The 2022 Formula One season is drawing to a close and unlike in 2021 there’s no big climax on the horizon in terms of titles to be won. Max Verstappen claimed the F1 drivers’ championship in Japan with 4 races left and next time out on Austin Red Bull Racing claimed their first constructors’ title since 2013.
The second test in Bahrain and season opener is disappearing into the mists of time. The F1 landscape after 3 rounds this year looked very different with Max Verstappen all but conceding the drivers’ title after 2 DNF’s and a deficit to Charles Leclerc of 44 points.
LeClerc spin in Imola season’s turning point
The turning point came in round 4 at the Emilia-Romagne GP in Imola. Max Verstappen was running clear in the lead by lap 53 and LeClerc had closed down Perez to under a second. On the very next lap leClerc was pressing and clattered the kerbs at the chicane on turns 14/15.
LeClerc spun off close to the wall breaking part of his front wing endplate. The Monegasque driver recovered but could only manage P6 at the chequered flag, while Verstappen claimed the victory.
Ferrari have come in for plenty of flack this season for engine failures causing their race leader a DNF and strategy blunders such as in Monaco. LeClerc was leading the race when a failure to cover off Red Bull’s pit stop saw him plunge to 4th where he finished the race.
Ferrari F1 mistakes then followed
To lose from the lead in Monaco is criminal and for this to have been merely due to a strategic error from the team merely multiplies the pain.
Red Bull boss Helmut Marko has been reviewing the season with RTL and he reckons there are only two drivers inn Max Verstappen’s league.
The first being Charles Leclerc, though Marko believes he is “very strong in qualifying but prone to making mistakes.”
The other driver the Red Bull consultant believes could challenge Verstappen is Lewis Hamilton. Marko notes, “Hamilton has a clear advantage in terms of experience, he can also motivate himself incredibly and I’m convinced that Mercedes will put out a better car next year.”
Marko doesn’t rate Russell, Norris and Sainz
Interestingly the man responsible for developing junior drivers of which there are now 8 on the F1 grid this season fails to mention the likes of George Russell, Carlos Sainz and even McLaren’s Lando Norris.
Marko does believe Verstappen is the best of them all at this point in his career.
“He gets in the car and is so confident from the first practice session, from the first lap. You can see that when it’s wet, he’s two seconds faster than the rest of the field on the first laps, while the others get used to the conditions.”
“Max needs a car with very good front-end grip, how the rear behaves doesn’t affect him that much, which is something that makes other drivers nervous.”
Verstappen unique driving style
Verstappen has an almost unique driving style and his biggest trick is the way he steers the car for a minimal amount of time as the car begins to rotate. Max controls the turn with the pedals rather than sawing away at the wheel which contributes to his excellent tyre management.
As the new ground effect cars took to the circuit I Barcelona this season, F1 writer Mark Hughes noted “Max Verstappen was driving in a style totally unlike anything we’ve seen from the reigning Formula 1 world champion before.
“Incredibly smooth, early on the brakes, but early on the power too, super-smooth steering inputs. It’s as if he had developed a special style.”
“He is driving with more confidence than ever, with a greater overview, and at the same time he has developed into a tyre whisperer. For example, he drives longer on a softer tyre than his rivals do on a harder compound,” adds Marko.
Max favourite for F1 2023 title
Max Verstappen is already the favourite with the bookies for the F1 2023 drivers’ title and Helmut Marko believes Red Bull Racing will continue “to provide the necessary material, the necessary car. I think further flights of fancy are possible.”
One flight of fancy would be for Max to win this weekend in Interlagos, Brazil where Lewis Hamilton was so dominant last season. Hamilton’s performance with Mercedes giving him a new power unit in Brazil set up the 2021 season decided a week later in Abu Dhabi.
Were Verstappen to win in Brazil and Abu Dhabi he will become the most successful F1 driver of all time in terms of race win % in a single season.
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 9, 2022