With just six races remaining in the 2022 Formula 1 season, drivers have begun to heap praise on the all but certain 2022 Drivers’ Champion Max Verstappen, who is on the brink of retaining his 2021 crown.
The Dutchman has been imperious and utterly dominant in his bid to retain his title, after clinching his 11th win of the season at the recent Italian Grand Prix.
Verstappen has been able to win not only when starting at the front, but also when starting in the pack.
The Red Bull driver’s best victory of the season so far arguably came at the Belgian Grand Prix, where he rose from P14 to first in rapid fashion.
The Spanish Grand Prix is another where the 24-year-old demonstrated his unbelievable race craft, after recovering from a trip to the gravel to fight his way back to the front (with a little help through team orders).
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz is the latest driver to sing the praises of the championship leader, who boasts an almost uncatchable 116-point lead over the Spaniard’s team-mate Charles Leclerc.
Sainz who’s had a mixed season, recognised Verstappen’s ability to recover from mistakes, highlighting the Spanish GP and the race at the Hungaroring, where he spun on the exit of the penultimate corner and still won.
“I think he’s had a very strong season,” said the Ferrari driver.
“He’s done very little mistakes. Whenever he’s done mistakes – like in Spain, he spun in the same place than me, in Hungary he spun – he’s recovered from the mistakes and gone [on to] win.
“I think this is the biggest difference that even in the days that he’s had maybe a bit of an off, he still managed to go and win.”
It’s incredible to think how badly Verstappen’s season actually started, where it was Red Bull who were being ridiculed for reliability problems.
The Dutch driver was forced into retirement at two of the opening three races, which were both won by Leclerc as a result.
The Austrians have undoubtedly turned it around ever since, with Sainz admitting that their rivals have been “super-reliable”.
“Since the first [three] races they’ve also been super-reliable and you add up all those things and he’s having an incredible season and I think he deserves it,” said Sainz.
“Him as a driver, I think he’s also doing a particularly strong job.”
Verstappen’s victory at Monza put him within two wins of Sebastian Vettel’s and Michael Schumacher’s joint record of 13 wins in a single season, something Verstappen could eclipse at the US Grand Prix.
With six races remaining, Verstappen has every chance of raising this record by some margin, with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner adamant that his side will “attack” the end of the season.
“There’s some huge variance of circuits, Singapore compared to here has got the most corners on the circuit,” said the Red Bull boss following Verstappen’s win at the ‘Temple of Speed’.
“It’s bumpy, it’s a street track. So it’s a much different challenge.
“We’re in a great position in the championship, but we’re going to attack every race and do the best we can in points or take care of themselves.
“We’ve been quick at a Spa or a Zandvoort or a Monza, and Budapest even, so on a variance of circuits the car’s performing really well.”