Max Verstappen: What next for the two-time world champion?
Max Verstappen has been crowned world champion after winning Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Here we take a closer look at Verstappen’s campaign and what’s next for the 25-year-old Red Bull driver.
Has Max Verstappen been in a league of his own this season?
It is quite ironic that Formula One motorsport boss Ross Brawn oversaw the design of this year’s new cars in the hope of bringing the field closer together, and spicing up the show.
But Red Bull, with Verstappen at the wheel, have nailed the new regulations, paving the way for the most one-sided F1 campaign in recent memory.
Verstappen’s championship defence started in turbulent fashion after he retired from two of the opening three rounds with mechanical gremlins. But the Dutch driver then won 11 of the next 15 rounds to gallop to his second title, 301 days on from clinching his maiden championship in such contentious circumstances in Abu Dhabi.
How good has he been this year?
Sport is built on rivalries and the absence of a Lewis Hamilton-Max Verstappen rematch has been a major blow to F1. That said, nothing should be taken away from Verstappen, who is in the purple patch of his career.
World Champion 2022!!!
We’ve been absolutely on it, the whole year. A season where we had a difficult start but kept it cool, bounced back and never let go. pic.twitter.com/lRX9mj1siw
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) October 9, 2022
Verstappen has become a more measured version of the win-at-all-costs driver of last year – aided in part by the lack of a major rival. He has been in a different postcode to Hamilton and Mercedes, and Charles Leclerc’s encouraging start imploded through faults by man and machine.
Aside from a sloppy weekend in Singapore, it is difficult to recall Verstappen making a major mistake, while his Red Bull team are so often first class when it comes to in-race strategy.
What records can Verstappen take in the remaining four races?
Verstappen’s win in Suzuka was his 12th of the year, leaving him just one shy of equalling the most victories set in a season by Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel in 2004 and 2013 respectively.
Verstappen could also match the most number of podiums in a campaign with 18 – a tally he reached last year – and eclipse the biggest points gap to second place. Vettel finished the 2013 campaign 155 points clear of Fernando Alonso, while Verstappen is currently 113 clear of Sergio Perez.
Is F1 braced for a period of Verstappen domination?
The Dutch driver’s victory in Suzuka was the 32nd of his career, drawing him level with sixth-placed Alonso on the all-time list. Only Hamilton (103), Michael Schumacher (91), Sebastian Vettel (53), Alain Prost (51) and Ayrton Senna (43) sit above him.
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 9, 2022
Given that Verstappen celebrated his 25th birthday only last month, and is probably yet to reach his peak at a Red Bull team built for him, it is not hyperbole to suggest Hamilton’s win record, and perhaps even the Briton’s championship haul of seven – a record he shares with Schumacher – is starting to look vulnerable.
But what about the cost cap row?
Verstappen secured his second world title against the backdrop of claims Red Bull has broken the financial rules. The allegations first emerged a week ago in Singapore, with Hamilton ramping up pressure on the FIA in Suzuka when he said it is imperative that any budget breach is punished.
The FIA is set to announce on Monday which teams, if any, have failed to comply. But if Red Bull did overspend, not only will the gloss be taken off Verstappen’s championship win in Japan, but the legitimacy of his first title will also be a hot topic for debate.