Down, up and only upwards: Max Verstappen’s Road to Glory
The Dutch was crowned the champion for the second successive time.
Following a win in the Japanese Grand Prix in front of the Honda citizens, Max Verstappen is mathematically and officially crowned the 2022 Formula 1 World Champion. This victory was much more distinctive for the Dutch who last season won it on the last lap after a safety car controversy. The entire year of 2022 was the witness to why a team like Red Bull invested in a 16-year-old kid back then.
After the tests were done, Ferrari and Red Bull emerged as the two favourites for the season. Which meant Max Verstappen against Leclerc title fight was on the cards. However, as the season folded out, Verstappen didn’t appear to be fighting anyone.
Leclerc, Reliability and a Torrid start to the season
Behind this four-race-left championship victory, Max and Red Bull had a rollercoaster ride which started with double DNF at Bahrain. Both the cars were running for a podium until the last three laps. Verstappen’s car started losing power in the Lap 54 of 57 which saw him getting passed by three cars before the main straight. Something similar happened to Sergio Perez in the last lap, except he spun around when his engine gave away.
However, in that race, Max Verstappen and Red Bull showed their pace and promised a competitive season, with Ferrari finally looking to be ready to dominate. He and Leclerc had an impressive DRS battle, promising a classic title fight for the season.
Later it turned out that the thing Red Bull is fighting this season is its reliability. In the following race, Yuki Tsunoda lost his engine. Even at Sakhir, Gasly’s engine caught fire. All these issues were supposedly making it too clear for Scuderia Ferrari.
The race at Jeddah went down to the wire between Leclerc and Verstappen. Another exciting DRS battle saw the Dutch getting the win this time. They both finished within 0.55 seconds of each other.
The series visited Melbourne after 2019 where the two contenders made a front-row lockup, with Leclerc on the pole. While Leclerc had a dominant race, Max Verstappen pulled over to the side after having another power unit issue. At this point, he was in the sixth position in the driver’s standing. While Leclerc was first in a dominant way (more points than second and third combined).
Ferrari Howlers and Red Bull Getting Back
Charles Leclerc was running in third place when he spun out of the curbed chicane of Imola. Even though Verstappen was winning comfortably, the receding amount of points was crucial for him and his team to get back into the mix.
Red Bull got things back on track as they went on a six-race winning spree, up until the Canadian Grand Prix. Five of them were won by the Dutch and the remaining one was an iconic win for Checo at Monaco. During this period, Ferrari were having howlers of their own, making the way clearer for their most direct opponents. But credits should be given to the team who were finally making the most of the RB18.
No Catching Up
At this point, Saturdays became a joke for him as no matter where he would start, he was the Sunday winner. He started P10 at the Hungaroring and P14 at Spa, both resulting in a win with a massive margin. He even got the pole from the garage for the Belgium GP. The car, too, got better but what Verstappen kept on doing week in and week out was proper monarch stuff.
Whenever Lewis Hamilton won a race in 2020, the main talk used to be the gap between him and the second-place driver. Talking about Verstappen’s gaps, he won the Hungary GP with a 7.83 seconds gap and the Belgium GP with a gap of 17.84 seconds. He also won the Italian GP (Monza) with a gap of over 2.5 seconds after starting P7 due to a penalty. Ferrari executed their strategy for Leclerc with near perfection. But the eventual race winner was just too fast on a supposedly slower tyre. Mind you, the race practically ended a few laps before due to the safety car.
In the inaugural Miami GP, he started third but he got the race lead within ten laps of running. He got a scare from Sainz after the safety car race resumption in the Canada GP. But it was eventually all under check. They finished 0.993 seconds apart from each other. Credits should also be given to the comparative straight-line speed of the RB18.
While Max Verstappen wraps up his second driver’s championship, Red Bull would now be looking to wrap up their constructer championship sooner than later. They have a realistic chance to finish the year with a 1-2 as Sergio Perez is currently ahead of Charles Leclerc. The Austrian Constructers last won the championship in 2013. That was theirs and Vettel’s fourth championship victory in a row. That also happened to be the last time Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel raced together for the team. Since then, Mercedes dominated the series as 7 drivers and 8 constructer trophies went to their garage. Red Bull, on the other hand, has delivered the championship every time their driver clinched it. That, however, wasn’t the case last year. As Mercedes got their eighth in a row despite Lewis Hamilton losing out to Max.
Red Bull has all the chance to repeat the dominance it asserted at the start of the previous decade. This year would be even more special as if Perez finishes second, this would be their first ever 1-2 finish in their 17 years of F1 existence.