In Formula 1, the stalemate of the 2021-2022 season, accompanied by breathtaking tension and dramaturgy, is just a distant memory. The epic duel between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen was settled on the last lap of the last race. On the contrary, ten months later, the championship epilogue offers a scenario without surprise, as the Dutchman achieved an impressive solo rider in 2022.
On Sunday, October 9, he won the Japanese Grand Prix ahead of Sergio Perez and his main rival, Charles Leclerc, came third after a five-second time penalty. “It’s crazy, it’s a mix of emotions. I won the race, I won the championshipthe two-time world champion responded. What a season we have had. I never thought I would dominate so much after what happened last year when we fought to the end. We have such a nice car. »
Not surprising given the season, but with a lot of confusion and twists at Suzuka. At a Japanese track that was very difficult due to the rain that fell and interrupted the race for long minutes from lap three, the reigning World Champion did it again by keeping his property while he still had four races left on the calendar. The scenario was surprising as Verstappen initially didn’t think he would score enough points to be crowned this weekend.
It wasn’t until his post-race interview that he heard the news. When the number of laps covered is between 50% and 75% of the total number of laps scheduled for a Grand Prix (53 at Suzuka), the points awarded are reduced: 19 for example for the winner instead of 25 and 14 for the second instead of 18 points. But to everyone’s surprise, according to an obscure paragraph of the complex Formula 1 rules, the race management finally decided to award the classic number of points, even though the drivers only drove 27 of the 53 laps of the Grand Japanese prize.
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With the penalty from Leclerc, who missed his last corner, Verstappen scored ten points more than the Monegask. This extends his lead from 104 to 114 points. He also leads his teammate Sergio Perez by 113 points. And can no longer be added to the World Drivers Championship standings.
“He was at the top of his game”
Throughout the season, “Max”’s appetite will have been maxed out, as is the slogan displayed on their T-shirts by his many “orange” supporters who follow him around the world. He won twelve in eighteen races. The champion was unanimous in the paddocks. “He was at the top of his game. He was very consistentacknowledges the French Alpine pilot Esteban Ocon. He also drove extraordinary races, starting from very far behind, coming and winning without any contact, without any mistake. Congratulations on him. »
However, the beginning of the year predicted a major rivalry, no longer between Mercedes and Red Bull, but between the ghost Ferrari and the team of the Austrian energy drink brand. The return to the forefront of the famed transalpine team was just a flash in the pan: two wins in the first three Grands Prix for Charles Leclerc. At Imola in April, on “Rossi” land, Verstappen embarked on a string of five successes in six races, leaving only crumbs for competition, including one win… for his teammate Sergio Perez.
In the middle of the summer, Ferrari hopes for two more victories in Great Britain (July 3) and Austria (July 10) before giving way definitively at the Grand Prix de France (July 24). Max Verstappen was too strong, such as his breathtaking performance at the Spa-Franconchamp circuit, where the Dutchman would win the Belgian Grand Prix on August 28 despite a penalty that pushed him back to 14the position on the starting grid.
Even his boss, Briton Christian Horner, who has seen the phenomenon regularly since his promotion to Red Bull in 2016, couldn’t believe it: “You witness the achievement of a driver who becomes one with his car (…) in a state of grace. » A week later it was home that the driver sowed some more competition. In Zandvoort aan Zee – a small Dutch seaside resort on the North Sea – 300,000 spectators celebrated the victory and especially the title promised to their favorite a few weeks in advance.
“A Normal Guy”
Quiet, a man of few words – except when berating opponents, race marshal or even his own team in the middle of the race -, not very expansive, Verstappen contrasts with the enthusiasm of his orange army of fans. The son of this driver (his father Jos also drove an F1) was born to drive a racing car. And that’s all that interests him. In it, he is far removed from the glamor of his predecessor Lewis Hamilton, a planetary star who is at ease in the world of glitter and show business.
In a recent interview with Worldon his land, Verstappen defined himself as “a normal boy”. And after waiting five years in F1 to enter the title race, he also found his development normal: “Over the years you don’t so much improve your raw speed in racing as you improve by experimenting with things over the seasons, like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. »
Winning last season was a click after years of frustration: “I have always said that whatever comes after the first division victory would be a bonus. This is indeed the case.” Without this being an end result. It would be a misunderstanding of this one obsessed with performance and victory: “But I want to win even more. »
At 25, which he celebrated in Singapore last week, the champion appears to have reached the pinnacle of his art. Without thinking of Hamilton’s seven consecutive titles, he can dream of a long string of successes. Engaged in the first year of its new regulations, which were supposed to allow for more competition and rebalancing between different teams, F1 wasn’t hoping for such overwhelming domination. It would not be good for his image or for that of his champion.
Suzuka Driver Safety Controversy
In October 2014, Jules Bianchi had hit a crane at full speed on the Suzuka circuit that was maneuvering to free another single-seater. The young French pilot fell into a coma and died nine months later.
Eight years after this tragic accident, tragedy could have been averted during the 2022 edition of the Japanese Grand Prix. Another tricolor pilot, Pierre Gasly, avoided colliding with a similar machine that had entered the runway to free Carlos Sainz’s damaged single-seater. The red flag apparently had not yet been raised or was about to do so. “I could have killed myself”got carried away by Gasly.
“How do we make it clear that we never want to see a crane on the track? We lost Jules because of this mistake. What happened today is totally unacceptable!!!!! »Sergio Perez, in particular, responded on Twitter, even before the race resumed.