F1 is gearing up to transition into a new era of the sport. F1 hopes to shuffle up the grid order which has been dominated for a long time by Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari, with completely new regulations, which eventually mean brand new looking cars. However, before stepping a foot into this new era, teams are also looking to set up their futures in terms of their driver line-ups. This is what has defined the driver market in 2020 and 2021.
As we head closer towards the 2022 season and more teams confirm their driver line-ups for 2022 and onwards, let's take a look at what the grid will look like next year.
Expected and confirmed F1 drivers for 2022
* - Rumors or not yet confirmed
Mercedes AMG F1 - Lewis Hamilton & George Russell
After learning lessons from last season, Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton opted to agree on a contract earlier this season, which confirmed that the British driver will continue his nine-year relationship with the German team for two more years until 2023.
The second seat on the defending world champion team was what created buzz among fans and confusion for team principal Toto Wolff. He even admitted that making a decision for the second seat was one of the most difficult decisions he has ever had to make. Valtteri Bottas, a current Mercedes driver, and George Russell, a Williams and Mercedes junior driver, were pitted to fight for that seat. However, as fans and the whole F1 community expected, Mercedes let go of Valtteri Bottas to welcome George Russell as Lewis' new teammate from 2022.
Red Bull Racing - Max Verstappen & Sergio Perez
Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen is currently the hottest asset in F1 and it doesn't seem like the Austrian team will let go of the Dutch driver anytime soon. Red Bull have invested long into their future, signing Max Verstappen with a contract until 2023.
The 'cursed' second seat at Red Bull has always been in talks ever since Daniel Ricciardo left the team after the 2018 season. However, ever since they hired Sergio Perez to partner Max in the team, Red Bull might have found the perfect match. The Mexican has impressed with his performance at Red Bull this year, which earned him a contract extension for 2022.
Scuderia Ferrari F1 - Charles Leclerc & Carlos Sainz
Scuderia Ferrari are the only team to confirm their driver line-up for 2022 and beyond even before the 2020 season started. After announcing the departure of Sebastian Vettel, they signed the then McLaren driver Carlos Sainz to a contract until the end of 2022.
After an impressive debut season for the Italian team, Charles Leclerc earned enough trust within the team to become their future. He became the first driver for Ferrari to sign a five-year deal which will keep him at the Scuderia until the end of 2024.
McLaren F1 - Lando Norris & Daniel Ricciardo
Like most other teams, McLaren has also opted to enter a new era with a young driver leading the team, and Lando Norris is at the front of it. Lando has surprised the whole world with his talent and raw pace. Rewarding the results he has given to the team, McLaren signed him to a contract for 2022 and beyond.
The departure of Carlos Sainz from McLaren made way for Daniel Ricciardo to join the team. The Aussie, after leaving Red Bull, has been in search of a championship team and might have finally found it in McLaren, where he will race until 2023.
Scuderia AlphaTauri - Pierre Gasly & Yuki Tsunoda
After a demotion from Red Bull in 2019, Pierre Gasly seems to have found a home at AlphaTauri where he has achieved three podiums up until now, including a win. His performances have impressed team boss Franz Tost, as well as Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko. Meanwhile, his new teammate Yuki Tsunoda has struggled to find similar pace and results in his debut season. Nonetheless, the team has kept faith in this pairing and has confirmed a contract extension for both drivers until 2022.
Alpine F1 - Fernando Alonso & Esteban Ocon
The France-based team have enjoyed a fair share of success this season, considering the poor performance of the car. A win and fifth place in the constructors championship is not bad for a team that is probably the sixth-fastest on the grid. All thanks to the driver line-up that has surprised everyone with their camaraderie. The team is convinced of their current line-up and has therefore signed Fernando and Esteban Ocon to contracts until 2022 and 2024 respectively.
Aston Martin Cognizant F1 - Sebastian Vettel* & Lance Stroll*
Although the team has not yet confirmed it, Aston Martin are expected to continue with their current line-up. The Silverstone-based team signed a four-time world champion in order to progress towards becoming a world championship team. Vettel's contract with Aston Martin states a tenure of 2021 and 'beyond'. Team principal Otmar Szafnauer admitted that the 'beyond' was subject to a mutual agreement between the driver and the team in 2021. Considering Vettel's formidable performance up until now, which includes a podium, no one doubts whether he will continue with the team. As far as Lance Stroll is concerned, we know that until the time his father is the owner of the team, he will continue to drive for Aston Martin.
Williams F1 - Nicholas Latifi & Alex Albon
Williams finally had to bid adieu to their darling driver George Russell after he was promoted to Mercedes AMG F1. The competition for the resulting empty seat at the legendary British team was then between Reb Bull reserve driver Alex Albon and Mercedes Formula E champion and reserve driver Nyck De Vries. Despite being the so called Mercedes 'sister' team, Williams opted to go for Alex Albon from 2022 and beyond.
The team also confirmed that the second seat will continue to be occupied by Nicholas Latifi. Nicholas' family business, Sofina Foods, is a major sponsor for the Williams team, therefore, he was expected to continue for them.
Alfa Romeo Racing - Valtteri Bottas & Nyck De Vries*
Kimi Raikkonen's retirement from F1 opened up a seat at the Switzerland-based team. The seat was quickly filled by fellow Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas, who was released by Mercedes. The Finn has signed a multi-year contract with Alfa Romeo.
The second seat at Alfa Romeo has not yet been confirmed and the drivers fighting for it are Antonio Giovinazzi and Nyck De Vries. There are rumors going around that Alfa Romeo might change their engine supplier from Ferrari to Mercedes. This could mean that Mercedes could push for Nyck De Vries to grab that second seat. However, Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto has expressed his interest in keeping Ferrari junior driver Antonio at Alfa Romeo. The Italian driver's recent impressive performances can also vouch for his candidacy. In spite of everything, it looks like a difficult decision for Alfa Romeo to make.
Haas - Nikita Mazepin* & Mick Schumacher*
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Although not yet confirmed, there is no doubt that Haas will continue with their current line-up. The team laid-off its entire line-up last year to refresh its program and start over with a young driver line-up. It hired two drivers straight out of Formula 2, keeping in mind the team's long future, so Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin are expected to continue at Haas for a long time.