In Formula 1, the stalemate of the 2021-2022 season, accompanied by suspense and breathtaking dramaturgy, is only a distant memory. The epic duel between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen was resolved on the last lap of the last race. Ten months later, the epilogue of the championship offers a scenario without surprises, given that the Dutchman achieved an impressive soloist in 2022.
On Sunday 9 October he won the Japanese Grand Prix ahead of Sergio Perez and his main rival, Charles Leclerc, third after a five-second penalty. “It’s crazy, it’s a mix of emotions. I won the race, I won the championshipthe double world champion reacted. What a season we’ve been through. I never imagined I would dominate so much after what happened last year when we fought to the end. We have such a beautiful car. “
Not surprising given the season but with a lot of confusion and twists in Suzuka. On a Japanese circuit made very difficult by the rain and which caused the race to be interrupted for long minutes from the third lap, the reigning world champion repeated it while maintaining his ownership while he has four races left on the calendar. The scenario was surprising as Verstappen initially didn’t think he’d get 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 completed 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. However, to everyone’s surprise, according to an obscure paragraph of the complex Formula 1 regulations, the race direction finally decided to award the classic number of points, even though the drivers completed only 27 of the 53 laps of the Japanese Grand Prix.
The announcement of the weirdest world champion title in history 😭🏆 #JapaneseGP 🇯🇵 https://t.co/9RRAk7MDeN
With Leclerc’s penalty, who missed the last corner, Verstappen scored ten points more than the Monegasque. He thus increases his lead from 104 to 114 points. He also leads his teammate Sergio Perez by 113 points. And he can no longer be included in the World Drivers’ Championship standings.
“He was at the top of his game”
Throughout the season, the appetite of “Max” will have been maximum, like the slogan that his many fans “oranje”, who follow him all over the world, display on their shirts. In eighteen races he won twelve. The champion was unanimous in the paddocks. “He was at the top of his game. It was very consistentrecognizes the French rider Esteban Ocon, Alpine driver. He has also managed extraordinary races starting from far back, moving up and winning without any contact, without any mistakes. Congratulations to him. “
The beginning of the year, however, foreshadowed a great 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 famous transalpine team was only a flash in the pan: two victories in the first three Grands Prix for Charles Leclerc. At Imola in April, on the land of the Reds, Verstappen started a series of five wins in six races, leaving only crumbs to the competition, one of which was victory… to teammate Sergio Perez.
In the heart of summer, Ferrari briefly hoped for two wins in Great Britain (3 July) and Austria (10 July) before finally giving way to the French Grand Prix (24 July). Too strong Max Verstappen, like his breathtaking performance on the Spa-Franconchamp circuit, where the Dutchman would have won the Belgian Grand Prix on 28 August despite a penalty that had brought him back to 14th placeAnd position on the starting grid.
Even his boss, Briton Christian Horner, who has been associated with the phenomenon since his promotion to Red Bull in 2016, couldn’t believe it: “You are witnessing the performance of a driver who becomes one with his car (…) in a state of grace. ” A week later, it was at home that the driver still sowed a little more competition. In Zandvoort aan Zee – a small Dutch seaside resort on the North Sea – 300,000 spectators celebrated the victory and above all the title promised to their favorite a few weeks in advance.
“A normal boy”
Silent, a man of few words – except when invading opponents, the match commissioner or even his own team in the middle of the match -, not very expansive, Verstappen contrasts with the enthusiasm of his orange army of fans. This driver’s son (his father Jos also drove an F1) was born to drive a racing car. And that’s all he cares about. In this he is very far from the glamor of his predecessor Lewis Hamilton, a planetary star at ease in the world of glitter and entertainment.
In a recent interview with Worldin his land, Verstappen defined himself as “a normal guy”. And after waiting five years in F1 to be able to participate in the title race, he also found his development normal: “Over the years, you don’t improve your raw pace in racing so much, but you improve by experimenting with things over the seasons, as if you were putting the pieces of a puzzle together. “
Winning last season was a click after years of frustration: “I’ve always said that whatever happens after the first championship win would be a bonus. That’s really the case.” Without this being a final result. It would be to misunderstand this obsessed with performance and victory: “But I want to win even more. “
At 25, who celebrated last week in Singapore, the champion seems to have reached the pinnacle of his art. Without thinking of Hamilton’s seven consecutive titles, he can dream of a long series of successes. Committed to the first year of its new regulation, which should allow for more competition and a rebalancing between more teams, F1 was not hoping for such overwhelming dominance. Seeing her continue would do no good either for him or for his champion.
Suzuka driver safety controversy
In October 2014, at the Suzuka circuit, Jules Bianchi hit a lifting crane at full speed that he was maneuvering to free another car. Caught in a coma, the young French driver died nine months later.
Eight years after this tragic accident, a tragedy may have been averted during the 2022 edition of the Japanese Grand Prix. Another tricolor driver, Pierre Gasly, avoided a collision with a similar car that entered the track to free Carlos Sainz’s damaged car. Apparently the red flag had not yet been raised or was about to be. “I could have killed myself”Gasly got carried away.
“How can 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 reacted in particular on Twitter, even before the restart of the race.