Throughout a Formula 1 season there are drivers that often go unnoticed with their performances as the main protagonists develop and write their stories.
Recently the RacingNews365.com staff compiled a list of the lowest ranked and highest ranked drivers of the season.
This was done on a results and general performance basis throughout the season, with drivers getting scored based on how each of their years panned out.
But what about drivers that were not necessarily stand-outs, but put in a solid season given their circumstances?
The news that Valtteri Bottas would be leaving Mercedes echoed that of Lewis Hamilton when he announced his departure from McLaren in 2012, although in this instance Bottas’ hand was forced by Mercedes, who opted to place George Russell in the second seat.
The reality took a while to sink in for Bottas as he played second-fiddle to Hamilton in the latter years of his Mercedes career, but the move to Alfa Romeo provided a much-needed reset for the Finn who was once billed as a potential champion when he was at Williams.
Historically Alfa Romeo has not been a contender for race wins, you would have to go back to the days of Sauber and Sergio Perez when they last stood on the podium 10 years ago.
Going into the new regulations for 2022, the team was in the best position having been the only team to hit the weight target and signing a proven race-winner in Bottas.
Bottas went on to achieve his highest finish of 5th at Imola, after the team failed to break into the top five in the previous two years even with World Champion and compatriot Kimi Raikkonen at the wheel.
Mistakes in the latter parts of the season, coupled with poor reliability, potentially hindered what could’ve been a pivotal moment for Bottas as he looks to reinvigorate his career away from the years at Mercedes and sticks it out heading into the new era with Audi.
Despite the new regulations, it was another year of being opportunistic for Williams as they continue with their aims of breaking into the midfield again.
Alex Albon was the main driver behind their resurgence, himself making a comeback on the grid after being snubbed by Red Bull in 2020.
There was was an immediate standout performance at the Australian Grand Prix, where he went from 20th to 10th to score his first points for the team in just four races – a feat that took George Russell 27 races.
The result also led to him sporting red hair dye following a visit to a local orphanage in his home country, Thailand, where red is meant to be a lucky colour.
This was later followed up with a point-finish at the newly built Miami circuit – it appeared the red hair was working!
The next points finish would not come until the Belgian Grand Prix, and had he not suffered from tonsillitis at Monza he probably would have repeated the same feat in Italy.
Instead he set the car up for De Vries to take the wheel, who eventually used the drive to earn his seat at AlphaTauri. But the work done by Albon on Friday was largely unseen, and enabled that car to get into the top ten.
Albon has proven his right to a seat on the grid and perhaps these years at Williams will make other top teams re-evaluate him, especially as the cost cap starts to kick into effect on performance.
Zhou Guanyu is the only rookie on the grid, so you could say that he is the top rookie of 2022.
Points on his debut at Bahrain followed by a few close finishes outside the top ten, it always felt like Zhou was getting more out of what was otherwise a tough learning curve.
Many were unhappy with his promotion to F1 after coming runner up to Oscar Piastri in Formula 2, but Zhou showed that he’s worthy of a spot on the grid by rarely committing any unforced errors.
It was largely reliability that plagued his season, with his race in Miami lasting just six laps, followed by a successive retirement at the Spanish Grand Prix.
His best qualifying position came at Silverstone, although shortly after the start he was victim of a terrifying crash that pitched his car upside down and over the catch fence at Turn 1. The images of him walking away was yet another tribute to the advances made in F1 circuit safety.
Zhou rounded off his year with what he described as the “best overtake I’ve done all season” at Abu Dhabi on Albon in the closing stages. It certainly gave us a sneak peek of what is yet to come from the Chinese driver.
Another stand-out season for the British driver, after it appeared that 2022 might be a difficult year for McLaren following the Bahrain Grand Prix.
A quick regroup saw Norris back in the points at Saudi Arabia and Melbourne, before taking a podium finish at Imola.
This resurgence to a podium showed why Norris is one of the most formidable drivers in F1, amassing 122 points in a car that is arguably fifth quickest.
Other star performances include making the strategy work for McLaren and finishing ahead of Max Verstappen on track at Singapore, and at Austin, where he claimed a sixth place on merit.
His race in Brazil would have been a remarkable points finish after Norris revealed that he was suffering from food poisoning all weekend, but a reliability problem cut short his remarkable feat.
Through his qualifying performances Norris has taken a real step up in the last couple of years in F1, and now it’s down to McLaren to give him a car capable of making the next step and challenging for podiums.