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Formula 1 - Motorsports: All you need to know about the 2022 season

After one of the most remarkable seasons in Formula 1 history in 2021, fans of the sport are eager to see how the radical regulation changes impact proceedings in 2022.

The inaugural Miami Grand Prix in May is a highlight in the record-breaking 23-race schedule this year, while we will also see Formula 1 return to Australia, Canada, Singapore and Japan for the first time since 2019.

Pre-season testing begins this week in Spain for the teams and we take a look at what's in store in the months ahead for F1 fans.

When does the Formula 1 2022 season start?

Lights out is scheduled for 20th March 2022 as Bahrain opens the calendar for the second successive year.

Pre-season testing gets underway at Formula 1's favourite proving ground of the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain on 23rd February, while a second testing session will take place in Bahrain a week before the season gets underway.

What are the regulation changes?

Billed as Formula 1's biggest-ever regulation change, the brand new F1 2022 car has been specifically designed to promote closer wheel-to-wheel racing.

The primary goal is to reduce the downforce loss the cars experience when following another car closely in the so-called 'dirty air'.

The steps taken to achieve this goal include a brand-new front wing design, new rear wing features, 18-inch low-profile tyres and a host of other aerodynamic tweaks to reduce the turbulent wash that comes off the back of the cars.

With each constructor effectively starting from scratch with a blank canvas, we have already seen some significant design variations between the teams' launch cars.

What are the driver line-up changes for 2022?

George Russell's promotion from Williams to Mercedes is the biggest talking point when it comes to the driver line-up and the highly-rated 24-year-old is 5/1 to win the Drivers' Championship in his maiden year at Mercedes.

Russell replaces Valtteri Bottas at the Silver Arrows, who has moved over to Alfa Romeo to drive alongside China’s first ever F1 driver - and 2022’s only rookie driver - Guanyu Zhou at the expense of the outgoing Antonio Giovinazzi.

Russell’s now empty seat at Williams will be filled by the returning Alexander Albon as he looks to reignite his career after a dreadful spell at Red Bull.

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Where to watch the 2022 season

All 23 races in the Formula 1 2022 season will be broadcast live on Sky Sports F1, with all practice and qualifying sessions televised.

Fans without a Sky subscription can watch extended highlights of each qualifying session and race on Channel 4 every race weekend, while the free-to-air channel also has the rights to broadcast the British Grand Prix live.

What happened last year?

2021 was the most action-packed and dramatic Formula 1 season in memory and the ramifications of the controversial final race in Abu Dhabi are still reverberating around the sport, although it is hard to argue that it wasn't a fitting way to end such a bizarre season.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen were level on points heading into the final race after the 37-year-old Brit mounted a comeback in the latter portion of the season, but tensions had reached breaking point after a raft of racing incidents between the defending seven-time world champion and the Red Bull prodigy.

With six laps to go Hamilton had a commanding lead and looked primed for a record-breaking eighth title, but the tide shifted the very next lap as the crashed Williams of Nicholas Latifi prompted a late safety car and a quick dive into the pits for Verstappen.

The Mercedes engineers gambled on the race ending behind the safety car and it’s a gamble that may have paid off if not for a hugely controversial call by race director Michael Masi.

The F1 race director allowed only the lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to unlap themselves before restarting the race and the result was an easy overtake for Verstappen on fresh tyres, an end to seven years of Mercedes dominance and a whirlwind of outrage surrounding Masi’s decision.

Masi has since been removed as F1 race director, replaced by an alternating two-man team of Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich.

Who are the favourites for 2022?

Lewis Hamilton is 6/5 favourite to reclaim the World Drivers Championship crown and break the record he jointly holds with Michael Schumacher.

New teammate George Russell is third in the pecking order at 5/1, with defending champion Max Verstappen splitting the pair at 12/5.

While the sweeping regulation changes should, in theory, provide a more level playing field, Mercedes and Red Bull are still expected to dominate at the front of the grid.

Winners of every Formula 1 Constructors Championship since the dawn of the turbo-hybrid era in 2014, Mercedes are 8/15 to claim a ninth successive title, while Red Bull and Ferrari are the only other single-digit prices at 5/2 and 5/1 respectively before a huge leap up to McLaren at 28/1.

Could there be an upset?

The new regulations have forced each constructor to build a brand-new car from the ground up and while that does open up the possibility of a major change in the pecking order, it’s far from a likely scenario.

Building a new car requires an enormous amount of money and, just as importantly in the world of budget caps, a solid logistical framework behind the team. This is an area Mercedes, Red Bull and, to a lesser extent, Ferrari excel in so a large shift in grid positions is unlikely unless one of the outsiders has a loophole up their sleeves.

Red Bull threw a lot of their eggs into last year’s basket as they strived to end Mercedes’ stranglehold on the Drivers' Championship and Ferrari have an unfortunate recent history when it comes to adaptation.

That leaves Mercedes, who released their final big upgrade package in July before turning their undivided attention to research and development for 2022, as justified favourites and the likely destination of this year’s Constructors Championship.

However, the regulation changes and reduced budget cap does mean there could be a much closer midfield battle to enjoy.

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