The Formula 1 season returns at the end of August with the Belgian Grand Prix, after what has been a fascinating campaign so far.
To take a look back at the 2022 campaign up to this point, we caught up with ex-F1 driver Jean Alesi to get his thoughts on some of the biggest storylines…
Jean Alesi on Ferrari
“It’s not such a bad season for them.
“Because the last few years they had a very bad car and a bad season.
“They hardly got on the podium, then last year, they recovered a bit. And now with these new regulations they came out with a rocket car [which is] very competitive everywhere.
“But, of course, we are in the middle of the season, and now we can make the kind of judgement on what’s happened. And they have had the moments where they made the wrong decision on the wrong moment. And you see how much a small mistake can be a big effect on the bad side.
“What I have to say is it’s more important to have a fast car, and then to fine tune the team, because this team [has gone] a long time without winning the championship and they are building a group.
“And they are fighting with a group like Mercedes, or, obviously, Red Bull, who in the last 12 years, they have won everything and so this fine tuning to be competitive, not only with the car, but also on the racetrack, will take time.
“Probably since Ferrari [began] existing, the attention is always massive and the fans are also very critical. I have a column in Italy for the newspaper Corriere della Sera and last time after Hungary, I made the column only for the fans. I was saying ‘please, it’s not like the World Cup, every four years, and you miss a penalty, and it’s the end of the world, it’s not like that.’
“Racing is different. And of course Ferrari are prepared to have a lot of criticism, and they know how to deal with it. But it’s not nice. I believe so much in [Mattia] Binotto and in the young team because when you have to race against engineers like Adrian Newey, he is a superstar. As an engineer he has always made winning cars and to be honest, Ferrari looks faster so that is a big achievement. The criticism from the press or from the fan is normal because Ferrari is Ferrari.”
Jean Alesi on the title fight & Red Bull
“Well, there’s no question about the numbers. They have a big lead. That gives confidence to a driver with already massive confidence. He has a strong team, they make zero mistakes. So for sure we can say they are in a good position. But it’s motorsport – everything can go wrong. But for sure if I have to bet it’s Max and Red Bull.
“This year I’ve been very impressed with Sergio because to have a teammate like Max Verstappen I’m sure it’s not easy. All the new circuits we have, like Miami, you see the first lap times and Max is nearly always faster than his teammates and for a driver when your teammate, with the same car, is able to make this kind of input it’s very difficult to swallow.
“But when you have the experience of Checo, he’s a hard fighter and worker so he is doing a very good job. So for sure there’s not a number one driver and a number two driver in the team, but they have very good discipline, and they are not arguing when there is a message for one driver or the other one, they just do it.”
Jean Alesi on Mercedes‘ season
“It’s easy for me to say but everybody was shocked by [their start.]
“When they presented the car in Bahrain everybody said ‘oh my God, they have made something very special and they’re going to be untouchable.’
“But lap after lap they found out the car was nowhere. And to see Lewis Hamilton driving a car like that was sometimes embarrassing because Lewis is a seven-time world champion.
“But to see his capacity to still improve the car, that was impressive. In Hungary, it was fantastic to see George on pole position and Lewis fighting towards the front.
“By experience when a car is born with problems, you’re not able to fix it.
“You can make a compromise but a compromise in Formula 1 doesn’t work, you know. So I don’t really believe they are able to be a winning team winning Grands Prix before the end of the championship under normal circumstances.”
READ MORE: Jean Alesi doubts Mercedes can win in 2022
Jean Alesi on the Oscar Piastri/Daniel Ricciardo saga
“It’s fantastic to see a young driver to be in the middle of two teams that want him.
“Oscar made an impressive debut in motorsport – he won his first season in Formula 3 and in Formula 2.
“This season he isn’t racing. And that, for me, is more shocking than what is happening now. I think, with the new format of Formula 1 with the new spirit of Formula 1, all the young drivers, the fast ones, they will have a way to find a drive and that for me is best.”
“Daniel is one of the biggest characters in Formula 1.
“I don’t know one person when I meet F1 fans who is not talking about him because he is loved by everybody.
“For sure, Lando [Norris] is a new star for Formula 1 and with Daniel, sometimes you are struggling with a car, with new regulations, but there’s no doubt he will find a good place to end again back on the top.
“I like Daniel so much and I like also this movement of the drivers in F1. That’s great and is what we want. We want to see a Ronaldo leaving Juventus and going to Manchester United situation.”
Jean Alesi on Fernando Alonso
“I’ll tell you a story.
“I was in Hockenheim and at the time we had the long circuit, it was not the Hockenheim we have now. We had these long straights going into the forest so, of course, we had the stadium section with all the public and then for a long time you were in the forest with no public.
“So he was next to me [on the drivers’ parade] and suddenly at the end of the forest was one fan with a sign saying ‘Happy Birthday Fernando.’ And so I turned to him and said ‘Fernando, is it your birthday?’ And I ask him how old he is and he says ’20-years-old!’ So that is my memory of him and to see the career he has had, it’s just amazing. What a fighter, I mean this guy when you see drivers like him, you’re happy to pay the ticket.
“I understand there is a new investor in Aston Martin and they are very ambitious. The ambition is very high. So I hope he has made a good move this time because sometimes he has made some mistakes in his life. But to finish a career with a good move would be a very good story for all of us.
“Absolutely [he can win titles.] We cannot talk about talent because we know he has it. What we can say is can he handle physically the whole season fighting the young drivers? I have to say yes, the cars are very demanding in terms of G-force but Fernando has never stopped [driving]. When he was not in Formula 1 he was running sports cars and he is always in a car so I’m sure he can [compete.] But to win a world championship for a team like Aston now, I don’t believe it will happen next year [at least.]”
Jean Alesi on Sebastian Vettel
“He did it at a good time. He is a four-time world champion, he is very well respected in F1 by all the drivers and that means a lot you know.
“But he’s quite young, so probably we will see him back in a racing car quite soon, I believe.”
Jean Alesi on Valtteri Bottas
“You know, it was quite funny sometimes at the beginning of the year to see Lewis [Hamilton] behind him because I cannot imagine Lewis expected to read Alfa Romeo on the rear wing of the car in front.
“But so far he’s done a superb job because it’s not a top team and he’s qualified the car many times in a good position and at the end brought to the team good points.”
“For many reasons when I speak about him, it’s like if I speak about my son.
“He has not just the name, he won [the title] in European F3 and F2.
“Last year, the car was not competitive. This year he has a competitive car and a very strong teammate. So at the beginning of the championship, it was difficult for him to be in the correct window, and he had some impressive shunts.
“And Formula 1 is tough when you are making mistakes like that, especially now with the budget cap. The teams are struggling when the shunts are too big, but now he has good speed, he is [getting] in the points. So I’m sure he has all the capacity and the talent to continue in Formula 1. The worst moments of being in Formula 1 are behind him now.”
The 2022 Formula 1 world championship resumes with the Belgian Grand Prix on Aug 26-28.