (Betfred)
- 66/1 Daniel Ricciardo (William Hill)
- 66/1 Esteban Ocon (William Hill)
* Odds correct as of Feb 5th, 2022. Subject to changes.
An Empty Seat for Someone?
Of course, a no-show by Lewis Hamilton would not only make Russell Mercedes’ number one driver (presumably), it would also create a spare seat in the team.
Nyck de Vries is Mercedes current test and reserve driver, but he is just one of several candidates in the frame to replace Hamilton if the Brit decides to retire in the wake of last year’s controversial Abu Dhabi decider.
Given the Dutchman has never raced in Formula 1, he is unlikely to be given a full race seat without prior experience at the top echelon of the sport. Mercedes would want experience and a previous winner.
Four Potential Candidates for the Mercedes Hot Seat
In the unlikely event that Sir Lewis decides to call it a day, who are the likely candidates to replace him at Mercedes?
McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo is very experienced with 200-plus race starts. He is also a race winner for two separate teams. Despite his enthusiasm and ability, he has never had a race seat in a championship-winning car. At this point in time, aged 32, he would probably take a Mercedes drive without asking for a paycheck.
Valtteri Bottas could conceivably turn his back on his new Alfa Romeo job and maintain his relationship with the Mercedes. The team knows he is not the class of Hamilton – he won just 10 races alongside Lewis when he won 50 races – but the Finn is reliable and it could be worth buying him out of his Alfa contract.
Esteban Ocon won a race for Alpine in 2021 and has signed up a long contract with the team. But he is a former Mercedes junior and reserve driver. Furthermore, he was managed by Toto Wolff who got him Formula 1 race drives for Manor and Force India – as those teams used Mercedes engines. Once again, Mercedes would need to pay a pretty penny to have him released from his current contract.
He may be 40 but Fernando Alonso still has fire in his belly and would love to have the chance of a third world title in a car capable of doing the job. The Spaniard is notorious for falling out with teams – and he has driven for a lot of them since making his debut 21-year-ago. Nevertheless, on a one-season contract, given his experience and talent which was clearly evident in 2021, he’s probably the driver most team bosses would opt for if they were in Toto Wolff’s predicament.
* F1 betting odds correct at the time of publication. All odds subject to changes.