Max Verstappen has concern raised by Red Bull which could hand Lewis Hamilton advantage

Formula 1: Hamilton and Verstappen crash at 190mph

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Max Verstappen’s title defence could be a difficult prospect as Red Bull revealed performance issues ahead of 2022. Verstappen secured a maiden world title in dramatic and controversial circumstances at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after he and title rival Lewis Hamilton went into the season finale at the Yas Marina Circuit tied on points.

The Dutchman passed the seven-time world champion – who had dominated for much of the race – on the final lap of the season as a late Safety Car and tyre change swung momentum in his favour. 

Mercedes’ fury was largely aimed at FIA race director Michael Masi after he decided to not allow cars to unlap themselves, as is tradition, only to change his mind to set up the final lap showdown between Hamilton and Verstappen.

Looking ahead to 2022, it appears world champion Verstappen and Hamilton will be the protagonists once more, but there are other figures that could crash the party.

While Red Bull and Mercedes are still the favourites to get out ahead of the new regulations, the changes could shake up the grid order and allow a contender to emerge from the shadows. 

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Originally intended for the 2021 season, the regulations were delayed a year due to Covid. 

These regulations are aimed at reducing ‘following car distance’ by removing ‘dirty air’ that leading cars leave in their wake, making overtaking moves more difficult due to the turbulent air flow. 

Cars will differ quite substantially from their predecessors despite power units essentially being unchanged, as sidepods, airboxes, brake ducts, underbodies and both front and rear wings are set to be redesigned. 

The addition of 18-inch wheels will also massively affect the cars, both visually and technically. 

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F1 cars will also switch to a new ‘E10’ fuel, which will see an increase of ethanol content to 10 percent, with 90 percent fossil fuel sources. 

This increase is affecting horsepower and therefore affecting performance, frustrating many engineers around the paddock – although Ferrari and Alpine have both reportedly solved the issue.

Honda, the engine suppliers for Red Bull, are lagging behind the two teams in this regard, with power reportedly down on their 2021 car that took Verstappen to the title.

“Honda is working hard on the adaptation,” Helmut Marko is quoted by Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport.

“What I hear is positive, but the performance is not yet the same as in 2021. You will generally have to wait to see how it looks in racing trim.”

Honda have officially withdrawn from the sport, but the Japanese manufacturer will continue to help Red Bull develop their power units until 2025 as part of a slow transition to Red Bull Powertrains.

Marko said that the goal at Red Bull for 2022 is to deliver successive titles despite the new technical regulations, but he expects tremendous competition from Mercedes once again.

“The declared goal is the world title,” Marko said. “With such a big rule change, you can never be sure.

“Mercedes and we have the potential, the people and the continuity.

“That speaks again for a fight at the highest level. Especially since there are no other drivers like Hamilton and Verstappen.”

F1 will return in 2022 for preseason testing on February 23 before the opening Bahrain Grand Prix on March 20.

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